Last night at the North American Regional Meeting, a couple of "youth" were invited to speak to kick off the discussion.
There is a line between tokenizing and fetishizing young people's voices, and genuinely holding up their leadership. Let's be clear, the church is usually behind other social institutions in giving young people real responsibilities and taking them seriously.
There is also a line where a young adult is no longer a youth, and a 30-something is no longer a young adult. I'm not 100% clear where the line was last night.
Adele, one of my colleagues in the United Church of Canada, who is about my age and with whom I have been traveling these international waters since 2001 and the UN World Conference Against Racism, admitted to having a small crisis last night about our no longer being youth. (I tend to be resigned to my fate, jaded, instead of being struck by crises.) She was a delegate to the 1998 assembly in Harare. In 2001 with the World Conference Against Racism (we were both WCC delegates and active with our own churches in that work), we were both still youth.
Youth no longer. Now we are established church bureaucrats. People no longer applaud when we speak because we are young (which is VERY PATRONIZING, by the way), regardless of how brilliant our statements are.
Our job is now to be the 30-somethings who encourage younger people, work to give younger people access, and take younger people seriously. That's what our mentors did for us.