Okay, so this has to be a blog for now because this story is unfolding so quickly. It changes every minute, it seems. And I haven’t tracked it all down. But it’s a great story.

So, the last time I wrote about the young adults here at the World Council of Churches 9th Assembly in Brazil, I commended the assembly planners for trying so very hard to include young people in the life of the assembly and in the life of the ecumenical movement itself. But I wondered if it was going to work because, well…there really isn’t any mechanism for the young adults to have concrete input into the assembly.

Today, they revolted. Or I should say, the young adult stewards revolted. The young adult delegates, though upset, were not in on the action.

This is what unfolded: While touting this assembly as the Youth Assembly (a bit insulting to 28 year olds, by the way) leaders of the World Council of Church (WCC) made a bold and broad proclamation that they would like young adults elected to 25 percent of the positions on the central committee (a body of 150 that makes all the decisions of the WCC between assemblies). So that’s what the young adults were expecting, of course.

Also, a formal representative group of young adults brought a recommendation to Sam Kobia, general secretary of the WCC, last night proposing a special commission to study and implement more young adult participation in the leadership of WCC.

Apparently at that meeting last night, Kobia said that everyone who was not a delegate had to leave. All the stewards — those who have been working extremely long hours and not getting much recognition — were, understandably angry.

So, the stewards boycotted this “agreement” made between the young adult delegates and Kobia and staged their own protest today on the floor of the plenary. The protest occured after the nominating committee made a report that they could not fill 25 percent of the positions on central committee because they didn’t get the right number of nominations from all the regions of the WCC (Latin America and the Middle East proposed no young adult delegates at all).

The protest was kind of cool. The stewards came in and sat together with their bandanas tied around their mouths and placards saying that they had been silenced. Tomorrow, if they don’t get 25 percent of the central committee nominations, the stewards say they will go on strike. Believe me, this assembly will come to a screeching halt if the stewards aren’t there to help everyone do everything.

What will happen? Who knows. We’ll have to wait and see. But it exemplifies a couple of things for me: 1) the WCC structure is incapable of being responsive to demands that don’t fit; 2) the talk about a Youth Assembly, though well intentioned, was not well conceived; 3) it may actually be true that the young people are here just for show; and 4) who at the WCC is going to figure out how to work with young people?!!!

So, that’s my unofficial report on what’s happening to the young adult voice at the 9th Assembly of the World Council of Churches. Hopefully, I’ll get you an official report on the DisciplesWorld website soon.

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