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Black youth seek leadership roles, respect in church

11/12/2003 News media contact: Tim Tanton · (615) 742-5470 · Nashville, Tenn.

This report is a sidebar to UMNS story #548.

By John W. Coleman Jr.*

WASHINGTON (UMNS) - Although the United Methodist Ebony Bishops' Summit on the State of the Black Church drew only a few youth and about a dozen young adults, they and the concerns of their generations took center stage in much of the discussion.

Addressing the assembly, young participants discussed the importance of mentoring, giving youth leadership roles in church, and respecting their cultures and perspectives.

"It's essential for youth to gain an understanding of God, but we need to relate the Bible to our lives," said Christa Scott, a youth member of Central United Methodist Church in Kansas City, Kan. She told listeners that youth do not always relate well to sermons based on adult experiences and insights. "We haven't had those experiences," she explained. "We have to be able to teach and empower each other."

Leon Franklin, a seminary student from Nashville, Tenn., defended the integrity and positive influences of some rap music and hip-hop culture, versus the stereotypes created by disapproving middle-class, middle-aged black adults with their own negative influences.

The Rev. Candace Lewis founded the growing, youth-oriented New Life United Methodist Church in Jacksonville, Fla., six years ago.

"Starting a new church right out of seminary was one of the best things to happen to me," she said. She recommended that African Americans start more new churches in black communities and use video, computer games and other popular technologies to attract younger generations.

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*Coleman is the co-director of communications for the Baltimore-Washington Annual Conference.

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