Young People from the Alaska, Oregon-Idaho, and Pacific Northwest Conferences open up about their concerns about LGBTQ, immigration issues, outreach, and the future of the greater church.
By Pastor Carrie Bland
I sat down with our youth equalization-voting members after dinner to hear what they had to say. It’s surprisingly easy to get them to talk when you provide the space. We have eight youth, split evenly between the two Conferences and one visiting youth from Alaska. They came to conference because they see it as an opportunity to discuss some prevalent social justice issues such LGBTQ and immigration, which are important to their generation.
I asked them to share their thoughts on immigration and they were all too willing to open up. “Our denomination says we have open hearts, open minds, and open doors, but are we really doing this? If we say this, we need to do it,” said Cormac from the Oregon-Idaho Conference. Immigration is near and dear to our hearts because many of us are directly impacted by the decisions being made in this country. “We have parents, aunts, uncles, cousins that are immigrants and while they are afraid of the consequences, the rest of the family is afraid because we might lose our loved ones,” says Falisha from the Pacific Northwest Conference.
They all agreed that the Church needs to step up, its good to become Sanctuary churches, but more than that, we need to be community based and be THE safe church in the body of the community. They believe the church holds a lot of weight in the community (more than we might realize), and if we as a church fearlessly lead the way, the community will follow. They view the church as a place where all should be and can feel safe and judgment free because this is where people who feel excluded from society. They should feel deeply welcomed, cared for, looked after, or loved as they are.
Along these same lines, they feel the church needs to step up their support for the LGBTQ community, more than just supporting their rights, but treating them as humans, seeing them as our neighbor. The church has allowed space to be created where hate and discrimination can grow. “This is a religion of love and MUST come from that place,” says Mario from the Oregon-Idaho Conference. “It still feels unsafe even now for teens to come out, and if there was a place within the church for them to find a safe haven that would make it better,” says Cormac. “The hypocrisy between what Jesus calls us to do and what we actually are doing needs to be addressed,” states Caelyn from the Oregon-Idaho Conference.
They left the Laity Session inspired with ideas to grow the church and to get more involved in the community. They loved the discussions and hearing the diversity from church to church and loved focusing on the mission work of the church and how they can support it.
Some of the inspiring ideas centered around reusing space that could be used in new and interesting ways. Vanessa from the Alaska conference wants to get out into the community, literally knocking on the neighbor’s doors and inviting them to come to the church. They want to see more Messy Church and community fellowship opportunities.
As we brought the conversation to a close they shared a few last thoughts. The youth really appreciated the clergy wearing the rainbow stoles. It was very moving to see the multi colors. Also, the bishop is cool.
Pastor Carrie Bland serves as a Community Life Pastor at Fairwood Community United Methodist Church.