Tuesday, July 14, 2009

Voice and Vote Representation at General Convention

By Eileen O’Brien

Currently, the youth presence at General Convention -- which is comprised of a diverse group of youth ages 16-18 from across the Episcopal Church -- has seat and voice, but no vote. Saturday morning, the Structure Committee held hearings on Resolution D066 which resolves to give vote to the Official Youth Presence. Although the resolution presents a number of legal, funding, and constitutional issues, every the committee responded enthusiastically to it.

I believe that this resolution has important implications for the under-represented young adult community in the church, as well. It sends a message to dioceses and parishes that we need to examine our leadership structures and be intentional about breaking down barriers so that young adults and new members in the church can more fully engage in ministry. For example, parishes that have elected the same people to their Diocesan Councils for over ten years need to be told to think again about how they can train and equip younger leaders for ministry.

Here at General Convention, only 14% of deputies are under the age of 45. Five percent are under the age of 35, and of that 5%, 60% are part of the youth presence that does not have a vote. If we want to hear and empower young people in the church, we must take this first step.

Eileen O’Brien is from the Diocese of Texas.

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