The Global Young People's Convocation and Legislative Assembly (GYPCLA) took place a week and a half ago from July 16 to 20 in the Philippines. More than three hundred attendees participated in the event, with just over 100 voting. This was the third such meeting of United Methodist youth and young adults, previous convocations having taken place in 2006 and 2010. While the story from the GYPCLA that received the most attention was the disruption of the meeting by Typhoon Glenda (see also here), that was certainly not the most significant story from the event. This blog post and the following one will highlight two ways in which the GYPCLA was significant other than in its weather. In this post, I'd like to focus on what's significant about having such a meeting, and Thursday's post will examine an important resolution to come out of the meeting.
As Dr. Timothy L. Bias, general secretary of GBOD, explains in this video, one of the ways in which the GYPCLA is important is in giving a voice to young people in the denomination. That's an important function. United Methodists often hearken back to the days of the circuit riders as exemplary of what the church should be about. Yet people often forget that the circuit riders were mostly young men in their twenties and thirties. How often have you heard people say that our church should recapture its history roots of being run by people in their twenties and thirties? Not often, but we would do well to remember the connection between youth and vitality. GYPCLA didn't quite let young adults run the denomination, but it did give them a voice in doing so.
GYPCLA didn't just give young United Methodists a voice, though; it shaped them as well. As Dr. Bias also says in the video linked above (start at 1:44), "What revelation is it when we have a teenager that stands and says, 'I've learned this week that God is not from Oklahoma.'" GYPCLA has shaped people by showing them that God in not just from Oklahoma or the Philippines or Liberia, nor is the church just in Oklahoma or the Philippines or Liberia. God exists throughout the world, and the United Methodist Church exists throughout the world as well. Much has been written about how racial and ethnicity diversity is a natural part of life for millenials in the US, not something they need to struggle to accept. I hope that the GYPCLA taught young adults not just in the US but around the world to accept racial, ethnic, and national diversity as a natural part of life in the UMC, not something they need to struggle to accept. I hope that delegates to GYPCLA will presume the global nature of the UMC from the beginning of their involvement in it.
The other significant way in which the GYPCLA shaped the young people involved in it was by teaching them to partner together across those differences to carry out the work of the church. A large part of this working together was practicing listening, discussing, and collaborating in the legislative process. Attendees also worked together in mission to pack bags of relief food for those affected by the typhoon that had displaced them as well. Finally, attendees worshipped together in the commissioning service for the first class of Generation Transformation Global Mission Fellows, a new program of the General Board of Global Ministries that is sending 42 young adults from 11 countries to mission sites in 15 countries around the world. Such experiences helped GYPCLA attendees not only understand but live out the understanding that the UMC is a global church and the work of the UMC is a global work. May the rest of us be willing to learn from them in this regards.