General Conference 2012 has ended and is in the history books…what happens next should be interesting. Yoshiro Nakajima, a youth worker from the California/Nevada Conference, was there as a delegate and shares the Young People’s Personal Point of Privilege he helped draft. This address was read by Stephanie Gottschalk, clergy (31). She couldn’t quite get to the end of it.
As a young person and a first-time delegate to General Conference, and I want say…
I love you…
I came to general conference in order to hear others voices, share my own and to be in Holy Conferencing. While here, I have been captivated by the beautiful visions that I have seen at the 2012 General Conference. We’ve dreamed dreams of a church that addresses the changing needs of our world. We have talked of a time when our church empowers the voices of the the young and marginal.
We all yearn for meaningful change and I genuinely came full of hope, to be in holy conferencing with you, so that we could together, with God, discern what meaningful change is.
I am happy to say that through the many conversations that I have had with other young people, I have discovered this to be true. I have made many friends with people who look like me and don’t look like me, from around the world. I have experienced powerful worship services and have had even more powerful holy moments. I have also had deep conversations with people that I have agreed to disagree with.[quiet voice]
And yet, for me, General Conference has, in many ways, opened my eyes up to a different reality.[regular voice]
The pain of coming to the table with a heart open to listening and finding closed-door meetings, manipulation of the process, and systematic ageism. I feel betrayed by what I have witnessed. The lack of integrity in a system in which important and SACRED work is done. Fear and mistrust have led to actions which, in turn, breed more fear and mistrust.
I have heard of specific and repeated behaviors dismissing, intimidating and disempowering many, but especially young people.
In one committee, when a young adult asked questions, the respondents always turned to an older adult to give their answer. Others have been told they cannot understand legislation because it is too complex. After being kept away from the conversation surrounding restructure, young people were asked to endorse legislation compromises that they were not invited to help draft.
However, I am most upset that we could be forever be known as the General Conference, which on Wednesday, adopted a restructure plan that takes away all guaranteed youth and young adult voices from it’s most central committee.
This isn’t right. It isn’t right, it isn’t just and it isn’t holy…
I love you. I love Jesus, and I love the United Methodist Church. I am not saying these truths because I’m disenfranchised or giving up. I’m saying these things because I care and becuase I’m not leaving.
To all of you who have listened, comforted and supported us when we have been hurt… Thank you.[quiet voice]
…But to change this system… we need more.[regular voice]
We need you to be our champions: We need you to stand up for the underrepresented of our church family when you see things happening that aren’t right. We need you to trust us with the gospel that you shared with us; calling out unjust behaviors when you witness them and to consider your own assumptions about the young people you encounter. By doing this work together we can start living into being the holy body of Christ.
Bishop, can you please pray for this body, for those who have been harmed, and especially for those of us who have hurt others here.
What is your reaction to General Conference 2012?
If you were you there, what did you think?
What are your hopes and dreams for the future of young people in the UMC?
About the Contributor: Yoshiro Nakajima
Yoshiro will stand by his youth even if it means he’s standing alone (w/Jesus). He recently represented the good looking-young-asian-male caucus at General Conference 2012. Yoshiro hopes that his work empowers youth and also helps create space within the church for their future.