Youth affirm call of homosexuals to ministry, but also say it’s time to emphasize other issues


Here’s some of what the Youth Connection Assembly 2003 decided to say before their assembly ended here Saturday.

SEXUALITY

The assembly turned down a resolution to call on the PC(USA) to postpone continued discussion regarding the ordination of gays and lesbians, stating that while “this issue should not take center stage, we feel it should stay on the table as painful as it may be. We seek to discern God’s will throughout continued discussion.”

The assembly voted, after plenty of debate, to “affirm the call of homosexual, bisexuals and transgendered persons to all areas of ministry, and encourage others to do the same.” Some who spoke in favor of that said it didn’t confront directly the question of whether the PC(USA) should ordain gays and lesbians — it simply says they are called to ministry. The assembly voted down alternate ideas, one of which would have affirmed that all are called to ministry, but also said that unless a person repented of the sin of homosexual intercourse, under the denomination’s current ordination standards they could not be ordained.

The discussion revealed that the split in the denomination over this issue definitely extends to the youth. Some argued that gays and lesbians should not be singled out as sinners. Others said the Bible does condemn homosexual acts as sin.

The assembly also passed a resolution saying the PC(USA)”should move away from focusing on issues of sex and sin and move toward focusing on issues such as evangelism.” As one young woman put it, “the church has a higher call than being petty” — things such as ministry and evangelism.

ABORTION

After a long debate, the assembly turned down a resolution asking the Connection Assembly to provide the PC(USA) “with appropriate materials informing of local and national sanctity of life events.” Instead, the assembly responded with a comment that quoted from a statement the 2003 General Assembly passed earlier this year involving abortion.

Several alternatives were considered, but rejected. One would have charged appropriate PC(USA) agencies with developing “factual, unbiased and nonjudgmental resources on relevant scripture, abortion, abortion alternatives and ministries which support expectant parents.” Another would have asked the PC(USA) to develop materials and programs to teach men “to step up and take responsibilities for their actions by supporting their babies and partners in cases where pregnancies occur.”

SPORTS

The assembly approved a resolution asking that all churches with sports teams, both for youth and adults, develop covenants stating that all players will “exhibit Christian integrity” as participants of those teams. Would that take the competitiveness out of sporting events, one young man asked. “It simply removes the unneeded roughness,” committee chair Dathan Brown answered, and church teams can “win games without necessarily playing dirty.”

EVANGELISM

The assembly called for additional evangelism resources to be developed to help young people express their faith and to share Presbyterian beliefs. Some of the youth felt they didn’t have enough resources to guide them, and some felt they didn’t understand their beliefs well enough to communicate them to others, Brown told the assembly.

INTERFAITH RELATIONS

Citing the importance of better understanding people of different faiths, the assembly voted to ask denominational officials to develop or recommend a curriculum “to aid youth in forming a more educated understanding of God” through the study of the Presbyterian faith, other Christian denominations and other religions, “and to inspire youth to pursue interfaith and ecumenical dialogue.”

“In order to be good neighbors, we have to learn about them” and “not have fear,” said a delegate from Grace presbytery.

YOUTH PROGRAM FUNDING

Hoping to find money to send more young people to national Presbyterian conferences, the assembly instructed the National Presbyterian Youth Ministry Council to explore ways of raising money to provide scholarships. And it voted to communicate to the presbyteries the importance of the Pentecost Offering and to remind them that it helps fund significant youth ministries.

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