NASHVILLE, Tenn. Aug. 14, 2014 /Discipleship Ministries/ – Despite enduring a devastating typhoon, United Methodist young people and adult leaders from 34 countries successfully completed their convocation and legislative assembly in the Philippines and adopted petitions for presentation to the next General Conference.
As participants in the Global Young People’s Convocation and Legislative Assembly (GYPCLA), organized by Young People’s Ministries division of the Discipleship Ministries, were arriving on July 16, Typhoon Rammasun hit the Philippines, damaging many areas, including the group’s meeting site.
“Despite the typhoon that damaged the retreat center where the gathering was to be held, we were able to move forward and accomplish the goals of the global convocation and legislative assembly in a new location,” said Michael Ratliff, Associate General Secretary at Discipleship Ministries and head of Young People’s Ministries (YPM). “We're thankful that no one from our group was injured during the typhoon.”
After the eye of the typhoon passed over, everyone gathered in the retreat center’s assembly hall, the only building on the property that was intact, Ratliff said.
“During that time, young people sang and prayed and just spent time sharing with each other in spite of the storm that was raging outside,” he said. “We were able to move the whole conference – something that had been planned over three years' time – in three hours to a new location where the young people were willing to do what needed to happen in order for the event to go forward.”
To view a video documenting the young people’s experiences in the Philippines, go to http://bit.ly/1rsfhW8
The legislative assembly discussed legislation submitted by young people for consideration and adopted five petitions that will be sent to the church’s General Conference in 2016.
“This is an opportunity for young people to share their concerns for the church and the world and have those concerns be considered by General Conference without going through the filters of other groups or organizations,” Ratliff said.
The adopted petitions are:
- "Leave Room for Young People" — Asks that annual conferences ensure representation across all age groups, by whenever possible, electing one of every three lay delegates as a youth or a young adult
- "Consideration of the Schedules of Young People Petition"— Asks annual conferences to consider the schedules of young people when setting its meeting times for boards and committees
- "Aligning Investments with Social Principles" — Petition for the Book of Resolutions would support the divestment of the United Methodist Church from Caterpillar, HP and Motorola due to their contracts with Israel that go toward supporting efforts in the Israeli-Palestinian conflict.
- "Beyond Resolutions to Environmental Action" — Asks all levels of the church to conduct an environmental study
- "Specific Mention to Prohibit the Exclusion of Membership Based on Sexual Orientation" — Seeks to change the list for inclusiveness of the church, in Article 4 of The Book of Discipline, to add the words "gender or sexual orientation"
In the final assembly session, GYPCLA delegates overwhelmingly approved a “Statement of Unity” that says no one controversy, like homosexuality, should divide the church.
“We urge everyone to seek solutions that promote our global unity as the United Methodist Church of Jesus Christ, rather than focus only on the issues that divide us, so that we may faithfully live out our mission of making disciples of Jesus Christ for the transformation of the world,” the statement says.
Also attending the gathering as non-voting delegates were 42 young people commissioned by the General Board of Global Ministries as Generation Transformation Global Mission Fellows. The fellows, ages 20-30, represented 11 countries and will spend two years serving in mission and social justice ministries at international and domestic sites.
“We were able to participate in their commissioning service and got to know them a little bit while we were there,” said Chris Wilterdink, Director of Young People’s Ministries Development at YPM. “And they got to interact with some of the delegates and other participants from GYPCLA.”
Due to the typhoon, major changes had to be made quickly so the gathering could proceed.
In a matter of hours, with the help of the local staff in the Philippines, the entire conference and its participants were moved to a new location 26 miles away, Wilterdink said. The lost time resulted in a condensed and rearranged schedule, but none of the planned workshops, leadership training and legislative sessions were omitted.
“There was a lot of community building that happened on buses and vans as we were getting folks from here to there and all over the place,” Wilterdink said.
On Sunday, the attendees divided into seven groups and worshiped at Manila-area Methodist churches.
The participants also helped the United Methodist Committee on Relief (UMCOR) assemble 600 packets of locally purchased food that were distributed by the National Council of Churches in the Philippines to a community damaged by the typhoon.
“It was great for everybody who was there to be able to give back,” Wilterdink said.