July 3, 2010

Delegate Urges More Young Representation

Delegate Urges More Young Representation
Appoint younger leaders in local regions first, chairman responds

By Arin Gencer, Adventist News NetworkA delegate stepped up to the microphone and identified himself as “one of the few” under age 30 from the Seventh-day Adventist Church’s North American region.

“I’d like to know when would be an appropriate time to address the issue of the lack of representation from that age category,” said David Kokiong, 28, of Montreal, Canada, during the June 29 morning business meeting at the fifty-ninth General Conference session. “Many youth and young adults are either misinformed or uninterested, or even ignorant, about the processes and procedures that go on in the church.”

DavidKokiong GC

PHOTO: Gerry Chudleigh/ANN

Kokiong’s comments drew attention to a reality among the hundreds of delegates who are attending the session: young faces are few and far between. But the ones who are on the Georgia Dome floor, along with their older counterparts, say more should be present—particularly as they are the church’s future leaders.

“It is a problem,” said Robert Vollmer, an Austrian delegate.

Vollmer, 32, offers a solution to involve more of his contemporaries “in the upper levels of our church,” such as Youth Ministries. Right now, “you have to work in unions and divisions— and then your name is known to the Nominating Committee,” he added. “But by then, you’re at the age of 50, 60 years.”

For Tuesda Roberts, attending the session has provided the General Conference delegate from North Carolina a much better sense of the world church and how it works—an opportunity that more young adults should have, she said.

But Roberts, 30, has only had this opportunity because James L. Black, Sr., the North American region’s director of youth ministries, recommended her—as part of a concerted effort to incorporate more young people this year.

The issue begins at the local level, said Robert Kyte, chairman of the 246- member Nominating Committee, which does count some young adults among its ranks.

“We would be delighted to have a much larger slate of individuals, both by gender and by age, available to the Nominating Committee,” Kyte told delegates on June 30, responding to another comment from the floor.

“You have to look for leaders who are competent to come in and fill the world positions,” he said. “The responsibility to prepare candidates for the world positions lies with the local union and division conferences.”

Gilbert Wari, president of the West-Central Africa region, has encountered a practical obstacle to getting young African delegates to session. Although his region “wanted to bring as many young people as we could,” Wari said, United States embassies denied their visas, fearing the young people “would not go back to Africa.”

But, like several of his fellow delegates, Wari said the presence of youth is vital.

“The youth are the church of today and tomorrow,” Wari said. “If the youth are not involved in today’s activities of the church, there will be a gap. . . . They will not be prepared enough to carry on with the mission of the church as they should.”