The United Methodist Church uses an episcopal system of governance, which means bishops provide the top leadership.
All bishops (active and retired) are members of the Council of Bishops, which is required to meet at least once a year.
Bishops are directed to provide oversight of the entire church but have specific leadership responsibilities in a geographical area, called an episcopal area. An episcopal area is comprised of one or more annual conferences.
Both men and women can be elected bishop. The only requirement to be elected bishop is that the person is an ordained elder in The United Methodist Church. Bishops in the U.S. generally serve one area for eight years (two four-year terms) before they are assigned to another area.
The executive secretary (a retired bishop serving a four-year term) is the chief operating officer for the council in their permanent, staffed office in Washington, D.C.