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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