Each year, the Justice Team of the Kentucky Annual Conference sends 1or 2 of our young adult clergy for an annual Young Clergy Leadership Forum in Washington D.C. This event is organized by the General Board of Church and Society. The Justice team will again offer this to those clergy who apply for the 2016 event. This year, Rev. Shannon Blosser attended the forum. Here are some thoughts from Shannon and what he learned in January, and the various topics discussed. You may also visit Shannon’s blog for more daily reflection from this year’s event CLICK HERE:
Human Trafficking/Concern for Women and Children
One of the strongest presentations during the event was about Human Trafficking and how we can support women and young children. Susan Barton, one of the program leaders in this area, spent some time talking to the group about how we need to be concerned about at-risk children and how the issue is one that deserves our attention.
According to Barton, more than 100,000 people are trafficked in the United States annually. The average age of a young boy who is trafficked is 8-10 and for a young girl it is 11-13. Children who come from difficult family structures and vulnerable situations are the most at risk of being trafficked.
At the same time, Barton made a special attempt at reminding us of our need to value and support young women and children so that they may see that they are of special worth. She presented a bookmark to attendees that featured a saying that she would repeat during her presentation and use as a general theme for her discussion.
What would the church look like if women and girls were seen as children of God with sacred worth?
“We need to change the culture of where our children are,” Barton said.
Young boys, Barton said, need to be taught at an early age of the importance of valuing women and girls. She said that begins in the home and giving boys a solid image of masculinity.
“Who is the strongest man you know?” Barton asked. “Is it “The Rock” or it is your father?”
She added we have the best image of true masculinity in Jesus.
“We follow the strongest man who ever lived, “Barton said.
Polarization Should Not Be an Obstacle for the Church
Participants had the opportunity to interact with U.S. Senate Chaplain Barry Black. It is Black’s responsibility to provide pastoral care and leadership to the members of the Senate and their staff.
Black said that he does not look at their political affiliation when providing pastoral care and leadership.
“They are all children of God,” Black said.
His words provided a striking commentary on some of the divisions that we see within the life of the church today. We spend a lot of time focusing upon our divisions and what separates us instead of our shared identity as being “children of God.”
I wonder what would be different about our churches, our denomination, and even our communities if we focus less on “left” and “right” identifying marks, but more on the fact that we are children of God called to work together for the kingdom of God.
Young Clergy May Give a Roadmap Through Divisions
Another topic that seemed to get a lot of attention w was the divisions that exist within the church and our nation. It seemed only appropriate to talk about this just a few feet from the U.S. Capitol and the U.S. Supreme Court.
One of the most striking things about the event is that the discussion about our divisions seemed more led by the facilitators than the participants. It was not that the participants were not aware that the divisions exist - we are, but that the participants did not seem them as road blocks that prevent ministry from taking place.
What I saw and experienced was a group of conservatives, progressives, and moderates who came together as one to learn about the church, to grow together, and to consider how we can make a difference in our local communities for Christ.
I think an important justice issue for today is how we are building relationships with others in a polarized culture. What I witnessed during this conference may serve as a road map for how to do this work.
The next Young Clergy Leadership Forum will be Jan 24-28, 2016.