Vision Project Focus Retreat

Erica at VP Focus Retreat

Thank you!
Thank you to all 1,000 young adults who joined in Vision Project gatherings around the globe!  Members of the First Presidency met with you in over 30 locations to hear your perspectives on the mission and future of Community of Christ.  Your concerns and ideas were well received, and I will continue to work with them as we follow up on what we heard.

After the gatherings, our first step was to review and evaluate all that we heard.  At the end of April, we called together a diverse focus group of about 25 young adults from around the English-speaking church.  The group met in New Haven, MO, USA for a weekend with the First Presidency and apostles Linda Booth and Jim Slauter.

Our goals: Hone in on the most passionate and church-changing concerns voiced at Vision Project, and offer our top suggestions for action that we and the church can take.  After intense discussions, here’s what we found….

Young Adults’ Top Recommendations:

Local Ministry and Education:VP Retreat

  • Offer better leadership education and entry points for YAs take leadership locally.
  • Build ways for congregations to stay connected with YAs after they graduate high school.
  • Help congregations center on mission and try new models of congregational life.
  • Every mission center or field should consider supporting a YA minister, YA activities, and including outreach in their goals.
  • Offer ministries for young adults to be with peers after we have moved on from high school.
  • Congregations need education to recognize and appreciate the various life stages and needs among young adults.
  • Congregations and individuals need help discerning if they have opportunities and calling to minister with young adults.
  • Provide resources to help individuals, congregations, or others to offer relevant ministry with different types of young adults.
  • All education and training opportunities in Community of Christ should incorporate an action-oriented component.
  • We challenge congregations to be firmly grounded in continuous discipleship formation devoted to mission, Scripture, sound theology, vibrant worship, and holistic relationships.

VP Retreat WCLC Panel
Mentoring and Intergenerational Relationships:  

  • We long for authentic, personal friendships with congregation members older than us!
  • Intentional, mutual, intergenerational relationships should be at the heart of Community of Christ congregational culture.
  • These relationships should be about  mutual disciple and ministry formation, friendship, and life skills.
  • Formal and informal mentoring should be initiated in as many congregations as possible.
  • Before entering into mentoring relationships persons should be educated.  Field support should be provided for mentoring education.
  • The church at all levels should be educated about the centrality of intergenerational relationships the faith community and the resources available to support those relationships.

   Priesthood: Andy and Jodie

  • Each priesthood member should understand their office as it can relate to the specific needs of young adult generations.  How does the role call them to minister in places where young adults are often found, such as college campuses, coffee shops, workplaces, schools, etc.?
  • In preordination education, include clear lifestyle expectations or ethical guidelines for priesthood.
  • Consistently integrate priesthood into local and World Church young adult activities, especially evangelists, seventy, and high priests.
  • New young adult ordinands should be paired with older, more experienced priesthood mentors for ministry education and practice. 

So What Happens Next?…  

  • Get the word out.
    • Tailored communications will flow to congregations, local leaders, World Church leaders, and others about what young adults have said in Vision Project.
    • Recommend what each of them can to do make the church more inclusive and relevant for all generations.
    • Submit to the First Presidency and World Church leaders a detailed report and recommendations of Vision Project. 
  • Young Adult Ministries Team.
    • A diverse group of leaders will form an ongoing steering team for World Church Young Adult Ministries.
    • They will help strategize and organze the ministries that we offer in response to Vision Project.
  • Church leadership planning and commitments.
    • The First Presidency and other World Church leaders will assess the Vision Project Report and create a long-term action plan in cooperation with Young Adult Team.
    • We’ll let keep sharing details with you as they unfold.

There’s a quick overview!  And theres’s LOTS more that will take shape in the months to come!

Catching the vision...

12 thoughts on “Vision Project Focus Retreat

  1. karlijo says:

    Bob,

    Wow. wow!

    I had no idea you’d be in the boat you are now, based on how I remember you at GU. You were so far in the bubble, that you might have actually *been* the bubble!

    I completely empathise and agree with what you’ve said. I think not taking a stand on something like the LGBTQ ‘issue’ is actually letting injustice continue. And as a church, that’s just wrong for us. I get the global issues, I do. But let’s move on where it’s safe to do so.

    I’d love to hear those stories too – for me, stories about how we reconcile our faith perspective (not what the church says) with responses to current issues (hang tight for my next blog post that’s in the pipeline on this). How do we respond to the situations we are faced with today, yesterday, tomorrow? I’m talkin about how we form our opinions in light of having committed to be the Jesus in our communities. I couldn’t care less about replacing kitchens. It’s not about that. So yes, ‘church’ as we knew it has definitely lost relevancy for me too.

    Ok so let’s start telling stories.

    Bob, I know you had a bought of cancer after GU. Tell me about facing your mortality. I sometimes think about being at my own funeral, who would be there, what would they say, what depressing song would they play. What was it like to be faced with that in a more predictable way? (I mean, as opposed to, ‘we could get hit by a car tomorrow and die’ being a relatively far away concept). What was it like for your marriage? For you? What did God reveal about Gods-self in those moments?

    There’s a congregation in Sydney called The Open Door (it is CofC). You’d love it. It’s pretty much a spiritual home for LGBTQ seeking something – it’s the most genuine congregation I’ve ever visited, seriously. Everyone is just who they are. And the wider Australia church has embraced it – there are ordained ministers from that community too (shock horror I know!).

    Love
    Karli

    • Bob says:

      Karli,

      Once again, I appreciate the kindness with which you remember me at GU. Those first three years were very difficult for me, and I wish I had handled them more gracefully. Growing up was not without its growing pains and I whole-heartedly believe that my saving grace was the invisible kindness and noble discretion of others.

      You asked about how I dealt with my mortality when I had cancer. I was diagnosed with cancer in June 2007, but not diagnosed with Hodgkin’s Lymphoma for another two months or so. I was terrified—really really scared. I researched the internet for statistics, figures, possible outcomes, etc. and that was all I had to comfort me when I went to sleep at night. I longed for a restful night’s sleep and I didn’t wake up in the morning sweating and feeling anxious. Paul Tillich writes about anxiety as the “fear of non-being.” And I was anxious about not existing any longer, to be the person you spoke of to your children “I had a friend in college who died young, just after getting married…really sad,” to never have a chance at having children, a rewarding career, or the chance at living and loving for long time. Hate and dread filled my world. It was the reason and motivation for eating and living. Anxiety filled my existence with the insidious accusation that I would die and there was nothing I could do about it. People tried to give me solace, but anything besides trying to understand or listen to me became an annoyance. Christians were often the worst offenders and the most incredulous with their cliché defenses of an omnipotent god who allowed bad things to happen to people—feeding me their bullshit. I was especially frustrated when older people would talk about their retirement plans or when young adults complained about turning 30. “At least you get to grow old …at least you get to turn 30,” I’d exclaim to myself.

      And then everything changed. I remember sitting in church one Sunday morning, not listening to the sermon, because the routine, obligatory, droning god-is-love sermon so often heard from CofC pulpits just wasn’t working for more that day—any day really. I looked around for anything to distract me from the boredom I heard and the anguish I felt—bulletin inserts, to the walls, other people not paying attention—and then to a picture of Jesus praying and pleading his guts out, knelt beside a rock, to a god who seemed to be scheming of a most cruel, embarrassing, and agonizing departure from the living. “…take this cup from me…”

      It’s probably important to note that I haven’t really believed in a god since my senior year of college. That’s a story in itself, but suffice it to say, I never once asked myself or god, “Why me?” Shit just happens. Instead of believing in God, my faith had shifted to “believing in people” and a growing sense of self-advocacy, working with purpose, etc. I’d never admit to having everything worked out, denying my insecurities, but I was fairly confident that no cross or god was going to heal me and make my anxiety disappear.

      I looked at Jesus’ face in the painting, and could see the anguish, the tears—the same tears I had cried, the same anguish that etched my 23 year old face. But Jesus ended the story with celebration and the redemption of his friends. What happened?

      A scene between Evey and V (from the film, V for Vendetta) flashed in my mind. “You tortured me! You tortured me! Why?” Evey cries. “You said you wanted to live a life without fear. I wish there’d been an easier way, but there wasn’t…I know you may never forgive me…but nor will you ever understand how hard it was for me to do what I did…” V calmly confidently replies. His voice is unwavering, a careful balance between pretension and compassion. “Leave me alone. I hate you,” Evey replies. “That’s it! See, at first I thought it was hate, too.” V’s voice breaks like an avalanche filling Evey’s somber void, but he continues, “hate was all I knew, it built my world, it imprisoned me, taught me how to eat, how to drink, how to breathe. I thought I’d die with all my hate in my veins. But then something happened. It happened to me… just as it happened to you…. What was true in that cell is just as true now. What you felt in there has nothing to do with me.” Evey’s pallor whitens and she at her wit’s end exclaims, “I can’t feel anything anymore.” “Don’t run from it Evey, you’ve been running all your life…. Listen to me, Evey. This may be the most important moment of your life. Commit to it…. You found something else. In that cell you found something that mattered more to you than life. It was when they threatened to kill you unless you gave them what they wanted… you told them you’d rather die. You faced your death, Evey. You were calm. You were still.”

      I was calm. I was still. I faced my death.

      I wanted to yell, to scream, just as Evey did on the rooftops, but opted against doing so in the middle of the service. I struggled to hold back tears in order to avoid inquiries that would take me away from this very special moment. The story of Jesus in the Garden of Gethsemane and this dialogue between Evey and V were not two different stories, but the same…they are part of my story. I had faced my death and now I was free.

      I turned to see Holly, my wonderful lover and partner and friend, and was overcome with such gratefulness for her ongoing presence and commitment to be with me through the very worst. After the service, I walked outside to be greeted by a world full of beautiful summer colors and the warmth of a gentle wind. I was convinced that even if it had been storming, I would have been grateful to be covered in cool water.

      Paul Tillich also writes about how the courage to be overcomes the anxiety of non-being and for next month, I lived with this incredible sense of peace and fearlessness and beauty. It was quite wonderful actually. Then I learned about my staging and how my prognosis was, exceptional really, so now I could go back to worrying about the future, plans, etc. My particular form of cancer has been particularly well researched. Elegant decision trees and algorithms explain the course of my treatment plan. And I had one of the best HMOs in the country so I paid about a $1,000, give or take, for all my bills—which is almost unheard of. My dad passed along my CT records and pathology reports to family friends who have sacrificed much of their lives to be physicians and cancer researchers—all fact checking my own doctors and their decisions. I ate well, kept running, napped, and never felt sorry for myself. I was going to be okay, but that moment when two stories became my story made all the difference for what waited for me was four months of chemotherapy and three weeks of radiation.

      Currently, I attend a young adult cancer support group. I came to the realization that no matter how well or how little I know these people, they are my people. We’ve lost a few people in the last 1.5 years since I started going. I met one of them while volunteering with Palliative Medicine in the hospital. He was healthy when I met him, but two days later, took a dive for the worse and died 5 days later—just before my shift started. Nobody understood what happened. He was 26 years old. A week and a half ago, I went to a memorial service for someone from group. She was 42 years old and had lived a beautiful life; 10 years of which with cancer. It was a memorial in which I forgot it was a memorial—so strong was the celebration of life. There were little kids and babies there who reminded me how beautiful the cycle of life could be. I don’t expect that I will ever be remembered with quite the fondness and beauty that Tiesha will be remembered. She was, as the speakers reminisced, “a marvelous, compassionate, talented woman…a luminous creature.” No, I don’t hope for any cross or god to heal me at the end. I only pray I play my part well and do what is needed of me.

      I liked to believe at one point in time that the worst of me had died when I had cancer, but that’s a little too optimistic. Honestly, I might always struggle to be unlike the pendulum that swings between extremes or my perpetual need for feeling like my life must be always moving somewhere. I realize that a larger part of me will forever be wounded and shallow. I don’t pity myself anymore because I (continually) commit to myself and the decisions I make. I appreciate William Henley sentiment from the poem Invictus, “It matters not how straight the gate. How charged with punishments the scroll, I am the master of my fate. I am the captain of my soul.” Still, every day V looked into the mirror, he saw the Latin quotation of Faust cheating the devil, “I while living have conquered the Universe.” It is all the same really; there will always be suffering, pain, and death, disappointments and failures. All that changes is us. The world is hopeful because people, individuals, fill the world with hope. The world is full of courage because people, individuals, would rather die striving, than to sacrifice any part of their integrity.

  2. Bob says:

    Karli, it’s really good to hear from you, albeit, through a discussion blog posted on the internet. I appreciate the kindness with which you remember me at GU. About your comments, I like what you wrote and hope you enjoy your glass of wine. And I like what you wrote about your relationship. I sympathize with “de-activating” your priesthood. I also don’t go to church, and when I do, I have this “how did I get here” or “what am I doing here” kind of feeling. I don’t like going to church anymore, which is hard to imagine considering how “into it” I was at GU and afterwards. I volunteered summers at youth camps, attended several congregations, pastored a congregation, and was ordained an elder. I don’t regret any of it.

    That being said, “church” has become increasingly irrelevant. The conversation at church always seems to drift onto issues that don’t mean much to me anymore. I don’t drive a car, instead I bike everywhere (really, I bike 100-150 miles a week—stupid petrochemicals smogging up my world), so by Sunday morning, I’m sleeping in. Also, not going to church has in some ways, become a form of protest. Sure, some say I should stay involved to help change things. But I say, “No.” Here’s why:
    1) CofC decisions on LGBTQ issues is for a deal-breaker. That means, (actually) treating LGBTQ at a North American level with respect and equal treatment is coming half-(fuckin’)-way.

    2) Reason numero dos—relevancy. We, Community of Christ in North America, really enjoy talking, expressing our feelings, creating worship plans, discussing archaic issues that are no longer relevant…but I digress. We have had a very difficult time being relevant. But what do I mean by that? I mean that we spend more on our buildings than we do on our people. I mean that when we spend more on issues that are important to older generations than those issues that are important to younger generations. I mean that when Pres. Veazey calls on the church to become “sanctuaries to the gay-lesbian” community, we continue to uphold the Joint Council policies from the early 80’s-which love the sinner, and hate the sin. Maybe what I’m saying is all beating around the bush, so let me be clearer…We have had a terrible time owning up to our words and commitments. So there is little wonder why so many young adults have said goodbye to the denomination of their upbringing, why ministers go rogue and ordain gays-lesbians and bless their unions, and why the North American church can’t help but continue to hemorrhage both people and resources.

    I live in Portland, Or, which is where all the gay-loving, hippie, tattoo covered, punk-ass, retro, hipster, retired young-adult, and reject go to live where you won’t find Styrofoam in any restaurants, where the bike trials and lanes are plentiful, the weather rarely dips below freezing or breaks 90 degrees, where differences are celebrated (keep Portland Weird, mind you), and where the beer seems to cascade endlessly from our happy-hour wells. No “not all is at ease in Zion” (heh heh heh), we have our problems, but this is my home, my town. Now to my surprise, CofC has little presence here. In the last 1.5 years since I’ve moved here, none of the congregations in the area (that I know of) have become Welcoming Churches Network, that is, have become part of an ecumenical network of congregations that are open to the LGBTQ community, nor have I heard any murmurings to go in that direction. This would be a small overt gesture of acceptance to the LGBTQ community, but, alas, stagnant in this arena we remain.

    Recently, Brian Ober’s article about an uncomfortable experience he had and the posting entitled, Speaking Truth To Power in Washington, D.C., I believe get to the heart of, well, our hearts. Just after Jesus died, the followers were in exile—abandoned and without a guide. But all was not lost (an excellent plot device). One after another, our scriptures post-Jesus-mortem are filled with stories of hope and wonder—Thomas, Travelers on Emmaus, Angels at the tomb. Just as our Christian ancestors were in exile, so are we (alone and hungry) and not in need of ideas—WE NEED MORE STORIES—but we definitely don’t need any more ideas. We have a plethora of ideas enough to level a small land fill. Have you seen our congregation’s dusty bookshelves of worship helps and class ideas? JJ Cornish told some incredible stories that inspired generations of the RLDS. The Old Old Path was based on a story. The Gospels are nothing more than stories—not belief statements or “we should-do-s”. Telling our stories often takes us on a collision course with vulnerability, abrasive language, suffering, and resurrection (no wonder why we skirt away from it—damn scary)—but after all, that’s part of the Christ story too.

    And because I wouldn’t want to give feedback without providing ways of making things right:
    1) Tell stories about embracing the LGBTQ community as friends and family, and doing justice where politics and the church have not. What did you learn about sexuality, courage, and the worth of persons? Where has this been the most difficult?
    2) Tell stories about congregations making better decisions about where they put their resources. What were the challenges? What came out of it? How have perspectives on stewardship changed?
    3)Tell stories about death and dying. How do you choose to remember the life of a loved one? How do we need to support each other afterwards? Tell a personal story about the resurrection.

    I honestly would love to hear more stories.

    Peace,
    Bob

  3. Karli says:

    Hi Ben,
    Thanks for drawing out the distinction between the VP findings article and the conversation about the mission of the church.
    The reason I linked them was because the VP findings indicate a disconnect with *some* of what we would consider the ‘mission of the church’ (based on the principles recently published) – the more external facing ones.
    My concern is that at this grass roots level, being YAs who attended the VP, that external mission response is largely not reflected as strongly as I would have thought.
    I agree – the findings absolutely do say something about the YAs in the church. They are a passionate, committed bunch, and I hope that continues. I also hope that the passion to look outside of their/our own congregations is enboldened.
    Erica, response pending =) Thanks for sharing your insights into the 2 overall questions/discussion topics posed.

  4. Ben Smith says:

    Thanks for outing yourself Annon. Although, I knew who you were 🙂
    I’ve spoken with you about this already, but it may be helpful to add my voice to this conversation a little. I think we’re talking about two different things. One is the article that Erica wrote here are the findings of the VP, and summarise what YA’s have said during that project. This is not something that has come top-down, or has been formulated by a committee (albeit summarised by a committee). It’s the voice of people like you (if you went to a VP) and their vision and concerns for the church. I agree with both you and Bob in the direction we could/should be taking as a church of mission, but I think this discussion is a different one to that of the summary of the VP.
    Maybe that says something about the YA’s that are still in the church and attended these VP gatherings. It is difficult to obtain the perspectives of those ‘outside’ the faith community, as you can well imagine. If i was asked by an organisation to come to a gathering to hear what we have to say about it, i doubt i would go.
    So, maybe we should have a MP – Mission Project. Let’s make action plans in our areas to live out the mission. We don’t need to wait for the bureaucratic systems of the institutional church to make that happen.
    I want this discussion to continue, in fact, I need this conversation to continue.
    Shalom,
    Ben
    Disclaimer: I attended said small gathering to collate this data and put together these recommendations to the wider church. I also work for the church in Australia.

  5. Erica says:

    Hi Karli,
    Lots of interesting perspectives here! Just wanted to give some brief feedback on your comment: “I absolutely think that Pastoral Care is essential within the church – we are a community that supports eachother. But we are also a community that looks beyond itself to seek out the bruised and broken hearted, the oppressed, the marginalised, both in our immediate communities and beyond our borders. I think this has been lost somewhere in the discussion, and frankly I’m disappointed that it wasn’t reflected in what came out of VP discussions (are no YAs thinking this way?). We’ve kinda stopped at the “our community” bit. It’s unfortunate, and it’s not where our calling ends.”
    When we formulated the questions to be discussed at most VP dialogues we had a couple of goals in mind. First, to hear YA’s vision for the church’s mission (both now and into the future.) Relatedly, we really wanted to know how YAs see themselves taking the lead as part of that mission. Our second goal was to hear how the church (at all levels) can become more relevant to YA’s spiritual and faith formation. So we started out with questions that focused both on “outward” church mission and then moved to questions that addressed “inward” church operations.
    From my personal perspective, I was surprised to find that many YA participants were stretched by the first part. Most of them deeply appreciated the church’s call to Peace and Justice ministry – especially as it’s expressed in our Enduring Principles. And many stated particular justice issues that were important to them. But it was hard for some to articulate how they and their congregation could go about living that out in reality. I’m sure there are lots of reasons for that. Those might include the fact that all people (and congregations) have different passions and callings for specific areas of mission, so it was difficult to have one or two ideas float to the top. Or another reason may be that a good deal of YAs are only partially engaged in congregational life, so they haven’t really been able to formulate their vision for the church yet. Or it might just be that most big peace and justice issues are way complicated, so it’s too hard to give simple answers. But, overall, I can confidently say that though there were not a lot of overwhelming ideas for “outward mission”, time and time again our YAs proudly affirmed our Enduring Principles as our guidelines for CofChrist’s powerful call to service in the world. (www.cofchrist.org/ourfaith/enduring-principles.asp) We overwhelmingly believe in our mission, but envisioning how to live it out in diverse congregational and worldwide faith community is complicated!
    When we got to the VP questions about “inner” church stuff, it was way easier to come up with answers, as you could imagine. It’s simpler for us to say what’s working and what we would like to change about congregational life and institutional operations. So, often the discussions went that direction more quickly, and we had more material about that to report on.
    I think that this VP experience is an interesting commentary on just how important it is to be faithfully involved in the church community in order to live our mission to the fullest. Mission in community takes collective discernment and spiritual formation, a sense of established trust, ongoing forgiveness and patience, and intimate knowledge of one another’s giftedness and weaknesses. And that’s for both congregations and for the international CofChrist body. YA generations definitely have a unique, passionate, visionary perspective on issues of social justice and the suffering of creation that needs to be loudly declared to the whole church (and the whole world!) I’m so proud of that! It’s my big vision that in the next few years we can work together to pair that visionary passion with loyal participation in the faith community. We can partner the tempered experience and wisdom of older generations with our YA drive for peace and justice. It will be hard, messy – but sacred – work for all of us. But only if all generations will choose to struggle side-by-side to embody the journey to peace and justice “inside” a diverse faith community, can we truly proclaim Christ’s Kingdom of Peace in the “outside” world. I’m so excited to be on the adventure!

  6. Karli Smith (not so annonymous now) says:

    Hi Bob, Appreciate your comments very much.
    I also love your 1,2 and 3 recommendations, whole-heartedly.
    (maybe it’s time to “out” myself – it’s Karli Smith from Australia – we went to GU together =) I posted annonymous to begin with.. I actually can’t remember why now)
    Anyway, it’s really nice to connect with you again. For a bit of context: Once I got home from two years at GU, I remained super involved with church stuff. I was counsellor to the Pastor, the congregational P&J coordinator, very active in the YA group, still thinking about working for the church one day – on paper I looked awesome. But then life kicked in. I graduated uni, entered my professional field in Int’l Aid & Development, and am now working on my Masters in Human Rights Law. Probably 3-4 years ago, actually co-inciding with my Mum’s onset of ‘Burn Out’ (and subsequent heavy depression) as a Fulltime Church Employee, I got an entirely different picture of what the church can do to people. I have felt a bit ‘token’ at times, a bit “oh Karli’s up on her soapbox again” (maybe that fed into the annonymous posting!) with the issues I would harp on about at a local and national level – issues of justice, peace, development, even down to reforming the way we do morning tea to be fairtrade! and the acceptance of asylum seekers and refugees in our communities (touchy political topics here), as well as how ‘the church’ can be active in these issues. So I steadily began to fall back into the ‘outer’ – I now only go to church on a Sunday once or twice a year (it just doesn’t feel right or relevant to me anymore, but I know it’s not about me, it’s about the community, but even that hasn’t got me there yet) but I still keep in contact with some YAs and ‘talk church’ often with them. I de-activated my Priesthood – something I once I thought I couldn’t do without! I now would never consider working for the church.
    And this is all from someone who used to ridiculously look forward to camps, direct retreats, live and breathe church, never miss a Sunday morning, and never consider marrying someone from outside the church. Reality is I still do live and breathe church – just not AT the church building. It’s funny how things change. I’m not bitter in the least – and I’d rather be in the church and working to effect change than to stand outside the door and talk shit about it – but I don’t think I’m there yet – in some ways I am, some I’m not. And I get disillusioned with the (higher up) leadership who conform to ideals that are not only irrelevant but oppressive. It’s actually quite incredible to me.
    In the meantime, I’m completely living in sin according to our doctrines – I love a glass or two of red wine, I’m in a defacto relationship (oh-o, extra-marital sex!), and I support the notion that one’s calling should not be based on sexual orientation or marital status (look out!) I think it’s ridiculous that someone should not be employed by the church until they are married (if in a relationship) – “highest covenant” is not something one should push, and not something that should pre-determine employment prospects.
    Bigger fish people – Bride burning in India, Female Genital Mutilation in Kenya, child labour in the cocoa industry, trafficking in the Delta Region. People so desperate for hope they jump on leaky boats to get across an ocean. And we’re talking about a couple of gays that love eachother? Seriously?
    Anyway.. tangent!
    I absolutely think that Pastoral Care is essential within the church – we are a community that supports eachother. But we are also a community that looks beyond itself to seek out the bruised and broken hearted, the oppressed, the marginalised, both in our immediate communities and beyond our borders. I think this has been lost somewhere in the discussion, and frankly I’m disappointed that it wasn’t reflected in what came out of VP discussions (are no YAs thinking this way?). We’ve kinda stopped at the “our community” bit. It’s unfortunate, and it’s not where our calling ends.
    I agree that the church leadership wouldn’t appreciate being chastised by those a fraction of their age =) I agree there are pockets. And I don’t have the answer on this one. But I think we absolutely have a moral, ethical and spiritual obligation to push/challenge (nicely) for what is right – if we’re doing nothing (not making decision or taking action), we’re doing something (letting the wrong things continue to happen).
    Concerning reaching out to YAs in the ‘outer circle’. I think it’s hit and miss – I think some YAs are there because they want to be. They’re bitter. And they don’t want to get not-bitter. They’d rather talk crap about how the church has it all wrong. I think that both parties need to meet in the middle though and practice some forgiveness, learn from eachother. I think there has been a reluctance on both sides to do that (me included at times).
    The Vision Project is a classic example – the responses reflect the attendance. I couldn’t make the VP that was scheduled in my area because of work, I was literally starting a new role that week – now that’s fine, there’s never going to be a time and place that suits everyone, and the organisers worked well with what they had. I noted that those who did attend were all gung-ho church goers. That’s fine too. But let’s look at our demographic and make sure we’re getting the most representative responses when we’re offering advice up to the First Pres on behalf of the ‘YAs of the church’.
    That said, the outer is okay. It’s not a bad place to be. It’s important to be objective. I think we take the church with us wherever we go – I have a strong foundation that I have flung from, and so I take the good news of the gospel with me everyday. I think we forget that just because someone’s not at church, doesn’t mean they’re not engaged in mission in meaningful ways. And can contribute that back to the church at large at some point in time.
    No, all is definitely not lost!
    Love to you and your family Bob.

  7. Bob says:

    Annon for now, I’ve been thinking about what you wrote over the last week and I think you were pretty spot on. In your first point, you wrote, “Interesting to see the discussions seemed to focus on insular issues (ie, internal congregational matters)…than those that look beyond the church.” I think this could be our denomination’s undoing. We’ve spent 50 years working on pastoral care, but paid little attention to mission (within the US).
    Concerning your second point, I believe the Church absolutely must learn to reach out to those young adults who are either on the outer circle, or who have been pushed out of the outer circle. Churches and religion in general is arguably best seen by those who look in on it and not by those who are already surrounded by it. The people on the outside have a perspective and story that is crucial for the Church to thrive.
    You also wrote, “Perhaps one of the roles of YAs is to challenge existing church structures that reinforce discriminatory practices,” also a good comment. But I doubt any of the church leadership really enjoys being challenged by those who are fractions of their age. If that were the case, we’d probably hear more about Mission Center presidents coming to bat for LGBTQ ministers, ordinands, and those ministers who have outed themselves by blessing same-sex marriages. We’d receive feedback and realistic ideas for dealing with our dysfunctionality, closing buildings, etc. Perhaps that support is present and those ideas have been articulated, but I’m guessing they only exist in pockets.
    In the dawn of this Church’s early days, we were a riotous dissenting lot. We were the groups of scattered saints who told the larger group of western-heading settlers to, “piss off.” We were divided on so many different issues, but somehow united around something powerful. We are much like that same divided group, but I think we have misplaced much of our riotous colorful dissent and exchanged it for complacency.
    All is not lost, our collective memories no doubt remember a time of fire and a chance hope. It is in our blood and in our songs that our identity retains its integrity. Though we might have to lose everything before we get real with ourselves.
    I would love to keep this conversation going “Annon for now.”
    bb

  8. Bob Pranaat says:

    Thanks Erica for posting this summary of the Vision Projects. I was very curious to see what came out of them, and not surprised to see the conclusions. I think there is a lot of good stuff here, but time will only tell if we can make it a reality. I am very curious to read about the nuts-and-bolts of what comes from this project. There are many young adults who have already left the Church after feeling disenfranchised and neglected. In order for the Church to move healthfully into the future, you must win them back. True enough, wrong has been done by both sides, but here is an opportunity to make amends. The Apologies must be made. Wrongs must be righted. By doing so we’ll learn to make justice part of our lives and not just an issue that exists thousands of miles away. Here are my suggestions, as far as details go:
    1) Embrace the LGBTQ movement with tenacity, not just rhetoric. Make ordination an issue of calling, not sexual orientation. Bless same sex unions by performing their marriage ceremonies.
    2) Sell buildings. Justify the incredible sums of money we spend on our congregations. What we worship is made all the more evident by where we choose to put our resources and where we do not.
    3) Start a healthy and open conversation about death and dying. Doing so will help us learn to love more fully and live more courageously. I do not believe we can live joyfully and purposefully without learning to embrace death.
    Good luck,
    Bob

  9. Annon for now says:

    Thanks Erica,
    That does help to flesh out the meaning for me.
    My views would be encapsulated in what you have described too. I hold PH but am currently inactive (self-imposed!) (for many reasons but including issues related to the “rules” which are uneven to me – in that we place far too much emphasis on some ‘lifestyle’ choices like consumption of alcohol or sexual orientation or defacto relationships, but ignore others like over-eating and general over-consumption of resources, which I personally consider more damaging).
    Perhaps one of the roles of YAs is to challenge existing church structures that reinforce discriminatory practices, particularly when at the expense of guidance around other issues like overconsumption. Maybe we could empower one another to use principle-based decision making methods, and challenge the FP to adopt this method, instead of regulation-style impositions.
    Thanks for taking the time to clarify – much appreciated.
    On a side note, a couple of observations/questions
    1) Interesting to see the discussions seemed to focus on insular issues (ie, internal congregational matters, how the church can better serve YAs) than those that look beyond the church – ie, how we can help equip one-another in the mission of being Christ in the world (ministry to oppressed, marginalised and poor), in our workplaces, in our families – and how we can be advocates for injustice.
    2) Any reflections on engaging the YAs from the “outer circle”? Many of us couldn’t make the VP discussions for various reasons. How about those that don’t regularly (or ever) attend congreations? Would have been great to do a bit of analysis on the demographic of those who attended, and just how representative they are of the World Church YA population.
    Cheers

  10. Erica says:

    Hey, good question, Annon. This bit of young adult feedback was particularly hard for me to articulate in a sentence or two, so I’m happy to try explaining more.
    Basically, what we heard from lots of YAs is that they feel uncomfortable with some of the ethical expectations of accepting/holding priesthood offices. Usually that revolves around issues that are pervasive in postmodern culture like alcohol, sexual relationships, etc. (That’s what I was trying to express by “lifestyle”.)
    Though there are pretty clear guidelines for some of that in place, some YAs feel those expectations are enforced unevenly. Or some feel that they could still offer meaningful ministry that’s not impaired by some currently restricted behavior. So they feel confused and sometimes discouraged. They offered a spectrum of ideas to help out with this. Many suggested that just having someone open, straightforward, and non-judgmental to talk with would be a big help to working it through.
    (Now that’s definitely not the voice of ALL YAs we listened to at Vision Project, but it was a strong enough theme that I included in in the summary.) I hope that helps, Annon!
    Any other readers out there, who could share your perspective on this?

  11. Annon for now says:

    Hi Erica & Readers,
    Could you help me to understand what “In preordination education, include clear lifestyle expectations or ethical guidelines for priesthood.” actually is asking for?
    ie. Is it a subset of rules on what you can and can’t do now that you’re in the PH? (I believe that already exists!)
    ‘Clear lifestyle expectations’ – What exactly is meant by lifestyle? (I like a beachside lifestyle, is that what you mean?)
    I’m quietly hoping that the intention behind this statement is more about “principle based living” rather than expectations and guidelines.
    Cheers for the clarity.

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