Rural Fellowship to become Rural Advocates on Jan. 1

The United Methodist Rural Fellowship will adopt a new name — United Methodist Rural Advocates — effective Jan. 1 to better reflect its mission. According to the organization’s website, its purpose is to “advocate, educate, inspire and influence The United Methodist Church around rural issues.”

The name change is part of a group of restructuring moves that were approved when the executive committee met for its consultation in Tampa two years ago. It will also try to be more global in its scope, advocating for rural churches and communities across the world.

“We’re going to focus on advocacy, which is really what we’ve been doing for years,” said the Rev. Roger Grace of the West Ohio Conference, the president of the Rural Fellowship. “It more accurately reflects what we do.”

The group held its quadrennial banquet on April 24 before the start of 2012 General Conference, electing and installing its slate of officers for 2012-2016. The Rev. Ron Williams of Kansas and the Rev. Sharon Schwab of Western Pennsylvania were presented Lifetime Membership awards.

The Rev. Randy Wall, pastor at New Covenant United Methodist Church in Mount Holly, N.C., spoke about some of the most successful practices of that conference’s Rural Fellowship group. Those practices included partnerships with statewide agencies and organizations, persistence with its advocacy throughout the conference, and a number of programs, including webinars, resources for Rural Life Sunday, regular communications through an email list and a celebration of rural churches during annual conference.
The Rural Fellowship is offering 11 pieces of legislation this year, including:

• Reduction of the tenure of bishops from life to two quadrenniums

• Adding “ministry with the poor” as a central component to the ministry of the local church in communities in transition

• Deletion of language in Paragraph 213 making small urban churches more vulnerable to closure

• Opening the use of the assessment process to churches of all sizes

• Making local pastors provisional members when they begin Advance Course of Study

• Adding active bishops to those who can be charged when they do harm to a local church through the appointment of a pastor he/she knows will be detrimental to the life of that congregation

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