Thursday, June 22, 2006

Youth Advisory Delegates

Youth Advisory delegates are a long-standing fixture at General Assemblies. They are under 25 years old, and are commissioned by their respective presbyteries to attend GA along with the minster(s) and elder(s) from that presbytery.

They have been, at times, a heavily lobbied group, as their opinions and actions are often seen as a bellwether for the PC(USA). Several years ago the General Assembly staff went as far as to house them separately from the other commissions to insulate them from all the pressure. I don't know if that kind of control is still being excercised, but it was certainly controversial at the time.

Why are YADs so important? A few important reasons are (1) they have voice and vote in committee, and often determine what recommendations are made to the plenary; (2) they have voice on the floor of General Assembly; and (3) their votes are taken immediately prior to the commissioner votes (although only the commissioner votes determine the outcome).

YADs make an excellent point when they say "We are NOT the Church of the Future; We are the Church NOW!"

Over the years some have complained that the YADs monopolize the microphones, preventing commissioners from speaking to issues at the plenary. I did not see that when I watched the streaming video of the GA plenary sessions. Another complaint is that they are often too emotional to make clear points when they speak and that they are not organized with their thoughts. I saw emotional and incoherent statements while watching the video feed -- from voting commissioners, and yes, occasionally from a YAD -- but excessive emotion and lack of organization does not seem to distinguish the YADs from the commissioners.

What I DID see, for the most part, were Youth Advisory Delegates who were well-prepared and able to speak clearly and effectively to their Church. Seeing and hearing them (even on a laptop computer) gives me confidence that the PC(USA) is fundamentally healthy, even if we do have a little indigestion from time to time.

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Gruntled said...

Ah, this is a rare point of disagreement. My strongest feeling after attending my first General Assembly years ago was, "kill the YADs." The Presbyterian Church should be ruled and taught by actual presbyters. I am all for investing in leadership development among youth. But giving them voice and vote in committees, and voice in the assembly, is a mistake. Worse, they are often put forward by factions on both sides to make prepared motions in order to gain sympathy and save face among the grownups. That is one of the reasons some of the YADs seemed so prepared -- they were reading scripts written for them by others.

Denis Hancock said...

Well, I have to concede that the streaming video did not show ALL that was going on. Maybe we need webcams in the hallways.

Did you see any of the manipulation that characterize past years?

I could see that some of the YADs were reading prepared remarks, but then so were some of the commissioners.

My feelings still hold. It seems that the YADs this year were different than in years past, and I found myself agreeing with what they said for the most part. But that may be, in part, because I agreed with far more of the plenary actions than I have in years past.

Gruntled said...

YADs are more active in committee than in the Assembly plenaries. Still, I have observed sessions in the past in which the factional leaders made a deliberate choice to use YADs to introduce contested measures.

Russell Smith said...

Two quick comments -- One, I was very impressed with the YADs on our committee -- even the ones with whom I disagreed. They were sensitive and thoughtful (though occasionally bored -- who wouldn't be?)

Two, if the Renewal network was any indication of the politicking of the other side, then there are no worries of puppet master politicos pulling strings and putting words in YAD mouths. I was in the strategy room for the Renewal network -- and I saw YADs writing their own speeches, commissioners writing their own speeches -- the renewal network folks kept telling us "You're the commissioners, we can advise you, but what exactly you want to accomplish is up to you."

Put simply -- I saw collaboration among like minded people seeking a common goal -- not machiavellian party bossish behavior. I suspect that the same is true on the Covenant Network side.

Michael W. Kruse said...

Russell, your impressions are similar to mine from past assemblies.

Michael W. Kruse said...

However, I forgto to add, I agree with Beau. I think the YAD thing should die.

Denis Hancock said...

I guess is all depends on how things are in a particular year.

I am told that in the year that what would become G-6.0106b was passed that the YADs were opposed to it, while the commissioners passed it. During that time some YADs were quoted in PNS news releases that they all knew gay youth and that it was no big deal to them. The prediction was that it was only a matter of time before the PC(USA) would be led by the current YADs, and that eventually sexual behavior would no longer be an issue in the PC(USA).

This does not take into account the hemorrhage of members that seems to have accelerated over the past decade.

This year the YADs seemed to reflect the positions of the commissioners, although there were no analyses performed that I was able to see. So I can only base my opinion on the youth that spoke in the Plenary, and the vote tallies that were posted when the question came up for a vote.

Of course, in two years I may be arguing the other side of the topic...

Oh well. The YADs are here for the foreseeable future. This year seems to have been a good one with less open manipulation and many YADs who have been willing to speak their thoughts (as opposed to someone else's thoughts).