Voting with the YAADs – Continued Dialogue and Reflection
Since I announced my intention to vote with the YAADs at the PCUSA General Assembly, I’ve had a range of conversations – both online and in person. I am deeply grateful to John Vest for his comments on a recent post where I shared the influence on this commitment of Kahlil Gibran’s insights set to music by Sweet Honey in the Rock.
John raised three questions that I’d like us to explore further:
1) Is my decision true to our distinctively Presbyterian process of discernment?
2) Will I be voting according to the majority of “one demographic”?
3) Aren’t youth really the present, not the future, of the church?
Discernment. As far as I know myself, I am deeply committed to the special Presbyterian sensitivity to God’s will being known through a group in which individuals are expected to listen for the moving of the Holy Spirit and to vote in accord with what each hears. It works, as God desires, when all listeners in the church are at the table.
I trust we can agree that all listeners are not at the table. The PCUSA GA does not have all the ears needed to hear God’s word to us. In this imperfect moment, my “personal discernment” is that God requires me to give the YAAD discernment my place at the table and to invite others to do the same.
I certainly hope that this is an interim moment—that our younger leaders will soon sit with full voice, vote, attention and respect. Then our General Assembly will be a more perfect communion, better able to discern God’s will for us.
Demographics. I can see how this might be seen as favoring “one demographic.” My vow does mean that I will be voting with the majority of our young people at GA. I’ve been thinking about 1 Corinthians and Paul’s description of “the body.” What I see is this: marginalizing our younger generation separates an integral aspect of the church body, endangering the life of the PCUSA.
By doing this, we have already let generations of youth slip away. I am shifting my energy and intention from one part of the body to another so that, collectively, we can revive the whole body.
Robert Shell articulated this beautifully, “Often times the ‘solutions’ that were put into place compartmentalized our younger and older generations, instead of providing opportunities for partnership.” No wonder the PCUSA looks like an endangered species. Could God be calling all of us to empower this vital part of the body?
Present/Future. This criticism of my joining the chorus that calls our youth “the future of the church” really hit home. Please forgive me. I think I did it less in my first description of this call. The wisdom of Kahlil Gibran tends toward the future, which, I hope we can agree, is not irrelevant. Still, for me—as it seems to be for John—the future is now. The younger generation of our church has to be our now.
Right now, as far as I can see, my generation (the elder one) in the church does not know—cannot discern—how to be the body of Christ in the 21st century. We certainly seem unable to engage whatever sense of urgency we may have about adjusting to the new present.
As long as we insist on retaining power to discern God’s will and to allocate church resources to carry that out, the PCUSA remains stuck. We are past the time for half measures. It is past time to let the children lead us.
I welcome response from you all. Thanks in advance for it.
And perhaps you are inspired to invite a commissioner in your presbytery to vote with the YAADs. Are you?
Photo from David P. Young Presbyterian Youth Trieunnium, 2013