Youth and Indaba
The place of Young people in the Continuing Indaba Process:
Why we need to include them and how
Kevin David and Tony Lawrence
Some pertinent questions were raised by young people at a recent youth conference in the Anglican Church of Southern Africa during discussions on ‘Could the Youth help lead the Church?’
- Are we raising our voices and are we being heard?
- Are there “safe places” within which young people can be heard?
- We need lots more mentoring. We want to learn (about ourselves and about life) and we want to participate in the right areas.
- Why can young people not be included in decision making roles as well?
- Young people are looking for role models and authenticity from their elders.
- We want relationships that lead to unity.
- We need to discover what young people are really interested in.
- Respect is required – both ways.
- Compromise is OK – we can meet one another half way.
What is the role of the youth in the continuing Indaba Process? What should the relationship between young people and older members of our Church look like? From the above issues raised by the youth, it is clear that this process is a key aspect of trying to find amicable solutions to the myriad concerns not only of the youth but also the whole church. This paper raises the sentiment that the youth would like to be more involved at various levels of consultation and decision making in the church. Along with that, the young people are looking for elders to mentor and guide them just as our shepherd Jesus Christ did with his followers.
At the Continuing Indaba Consultation at the College of the Transfiguration, Grahamstown in November 2009, it became quite apparent that there is very little knowledge regarding where the youth may fit in the process. We believe that it is the responsibility of the whole church, not only bishops and clergy, to allow the youth to be both heard and also to be understood. The more we clarify the role of the youth, the more they (the youth) will both appreciate and positively respond to playing their role and purpose in the Church. The discussions in Grahamstown raised many issues for us. One of the questions is, ‘why is very little said about the role that the youth ought to play in this process’ and secondly, ‘how best can this model of conversation taken from an African context be utilised for our ecclesiology bearing in mind the different issues that Indaba raises for young people’. Technology and the internet have made it easy for young people to try and find answers to the multitude of questions raised in their minds. But they are concerned about the authenticity of the answers they are getting. Hence their responses to adults in the church – please supply us with authentic answers and especially answer the question of ‘why?’ It is one thing to provide the facts but another to bring meaning to them. Failure to answer the ‘why’ question usually puts the young people off, and leads to poor or lack of listening.
Why Do We Need to Include the Youth in the Continuing Indaba Process?
The answer to the why and how question is far from straightforward due to the diversity of issues facing the young people of our Communion as well as the diversity of issues affecting our Communion as a whole. There are, however, some obvious reasons why the youth should be included. Despite personal, cultural, churchmanship or even theological differences, the youth community is interconnected on a singular level: the yearning to be listened to. The two of us contributing to this paper come from two different contexts; we are different at various levels such as geographical, cultural, and economical amongst others. We have come to an understanding that there is one common denominator that brings us together, the desire of our young people to be recognised, empowered and mentored by the elders in the Church. We all believe that the church needs to change the understanding, that young people are the future leaders only, we would like to suggest that we need to think of them as present members of the church thus they are present leaders. Furthermore, if we look at scripture we are compelled to include young people at levels of consultation and decision making because we are interdependent with one another. Each and every one has a gift and an important role to play in establishing God’s Kingdom.
We believe that we have come to a Kairos moment where church leaders and all of us in position of decision making, thus of power, needs to change our ‘one-sided’ understanding of young people as having only representative roles on the various consultation panels or at synods, to a more holistic understanding of our young people as potential partners in the mission of God on earth. We believe we have come to a particular Kairos moment in the way we view young people. We would like to call upon the leaders of our Communion to become prophetic in their approach to young people; they are important shareholders in the growth of God’s people, in fostering unity and in fulfilling the mission of God in the Anglican Communion. They can be very helpful as stewards at Lambeth Conference but if we mentor them so as they can become faithful stewards of God’s creation, they would be able to foster a greater mutual desire to pray and engage with each other so that deeper understanding may be found.
Just as the former Archbishop, his Grace the Most Reverend George Carey called for the church to be open and available to people, to stand for the message of and ministry of Jesus, to be Holy and welcoming” we would invite everyone in the Communion at different levels; parishes, dioceses, provinces to be welcoming, open and available to young people into the Indaba process.
When we suggest a holistic approach to the process, we are looking at various ways that will enable the young person irrespective of age to feel welcomed in engaging with bishops, clergy and adult lay-representatives who are going to participate in the process. There is a need to nurture the potential of young people to discuss tough issues affecting them and affecting the communion and allow them to formulate their opinion in a safe space. In so doing the young person will grow to the full stature in Christ. Like it is stated in the Kairos document “the time has come”. The time has come for the church to really stand for her belief that young people are potential leaders by giving them the space to be part of such an important process that will allow each participant to discover their uniqueness in Christ but as well the beauty of being part of a diverse Communion with hundreds of years of heritage, which at times young people do not understand or fail to view as important for their identity as Anglicans due to lack of teaching and exposure to the different institutions of our Communion.
The Lambeth Indaba document highlights the understanding that Scripture strengthens our Anglican Identity. It postulates that as “Anglicans we acknowledge the joy of engaging with the scriptures in setting forth the authentic proclamation of God’s Word.” Following this statement we would like to suggest that scriptures teach us our need of interdependency with one another. When we look at 1 Corinthians 12 or Ephesians 4:11-16 we notice that all the different gifts exercised in the community of faith are intertwined with one another, this means that one cannot work without the other. This highlights the fact that each member of the body depends on the other to complete her/his work properly. Furthermore these passages remind us that we are given each, different gifts so that the community of faith would grow and become more to the stature of Christ when we use those gifts for the benefit of the community of faith.
If we translate this to our realities in the Communion, each and every one of us have different gifts that we exercised for furthering God’s love, human dignity and sharing with one another within the Communion as we carry out our God given mission to the whole world. This means that, if we exclude the full participation of our young people in this process, we are missing an opportunity to holistically mentoring them thus allowing them to grow to the full stature in Christ. Jesus spent time with the elders: discussing, deliberating and understanding the scripture. He listened to them and they listened to Him. The main thing is that in the process, he grew not only in stature but wisdom in favour with God and humanity (Luke 2:52). This exact picture is our vision for our young people today.
How are we going to include young people in the Continuing Indaba Process?
After examining why we need to include young people in the Indaba process let us now look at how this can be done. We want to highlight that there are many suggestions and ways how young people could be part and parcel of the Indaba process.
One of the recurring cries from young people is the need for somebody to walk alongside them and to mentor them. “Let young people be guided to lead the process of listening. Young people understand that certain structures and rules are in existence and cannot be changed,” says Nonkululeko Dineka. In this way, maximum efficiency and functioning of existing structures will be established and sustained in any undertaking. Therefore, instead of excluding the youth from these structures and consultative processes, there is a need for the young people to be invited and be guided on to how to be full participants so that they can be equipped to take further responsibilities at a later stage.
The Indaba process requires facilitators, scribes and representatives from Dioceses. We would suggest that for each of these different roles there are young people playing an active part. For example there could be two facilitators per group whereby the one would be an elder and the other a younger person, the idea is that adults must deliberately seek to mentor (not only their own children, but) young people generally, as they step out towards adult life. Mentoring forces one to spend time listening so that one can determine in what direction a young person may go. In this case young people would have a better understanding of what Bishops at Lambeth Conference meant when they talked about fostering a deeper understanding of our Anglican Identity. This would also serve as a tool to teach the young people about the purpose of being part of a Communion which is so diverse yet one. We would also suggest that they are included in the scribing process in the same way that the facilitators work.
Young people should be part of the consultative and decision making processes. Involving them as facilitators or scribes is very good. It would further enhance the conversations if they were to be invited to be part of the eight (8) representatives from the different Dioceses involved in the Continuing Indaba Process as well. We see this process as visionary which would enhance the way that we relate to each other in the Communion but also as a stepping stone to further foster unity in the midst of diversity in our Communion. We think that there should be at least two young person’s amongst the eight representatives from each participating Diocese in the process. Young people possess lots of innovation, creativity and energy and will sometimes come up with unique ideas, often overlooked by adults that will allow further discussions in times where there might be a deadlock in the conversations.
By definition Indaba acknowledges that there are issues that impair communal living and these need to be brought to the table for consultation. In trying to use this African model for our ecclesiology we need to develop spaces where cross-generational interaction can happen. Indaba can provide great opportunities for all ages to come together and to listen and to learn from one another.
The next question would be how to recruit them for these different roles. We think that each and every province that would participate in that process has Youth Coordinators or Workers. They could be the liaison person for the recruitment of the young facilitators and young scribes for this process. Having said this there should be a clear definition of the role of both the facilitator and the scribe and the specific relevant abilities or skills that they should possess in order to be considered. We suggest that curriculum vitae are requested from the interested candidates to be screened by the Anglican Communion Office or a first screening could be done by the Provincial Youth Council together with their Coordinators; then the successful candidates be sent to the Communion Office. In the case that in some provinces there are very few candidates, for example only three, then their curriculum vitae are sent straight to the Communion Office.
The selection of the two young representatives amongst the eight should be done at the discretion of the Diocesan Bishop together with the Youth Council in this particular Diocese participating in the pilot process. Nevertheless the recruitment of the two representatives could also be done by choosing people that the Diocesan Youth Council deem fit. The process can also be done more democratically by asking interested young people to send their curriculum vitae together with a motivation letter showing why they want to be part of this process and how do they intend to contribute. Once back to their diocese how they will convey the outcomes to the young people at home as well as other members of the community. In the case that, Diocesan Youth leaders or any members of Diocesan Councils are amongst the candidates they should be replaced by other people in the selection panel of this Diocese.
We would also like to emphasise the importance of having a wide range of issues that would interest all age groups. Issues to be discussed in the different hubs should not be adult orientated only but geared towards young people’s interest as well. This way, young people would be more inclined to participate. This process could be done by asking young people from the participating Dioceses to send the issues affecting them which they think could be discussed at the Indaba process; to their Diocesan Office which then would select issues that they think would be worthwhile taking to the Indaba Process. We would encourage that young people are involved in the Diocesan process as much as possible.
Our last suggestion is that Francophone Dioceses of the communion get the opportunity to be part of this process as well.
At the beginning of this paper we reviewed some questions and issues that young people raised at a recent youth conference, we have also looked at the reasons why we should include them in the process of listening. We saw that in the scriptures we are taught about interdependency with one another, as we look at the extracts from Ephesians and Corinthians. The contexts of these epistles might be very different from our daily context, but we believe that our communion has reached a kairos moment where our Communion is trying to foster unity and re-emphasize the need for us to relook at our Anglican Identity. In involving the different decision making components of our Communion we are making sure that our young people would be brought on board of this wonderful and important venture that the Anglican Communion is embarking on.
Remember, listening is only part of the process of developing a fully participative church that uses all its resources and abilities to bring about God’s Kingdom here on earth. It will require the trust of the participants, an environment conducive to working together, the use of using artful questions (it does help to ask the right questions), the use of the art of listening, discernment and wisdom from the Holy Spirit, and the spirit of unity to achieve things – together. But, the first step is to be inclusive and to invite the young people to be part and parcel of the process.
Our hope and prayer is that the outcome of this process would encourage more mentoring to happen between elders of the church and the young people, there would be more sharing happening between the different dioceses of our communion and that the mission of God will be enhanced in the Anglican Church where both adult and young people will together work towards establishing human dignity, sharing, solidarity and God’s love in this world.