From the Worldwide Faith News archives

ELCA Assembly Hearing on Rural Ministry Alliance

Date Wed, 13 Aug 2003 11:28:08 -0500


August 13, 2003

ELCA Assembly Hearing on Rural Ministry Alliance

     MILWAUKEE (ELCA) -- Rural leaders from across the country
gathered for a hearing on the Plan for Rural Ministry Alliance at
the 2003 Churchwide Assembly of the Evangelical Lutheran Church
in America (ELCA). Sandra LaBlanc, ELCA director for rural
networking and resourcing, explained the details of the plan to
nearly 100 voting members and visitors.
     The churchwide assembly, the chief legislative authority of
the ELCA, is meeting here Aug. 11-17 at the Midwest Airlines
Center. There are about 2,500 people participating, including
1,031 ELCA voting members. The theme for the biennial assembly is
"Making Christ Known: For the Healing of the World."
     Within the ELCA, 55 percent of congregations are in small
towns and rural settings. To better serve this large and diverse
constituency and in direct response to a resolution passed at the
2001 Churchwide Assembly, the ELCA developed the Small Town and
Rural (STaR) Ministry Alliance.
     The alliance consists of individuals, congregations, synods
and other institutions that pay a fee ($100 or less per year) to
form an umbrella organization. Annual membership fees will
financially support the STaR Ministry Alliance, and alliance
members will sustain one another and their communities through
prayer, action and education.
     Members of the alliance are empowered to start affinity
groups or projects under the auspices of the alliance. Affinity
groups have been formed to cover the following four rural
     + Economics
     + Moral deliberation over resources and the environment
     + Multicultural ministry in rural America
     + Leadership development
     Affinity groups must have an ELCA connection or be an
ecumenical partner, have a rural and small town orientation, and
must meet at least once a year. The affinity groups must also
meet one of the criteria of the ELCA STaR Ministry Alliance
vision statement.
     The alliance vision statement states that through the
alliance members, the ELCA "assumes a leadership role in small
town and rural life to proclaim the gospel of Jesus Christ.
Sharing God's gift of hope and promises of justice and healing
this church will develop and mobilize its assets."
     Voting members at the hearing shared experiences from their
varied ministry settings, discussing the reality of ministry "on
the ground" and raising rural issues such as: interdenominational
cooperation, lay leadership, rural poverty, urban-rural
connections and program support in dwindling congregations.
     "Any and all prayers for this effort are really appreciated
because we know that our small town and rural congregations need
your support," said LaBlanc. She introduced Dave Sanders of the
Southern Ohio Synod, who began work Aug. 1 as the coordinator (or
"weaver") for affinity group participants in the alliance. The
weaver puts people with similar interests in contact with each
other and provides resources to advance each affinity group's
     LaBlanc also announced plans for the first ELCA Rural
Ministry Conference, which will be held June 24-26, 2004, at
Newberry College in Newberry, S.C. The theme for the conference
will be "Celebrate Rural Life" and will feature keynote speaker
the Rev. Tex Sample. Newberry College is one of 28 colleges and
universities of the ELCA.
     The alliance is housed in the ELCA Division for Outreach.
More information about the ELCA STaR Ministry Alliance and
application for membership is available at
-- -- --
Information about the ELCA Churchwide Assembly can be found at on the Web.

For information contact:
John Brooks, Director (773) 380-2958 or

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