Wednesday, February 25, 2009

Presbyterian Outlook: Younger elders

Younger elders:
"... Why not ask every presbytery to elect one commissioner under the age of 27? Such a commissioner would have been nominated and elected by his/her own congregation and entrusted with leadership in that particular church. He would have been examined by the Session and been ordained into office. She would have voted on church school curriculum, on receiving members, and sorting through the costs of building maintenance. After serving at the GA, this young adult commissioner would give an account to that same local body of leaders. ..."
The Book of Order (G-14.0221) provides that: "... Every congregation shall elect men and women from among its active members, giving fair representation to persons of all ages and of all racial ethnic backgrounds and to persons with disabilities who are members of that congregation, to the office of elder and to the office of deacon (if used in the congregation). ..."

Many congregations, including the one where I worship, elect a high school student for a one year term on Session. This allows them an opportunity to be a part of church leadership without burdening them with a three-year commitment. The idea of ordaining youth and young adults has been around for some time. I was ordained an elder at the age of 21 in the United Presbyterian Church in the USA, and there was at least one congregation that had ordained a high school student in my presbytery. My son, who is a sophomore in high school, began a one year term on Session in early January, so he too is getting a taste of Church leadership.

One of my minor peeves is the way people tend to label them as "youth elders". There is no such office in the PC(USA). These young adults when elected, ordained, and installed to active service on a Session are elders on the same level as any who serve in a like capacity. And, like any other elder, they are elders for life.

There is not complete agreement as to whether this is a good idea or not. One substantive difficulty some have is whether a young person is ready to take on the role of spiritual leader. I have to admit that when I was ordained an elder at age 21, I was not ready to be a spiritual leader. But I had to come to grips with the concept and thus I began a process of self-examination, prayer, study, and service. Now I am of an age where I am an "elder" in the chronological sense, I have presbyopia. and my hair and beard are grey -- I am truly a presbyter. And I still know that even though I am better equipped spiritually than I was 35 years ago, I still am striving to be worthy of the calling of elder. My son is now finding his own way, and I wish him the best.

Jack Haberer's suggestion for each presbytery to send an elder under 27 to General Assembly seems to me to be a solution looking for a problem. There is currently no bar to younger elders serving as GA commissioners, and while I have no idea how many such there are, I suspect there are some commissioners each year who would also qualify as a Youth Advisory Delegate.

I can understand the issues with YADs, but they do have voice and vote in the committees, and often hold the balance of power when the issues are closely divided. Many observers have felt that as a group they are vulnerable to manipulation by special interest groups. There is no question that they are a heavily-lobbied group at General Assembly. But I am not convinced that eliminating the YADs and requiring that each presbytery send one commissioner from that age group is a viable solution. I assume that this would entail significantly increasing the number of commissioners -- otherwise smaller presbyteries would be locked into sending one minister and one youth to represent the presbytery.

One factor that complicates things was our move to biennial General Assemblies. While it was, in general, a good idea, it made it even less likely that any given Presbyterian elder would have the opportunity to serve as a GA commissioner. Short of doubling the number of commissioners, it is hard to see that situation improving. Increasing the number of commissioners could also have the effect of erasing the savings resulting from the move to biennial assemblies.

I see no reason why a younger elder should not serve as a commissioner to General Assembly, but making it a mandate would create problems of its own.

For a thought-provoking essay on how the PC(USA) might go about rebuilding itself, including dealing with the issue of youth representation, check out Beau Weston's Rebuilding the Presbyterian Establishment, which is made available through the Office of Theology and Worship of the PC(USA). Beau and I see things in a similar way, though I differ with him in some details of youth involvement.

Thursday, February 19, 2009

You've Got Jail | Christianity Today

You've Got Jail | Christianity Today:
"Longtime missionaries David and Fiona Fulton were sentenced by a Gambian court to a year of hard labor last December after pleading guilty — in hopes of a lenient sentence — to sedition charges stemming from a wry comment e-mailed to a prayer list. ..."
When you read further in this article, you find that Mr Fulton did say something questionable, but in its full context it is obvious that he was not advocating violence -- quite the contrary. But this does raise an important issue when it comes to emails and newsletters from the mission field. First of all, circumspection is called for, especially when dealing with the frustrations of seeing mindless sectarian violence all around you. And secondly, one of the recipients for reasons that are not particularly obvious decided to forward to message to Gambian authorities. I try to assume positive motives, but is it difficult in this case.

Messages from missionaries, especially in sensitive parts of the world, need to be kept confidential and not posted on websites, forwarded outside the original distribution list, and certainly not sent to a government not known for due process or humane prison conditions.

Prayers are needed for the Fultons and for those who have imprisoned them

Tuesday, February 17, 2009

Universal cellphone charger will ring the changes, say makers -

Universal cellphone charger will ring the changes, say makers -
"BARCELONA, Spain (CNN) -- Cell phone makers Tuesday pledged to end one of modern life's chief frustrations --- and introduce a universal charger for handsets by 2012."
This is something that has been a pet peeve of mine, and I'm glad to see the industry take steps to mitigate it.

Saturday, February 14, 2009

A Valentine

John Anderson, My Jo
Robert Burns, 1789

John Anderson, my jo, John,
When we were first acquaint,
Your locks were like the raven,
Your bonnie brow was brent;
But now your brow is beld, John,
Your locks are like the snaw;
But blessings on your frosty pow,
John Anderson, my jo.

John Anderson, my jo, John,
We clamb the hill thegither,
And mony a canty day, John,
We've had wi' ane anither;
Now we maun totter down, John,
But hand in hand we'll go.
And we'll sleep thegither at the foot,
John Anderson, my jo.
I enjoy reading Robert Burns from time to time, and this is one of the poems that has a whole new meaning as I get older. Did I mention that in four days my wife will have one of those "milestone" birthdays? She and I "clamb the hill thegither" for close to 28 years already, but we're not quite ready to "totter down". And we still enjoy "mony a canty day".

There are at least two versions of John Anderson, My Jo, a longer version (not written by Burns) from about 1744 and this shorter (and more suitable for a family blog) version from 1789. The 1789 version was written by Robert Burns. You can see both versions by following the link in the previous sentence.

Anyway, happy Valentine's Day, Susan!

And Happy Valentine's Day to all of you who love and are loved.

Wednesday, February 11, 2009

AP News | The Columbia Daily Tribune

AP News | The Columbia Daily Tribune:
"WILKES-BARRE, Pa. (AP) -- For years, the juvenile court system in Wilkes-Barre operated like a conveyor belt: Youngsters were brought before judges without a lawyer, given hearings that lasted only a minute or two, and then sent off to juvenile prison for months for minor offenses.

The explanation, prosecutors say, was corruption on the bench.

In one of the most shocking cases of courtroom graft on record, two Pennsylvania judges have been charged with taking millions of dollars in kickbacks to send teenagers to two privately run youth detention centers. ..."
This was not a case of judges meting out harsh justice. It was nothing more than greed and kickbacks from two privately-run juvenile detention facilities, which received fees based on the numbers of incarcerated juveniles. One victim of this corruption was sentenced to three months for lampooning an assistant principal on her MySpace account.

According to this article, the two former judges made a plea bargain that calls for more than seven years behind bars. That seems a little lenient considering the nature of the crime.

Monday, February 09, 2009

Scout Sunday 2009

Yesterday was Scout Sunday, generally observed on the Sunday closest to February 8th, which is the anniversary of the founding of the Boy Scouts of America. This year Scout Sunday fell on the day of the actual 99th anniversary of the BSA.

Three of our troop members, who are also members of the congregation, acted as the worship leaders. They did a great job, reading clearly and with feeling. Having the boys help out with the service is a long-standing tradition in our congregation and troop, and is even more meaningful when the boys are also active participants in the work and worship of our congregation. Just a bit of historical perspective -- when Troop 4 was chartered in 1963, the core leadership and boys came from the congregation itself, since this was a young congregation with many youth. Over the years as the congregation aged, the proportion of congregation members in the troop fell and occasionally stood at zero boys and only a few adults. This trend seems to be reversing with an influx of young families, and we hope that there will always be Trinity youth involved with the troop.

This 99th anniversary of Scouting in the USA was also special for the Reformed Angler family. Sunday morning my son was recognized for his completion of the requirements for the God and Life award (part of the God and Country series). This represented several months of delving deeply into Scripture, discussions with the pastor, and putting what he learned into action. Susan and I were definitely proud parents. The image to the left is Liam and his pastor.

The evening before was the annual District Dinner, honoring volunteers for their service. It culminates in the awarding of the District Awards of Merit (based on the size of the district). This year I was recognized for my service to Scouting and the district. I had no inkling that this was coming, but is is sure nice to be recognized.

Next year will be the 100th anniversary of the Boy Scout of America and there will be many different ways in which the BSA celebrates its heritage and service to the youth of America. It will also represent the 50th anniversary since the day in 1960 when I put on my first Cub Scout uniform and started my own involvement with the Boy Scouts of America.

Tuesday, February 03, 2009

The Associated Press: Fuller, co-founder of Habitat for Humanity, dies

The Associated Press: Fuller, co-founder of Habitat for Humanity, dies:
"ATLANTA (AP) — Millard Fuller, the millionaire entrepreneur who gave it all away to help found the Christian house-building charity Habitat for Humanity, died Tuesday. He was 74. ..."
The loss of Millard Fuller will be keenly felt, not just by the Habitat for Humanity organization but by the countless people he touched in various ways -- families who experienced home ownership for the first time as well as volunteers who learned not only how to hammer nails but what it means to serve.

Monday, February 02, 2009

Austin road sign warns motorists of zombies | News for Dallas, Texas | Dallas Morning News

Austin road sign warns motorists of zombies | News for Dallas, Texas | Dallas Morning News:
"An Austin road sign meant to warn motorists about road conditions instead read: 'The end is near! Caution! Zombies ahead!'"
Some people have too much time on their hands.

Of course, this is a caution to (1) secure the input; and (2) change the default password, which is apparently well-known.