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Legislation reflects range of young people?s concerns


Theon Johnson III (left), Bishop Warner Brown (center) and Violet Mango take time out to talk between legislative sessions. A UMNS photo by Kathy L. Gilbert.









By Kathy L. Gilbert*

Jan. 11, 2007 | JOHANNESBURG, South Africa (UMNS)  

Young people from around the world worked on legislation ranging from social issues to representation in The United Methodist Church during a first ever global event held Dec. 28-Jan. 1.

"We got a lot accomplished for the voice of young people because a lot of good legislation came from this gathering," said Katie Zilm, a delegate from Song of Life United Methodist Church, Mesa, Ariz.

The Global Young People's Convocation and Legislative Assembly was sponsored by the Division on Ministries with Young People, United Methodist Board of Discipleship. The denomination's Book of Discipline states that a global convocation of young people will meet every four years "for the purpose of celebrating the mission and vitality of young people in the United Methodist Church."

Voting delegates from the five jurisdictions of the United States and from the seven central conferences in Africa, Asia and Europe considered 44 pieces of legislation to send to the 2008 United Methodist General Conference, which meets April 23-May 2, Fort Worth, Texas.

General Conference, the denomination's top legislative assembly, approved the creation of the Division on Ministries with Young People at its last meeting, in 2004.

The legislation approved in Johannesburg was translated into French and Portuguese, and in order to pass, had to receive a two-thirds majority.


Devin Mauney makes a point about legislation during the Global Young People's Convocation and
Legislative Assembly.
A UMNS photo by Kathy L. Gilbert.

The two-thirds majority was important to Devin Mauney, a member of Christ Church United Methodist, Tucson, Ariz.

"We wanted to accurately represent the voice of young people at this convocation," he said. He noted there were two main streams of legislation: young people's representation in the church and statements on social issues.

Mauney serves on the United Methodist Commission on Communication. Having strong young people's voices in the church's board and agencies is important, he said. "I also appreciated the flexibility of the legislation that said whenever possible we would like consideration for appointive positions.

"On the other side we had a lot of statements on social issues," he said. "We had one on war and peace that was very important. Young people came out with a very strong voice on issues of homosexual involvement in the church - what rights and privileges they have."

The youth passed legislation to ensure no person will be denied membership or ordination in The United Methodist Church "because of their differences." The denomination's Book of Discipline forbids the ordination of self-avowed practicing homosexuals.

"The legislative process was full of youth and young adults and very few 'mature' adults," said Nicki Spencer, a member of Theressa Hoover United Methodist Church, Little Rock, Ark. "That was good."

Aarendy Gomez, a member of San Juan Mission Metodista Unida, Clanton, Ala., agreed. "It was us that did all the legislation instead of the adults."

Call for peace

The young people wrote a statement of concern on the human rights situation in the Philippines, with the help of delegates from that country.


Rebecca Nolte responds to a
question during a legislative
session of the convocation.
A UMNS photo by Kathy L. Gilbert.

In part, the statement says: "Human rights are in danger in the Philippines. The image of God in every person is being assaulted in many ways, including God's servants - bishops, pastors, deaconesses and women, men and youth lay leaders. These prophet servants of God have preached, with costly discipleship, the good news to the poor, deprived and marginalized peoples of the Philippines."

The statement calls for United Methodist young people to pray for the Philippines and to work with the United Methodist Youth and Young Adult Fellowship in the country.

In another statement on war and peace, the young people said: "We are those sent to the front lines of every war, by every nation and organization which chooses to engage in war." The statement goes on to say young people are "most affected by the insidiousness of war" while having the least voice in decision making.

The statement affirms The United Methodist Church's stance on war and peace as stated in the Social Principles, Paragraph 165, VI, Section C.

"We are the young people of The United Methodist Church. We affirm God's clear call to be instruments of peace in all corners of the world," the convocation said.

'Where we are headed'

In other action, the legislative assembly wrote a statement of concern for poverty around the world; affirmed the church's campaign to address malaria, "Nothing but Nets"; and called for $100,000 from apportioned funds to be allocated to the United Methodist Global AIDS Fund.

Additional legislation dealt with having youth and young adult representation in the local church, annual conferences, jurisdictional and central conferences, the Judicial Council and General Conference.

"We had an opportunity to sit down and talk with people with whom we disagree," said Brian Schlemmer, Tempe (Ariz.) First United Methodist Church. "While we passed a lot of legislation that will be turned down, I hope General Conference looks at this and sees where the future of church leadership is. I hope we can start looking at ways right now where we can reconcile where we are and where we are headed as a church."

*Gilbert is a United Methodist News Service news writer based in Nashville, Tenn.

News media contact: Kathy L. Gilbert, Nashville, Tenn., (615) 742-5470 or newsdesk@umcom.org.

Photo slideshow

A visual journey through the Global Young People's Convocation

Related audio

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Devin Mauney: "Great to take such a strong stance."

Bryan Plummer: "Having opportunity to sit down together."

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