Young Clergy Leadership Forum in place of witness
Shane Claiborne served as featured speaker for the 2017 Young Clergy Leadership Forum hosted by Church and Society on Capitol Hill in Washington DC. This year a total of 50 young clergy participated representing 29 annual conferences. Each United Methodist conference was invited to send up to two. Almost 700 young clergy have participated in GBCS’s Young Clergy Leadership Forum over the last fifteen years.
The backdrop to the gathering was the inauguration of President Donald J. Trump and the Women’s March that happened the Saturday before the young clergy arrived on Sunday.
Many have been blessed by the ministry of Shane Claiborne who is a founder and board member of The Simple Way, a faith community in inner city Philadelphia that has helped birth and connect radical faith communities around the world.
Shane writes and travels extensively speaking about peacemaking, social justice, and Jesus. He is perhaps best known for his classic book, "The Irresistible Revolution."
The gathering was hosted by Church and Society at the United Methodist Building on Capitol Hill in Washington DC. The building sits directly across the street from the United States Capitol beside the Supreme Court. These are the hall of power where critical decisions are made each day which impact the lives of many throughout the world. Yet, Shane Claiborne’s message reminds us of the reign of God and the call of Christ, a reign and call that challenges so many of our human preconceptions.
Who was represented at the forum?
The 29 annual conferences which sent young clergy to the 2017 Young Clergy Forum included: Sierra Leone, Alabama-West Florida, Arkansas California-Pacific, Desert Southwest, Eastern Pennsylvania, Greater New Jersey, Great Plains, Illinois Great Rivers, Iowa, Kentucky, Louisiana, Missouri, New England, Northern Illinois, Northwest Texas, North Texas, North Carolina, North Georgia, Oregon-Idaho, Pacific Northwest, Rocky Mountain, Susquehanna, South Georgia, Tennessee, Texas, Western North Carolina, Wisconsin, and Virginia.
Goals for Young Clergy Leadership Forum included the following:
- Connect young clergy with the critical ministry of Church and Society
- Provide a forum to share knowledge and experience with one another
- Create bridges for future ministry collaboration
- Build relationships with other young clergy from across the United Methodist connection
In addition to Shane Claiborne, participants heard from a number of the staff from Church and Society including General Secretary Susan T. Henry-Crowe who discussed a number of the challenges facing both the church and society during these days. Other speakers included United States Senate Chaplain Barry Black, Rev. Dr. Kalaba Chali, the Mercy and Justice Coordinator of Great Plains Conference, Rev. Dr. Kirk VanGilder of Gallaudet University, and Dr. Sayyid Syeed National Director of the Islamic Society of North America office of Interfaith Alliances.
Change was definitely in the air as the young clergy came together in worship to begin the Forum on Monday morning. Guitar in hand singer-songwriter Timothy Palmer of Northwest Texas stepped in as our music leader this year and added great energy to the daily group worship experiences. Sermons and worship leadership was provided by young clergy including Ashley Barlow-Thompson of Great Plains conference, Carlos Uroza from Tennessee, Justin Hancock from North Texas and Kaury Edwards of Kentucky conference.
Quotes from participants
Scott Himel, Northern Illinois Conference, said this experience helped him see anew “that the gospel and justice are inseparably linked, to be faithfully expectant of the social justice work the Spirit will do in my community.”
Megan Armstrong, Rocky Mountain Conference, said “The Leadership Forum reminds me or our unique opportunity to be in connection with one another. Our ability to find God in one another will continue to give us the skills to find the image of God in others.”
“God is busy in the world through the church,” said Joe Varner of Virginia Conference. “And the General Board of Church and Society is evidence of how God is reaching people for the sake of God’s kingdom on earth. Having attended I feel prepared to take the next steps towards genuine peace and justice where I serve.”
I feel the Forum has “reignited my passion for our United Methodist history of and heritage, our teachings on social holiness are still alive and well, collaborating with the Holy Spirit toward the Kingdom of God,” said Ashley Prescott Barlow-Thompson, a deacon in the Great Plains. “Now I feel connected and equipped to find ways to live out (social holiness) in my church and community. I am so glad for our connectionalism.”
“The world is crying out to God for healing and freedom,” said Doug Phillips of Arkansas, “and I have no doubt God is listening. I doubt, however, if we are. I pray our church hears and listens and responds. I know I am willing to go and share the stories I’ve heard.”