In an effort to stem the decline of United Methodist rural churches, delegates to the denomination’s top legislative body voted May 1 to financially undergird town and country ministries.
Delegates to the 2004 General Conference adopted a $425,000 budget to strengthen rural congregations.
The 2000 General Conference adopted a foundation for Town & Country Ministries, called "Born Again in Every Place," and requested that an action plan be developed over the next four years. The delegates to the 2004 assembly gave the support to implement the plan because rural United Methodist churches are more than one-third of the denomination’s membership, and those congregations account for half of the overall membership loss in recent decades.
By approving the budget, the delegates gave permission to the denomination’s National Comprehensive Plan for Town & Country Ministries to develop, support and affirm effective ministries in rural cultures and contexts for the next four years. The plan will also assist in developing, strengthening and sustaining effective leadership for town and country ministries. Town & Country Ministries is a program of the United Methodist Board of Global Ministries.
Rural congregations and country ministries are at the center of mission in the church, said the Rev. Edward Kail, speaking for the funding.
"I believe in the renewal of the church in every place," the Gilmore City, Iowa, pastor said. "I believe in the renewal that this (plan) would have throughout Methodism."
The plan supports developing educational opportunities for clergy and lay leadership because licensed local pastors and lay speakers are increasingly leading town, country and rural congregations.
Green is a United Methodist News Service news writer.