News Archives

Gathering endorses Division on Ministries with Young People

7/30/2003 News media contact: Kathy Gilbert (615) 742-5470 Nashville, Tenn.

This report may be used with UMNS coverage of Youth Expo '03, stories #381-385.

By Kathy L. Gilbert*

LINK: Click to open full size version of image
Pavielle Chriss, chairperson of the steering committee for Convo '03, takes a moment to speak to delegates. Held every two years, Convo is a youth-led national event where United Methodists ages 12-18 discuss concerns, set priorities, worship, study the Bible and enjoy fellowship. Business is conducted in legislative assemblies made up of three youth and one adult from each annual (regional) conference. Photo by Kathy L. Gilbert. Photo number 03-249, Accompanies UMNS #386.
KNOXVILLE, Tenn. (UMNS) - Following three days of soul-searching, debate and prayer, a churchwide youth convocation voted to endorse General Conference legislation that would create a Division on Ministries with Young People.

Held every two years, Convo is a youth-led national event where United Methodists ages 12 to 18 discuss concerns, set priorities, worship, study the Bible and enjoy fellowship. Business is conducted in legislative assemblies made up of three youth and one adult from each annual (regional) conference.

Consideration of the legislation, proposed by the denomination's Shared Mission Focus on Young People, was a major item on the agenda of Convo '03. The United Methodist Youth Organization sponsored the July 23-26 gathering.

Much of the discussion around the new division focused on concern that the national convocation would no longer be mandatory in the denomination's Book of Discipline and an important voice of the youth would be lost.

Jay Williams, co-chair of the Shared Mission Focus on Young People, made an impassioned plea for the group to endorse the new division.

"This is about you, about making the church a better place for young people," he said. "This new division will give us an opportunity to be at the table with the general church."

The new division would be a part of the United Methodist Board of Discipleship and include a Network for United Methodist Youth, a Network for United Methodist Young Adults and a Network for United Methodist Workers with Young People.

The new division would also include more representation from the central conferences - the church's regional units outside the United States.

Those two points caused concern for some delegates.

Sarah Dennis, a delegate from the Tennessee Conference, asked, "How much representation will the youth in the United States be losing? Why not just make Convo a more international body?"

"This is so much larger than Convo," Williams said. "It is not only old people who are afraid of change. We young people get scared and nervous too. I ask you to live by faith about this new way of doing things."

Another delegate was concerned about so much representation from members of the Board of Discipleship.

"I am not going to lie to you; it is a risky move, especially with the Board of Discipleship," Williams said. "Some think we will lose our autonomy, but the flipside to that is we will be in on the conversation at the agency level.

"I have been working on this legislation since 2000," Williams said. "The process is very difficult. All I can do is pray and ask you to trust the moving of the spirit as we work to represent you all in dreaming a new church."

The resolution passed with 94 votes for, 44 against and five abstentions. However, the group did pass an amendment to the petition, supporting legislation that is inclusive of youth and young adults on an international basis but maintaining national youth convocation.

At the end of the meeting, chairperson Pavielle Chriss said she understood why the proposal took so much discussion.

"I have been working on this since 2001, and it took a lot of discussion, charts and diagrams for me to understand the proposal. I just wish they could have trusted more that we had the best interest of youth in mind."

The group also adopted a two-year priority focusing on outreach. The group adopted the theme: "Beyond Me: Opening our minds, our hearts, our doors and our table to the people of God."

"Who are we to say someone is excluded from God's table?" asked Katy Schwartz, a delegate from Missouri. "We need to bring people to God and serve them supper."

In other business the group:
· Adopted a proposal asking each annual conference to increase its giving to the Youth Service Fund by 7 percent. Money from this fund is given as grants to projects that serve youth.
· Asked for representation from the youth organization on the Committee on Personnel Policies and Practices under the Board of Discipleship.
· Heard a report on homosexuality and learned a national dialogue for youth and youth adults will be held Oct. 18-19 to discuss this issue.

New representatives to the steering committee were also elected during jurisdictional meetings. Elected for Convo '05, listed by annual conference or state, were:

· Jena Currier, youth, Troy Conference.
· Kelly Minter, adult, Eastern Pennsylvania.
· Chase Simpson, youth, Memphis.
· Jack Blair, adult, Tennessee.
· Luke Wetzel, youth, Kansas.
· Betty Caruthers, adult, Kansas.
· Katie Van Lonkhuyzen, youth, West Michigan.
· Lauri Bowman-Beach, adult, East Ohio.
· Devin Mauney, youth, Desert Southwest.
· Marcey Balcomb, adult, Oregon-Idaho.

Caucus members elected are:
· Ana Tongaofa, Pacific Islander.
· Nathan Thomas, Native American International.
· Christa Scott, Black Methodists for Church Renewal.
· Erica Granados De La Rosa, Methodist Associated to Represent the Cause of Hispanic Americans.
· Elise Francisco, National Federation of Asian-American United Methodists.

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