January 17, 2019

A Seat at the Table

In the days leading up to the North American Division (NAD) Year-end Meetings, I took some time, every so often, to think about the importance of what I was going to do while serving as an NAD executive committee member. As a college student, I knew it was a privilege to attend the meetings as a voting member when others, more qualified than I, did not have that opportunity. In spite of my insecurities, I knew God would give me guidance and wisdom to represent Andrews well.

During the meetings, I listened to reports from different departments, talked with leaders from across the region, and voted on some policy changes. This was all an exciting and new experience for me, but the tension was evident, even from the first day of the meetings.

The elephant in the room during the entire session was the General Conference (GC) Annual Council and the document that was passed at Battle Creek in early October. I knew this topic was something my generation was struggling to understand. I was aware of the confusion and questions the document had caused among my demographic, as I heard undergraduate and graduate students, my classmates and teachers, and even my close friends speak from their hearts about how they felt about it.

The Sunday session of the meetings was specifically set aside for delegates to discuss how their constituents felt about the document, as well as voice their personal concerns or speak in favor of it. It was during this time that my fellow student delegates and I felt that we had to say something. Many of us had classmates at our universities, friends in our home churches, and family members that were discouraged by this document. We knew that we'd be failing them by not speaking up. We were convicted to draft an open letter to our church leaders to make them aware of how our generation felt about what occurred at the Annual Council and what we wanted to see happen in the future.

This was not just any impulsive letter that we wrote. We had met in the lobby of our hotel for a few hours to choose what we wanted to say and determine what the tone of our letter should be. I can say that, in all of my academic career, I have never participated in such a collaborative and intentional group writing session. We deliberated throughout the night and prayed intermittently until we felt comfortable with what we had written.

Although we initially addressed our letter to church leaders, our statement shifted more into being a message of encouragement and action directed to young people like us. This moment in our church's history calls for the youth of all ages — middle schoolers, teens, college students and recent graduates — to get involved in our church. We cannot keep our heads down and not say or do anything. Our letter notes that young people need to talk to church leaders on all levels, from the local church to the GC, to find ways to be actively involved, collaborate with other members, and be mentored.

Readers, I encourage you to read the document for yourselves. If you are young like me, I hope that these words encourage you to be involved. If you are a bit older and wiser than I am, please reach out to my generation. Provide us with opportunities to serve where we are interested. Allow us to work alongside you to further the mission of the church. If we work together, not only will our church flourish, but we can reach out to others and be more like Jesus.

 

Document available at lakeunionherald.org under NEWS, or https://bit.ly/2DRQyKL
 

Lawrence Robinson, also known as L.J. by his peers, is an Elementary Education major and currently serving as the Andrews University Student Association president.