United Methodist youth find inspiration at assembly
|A UMNS photo by Paulino Menezes, WCC
Youth delegates to the World Council of Churches' 9th Assembly celebrate during one of their sessions.
Feb. 23, 2006
By Linda Bloom*
PORTO ALEGRE, Brazil (UMNS) — Whether through her fellow youth or
a prominent figure such as Desmond Tutu, the Rev. Jennifer Irvine Goto has
found sources of inspiration at the World Council of Churches’ 9th
“One of the highlights has been meeting Methodist youth from around
the world,” said Goto, associate pastor at First United Methodist Church
in Walnut Creek, Calif. She finds it “very inspiring to hear what young
people are doing,” she said.
An informal chat with Tutu, the Anglican archbishop emeritus from South
Africa, also provided an affirming moment, she added. She spoke with him
after he led a Feb. 21 candle-lit march for peace through the streets of
downtown Porto Alegre.
Jennifer Irvine Goto
Perhaps most of all, Goto said she appreciated the support of the United
Methodist delegation to the assembly. She is one of five youth members of
the 18-person delegation. The age category for youth is up to and including
While some other assembly delegations may only
pay lip service to the emphasis on youth, “for us, it’s really not just words,” Goto explained. “I
feel the support from everybody.”
Jay Williams, a youth delegate from New York, believes the United Methodist
Church serves as a model to help challenge other denominations to promote
youth involvement in the ecumenical movement.
On the denominational level, Williams has served on the General Council
on Ministries, phased out in 2004 by the General Conference, and the former
Shared Mission Focus on Young People. Currently, he serves on the Board of
Discipleship executive committee. He also is part of the Pan-Methodist Commission
on Cooperation and Union.
With the recommendation of the United Methodist
delegation, he has been a member of the nominations committee at the assembly. “We’ve
met for hours and hours, at all times of the day,” he said.
Although nominations work seems to be an “impossible task,” the
difficulty “helped us to become a community,” Williams added.
Attending the morning and evening prayer services
helped him focus on the assembly’s larger goals of unity. “In worship, there was no division
of culture or region or confession,” he said. “It was a reminder
that I could take with me during the day that helped me through some of the
more difficult times.”
One result of the nomination committee’s
work was the election of Motoe Yamada, another youth delegate, as one of
members of the WCC Central Committee. She is in the ordination process and
serves as an associate pastor at Wesley United Methodist Church in San Jose,
Yamada has had extensive ecumenical experience, serving two years each on
the Council for Ecumenical Student Christian Ministry and the North American
regional committee for the World Student Christian Federation. She is vice
chairperson of the ecumenical networks committee for the National Council
of Churches and has participated in two WCC consultations.
She said she would have liked more dedicated
time for youth during the assembly. “We
didn’t have communications or space to really talk among youth,” she
She also was dismayed that the energy of the youth was directed toward the
nominations process rather than social issues and said she is looking forward
to improving communications among youth during her term on the central committee.
Tara Fitzpatrick of Norman, Okla., is a newcomer
to the ecumenical scene. Although she felt privileged to attend, she said, “I didn’t
really know much about the WCC and the work that they did.”
In Porto Alegre, she has enjoyed the openness
among participants and the “strong
support for all aspects of the Christian body.”
But Fitzpatrick, who is Native American, also
believes the indigenous participants were relegated to the same second-class
as the youth. “The indigenous
people don’t seem to have as much respect as they should,” she
However, the 20-year-old Oklahoma City University student said she has found
equal acceptance as the youngest member of the United Methodist delegation,
and she has appreciated the support of the bishops at the assembly.
“It gives me confidence to get up and talk, both as an indigenous
(person) and as a youth,” Fitzpatrick said.
Christine Danielle Sanchez of San Antonio said
youth voices “are being
heard by a lot of people” at the assembly, despite disappointments
about the nominations process.
Her past ecumenical work has taken place on the local level, in social action
and spiritual nurturing.
Bible study has been her favorite activity at
the assembly. “We are
in smaller groups, and we can have great dialogue,” Sanchez explained. “We
can come together as brothers and sisters in Christ and not worry about doctrine.
We haven’t agreed on everything, but we still have that common ground ? we
have that love for Christ.”
Christine Danielle Sanchez
A lack of unity during some plenary sessions,
she said, has shown “we
have a lot more work and a lot more prayer” ahead.
In addition to the U.S. youth delegates, United
Methodists in Cote d’Ivoire
sent a youth delegate, Benjamin Olagboye. He is a former president of the
student Christian movement there and works for the U.N. mission’s disarmament
As a United Methodist, Olagboye said he is pleased
to meet with other youth “who
have Jesus Christ as Lord and Savior” and to be at an assembly where
it is evident “that we are one in Christ.”
As a U.N. worker, “I’m happy to see the WCC involved in advocacy
of humanitarian issues, of political issues, of social issues,” he
He is concerned that the WCC recognize its vision
for the future is based on youth and not treat that age category in a political
or ideological way. “Churches
have to take the issue of youth as a good issue, an important issue,” he
Also attending the assembly are seven United
Methodist and Methodist youth from Jamaica, Guyana, Bolivia, Honduras,
and Ecuador as part
of an Ecumenical Formation Delegation sponsored by the Women’s Division
and United Methodist Board of Global Ministries. In addition, the delegation
includes 10 women from Latin America and the Caribbean.
The delegation’s purpose is to provide
a learning experience, mission exposure and leadership training through
at the assembly.
Other Methodists are among up to 150 Latin American
young people participating in a youth camp through the “mutirão” experience.
United Methodist and Methodist youth also are serving as stewards during
*Bloom is a United Methodist News Service news writer based in New York.
News media contact: Linda Bloom, New York, (646) 369-3759 or firstname.lastname@example.org.