Seventh-day Adventist youth leaders say a recent meeting shed light on their working relationship with supporting ministries, which, for years, in some cases was marked by misunderstandings and a measure of tension.
The Global Unity Summit signals a major shift in communication between established Adventist youth ministry and supporting ministries, youth leaders said. Though methodology differs, various ministries of the church and supporting groups share the same vision, objectives and service opportunities for young people, they said.
“This meeting brought together truly supportive ministries that addressed some of the operational or theological differences that had crept in over the years,” said Gilbert Cangy, Youth Ministries director for the Adventist world church.
“We felt there was sufficient goodwill and common ground for us to come together and sort it out,” he said.
Representatives from church Youth Ministries and leaders from supporting ministries vowed to redefine their common mission and “identify sources of conflict that have, in some places, divided us and could continue to be disruptive,” a report released after the summit stated.
The meeting grew out of Cangy’s commitment to “work together cooperatively rather than competitively.” Upon his 2010 appointment as Youth Ministries director, Cangy pledged to increase dialogue between church youth leadership and supporting ministries. Leaders from top supporting ministries are welcoming the move from words to action.
Amy Sheppard, general vice president for the Michigan-based Generation of Youth for Christ (GYC), said she’s encouraged that church leaders are taking the step to involve supporting ministries.
As the conversation continues, she said she hopes church leaders ultimately “find it essential to include the grassroots level of our church, particularly young adults, in its vision casting, strategizing and implementation of mission for the Adventist Church.”
The Global Unity Summit also addressed misunderstandings about communication between supporting ministries and local church youth leaders, Sheppard said.
“GYC has always striven to be in regular and consistent communication with [local] church leadership when we host our annual event, but the perception that this communication does not happen unfortunately persists,” she said.
Angel Duo, president of Adventist-laymen’s Services and Industries in Europe, agreed. “The real problems you find are at the conference [level] and in the churches. This is a question of trust. You have to know each other and exchange information,” he said.
Ty Gibson, co-director for Light Bearers, a media production ministry and resource center based in the U.S. State of Oregon, said ongoing dialogue will bring further clarity and cooperation.
“Our ministry went through a similar process years ago and we [now enjoy] a positive working relationship with church leadership at all levels,” said Gibson, who attended the summit as an advocate for supporting ministry youth work.
The resolutions that came out of the Global Unity Summit don’t impose new requirements on supporting ministries or mainstream youth ministry; rather, they invite both parties to maintain conversation and address differences candidly.
One persistent point of contention, Cangy said, is the perception that some supporting ministries are fringe movements touting dubious theology.
“Within the church, there is a wide spectrum of theological understandings, from the sinless perfectionists who want to see individuals be sinless before Jesus comes … to the rabidly liberal who see no need for obedience or accountability,” Cangy said. “The perception was that even the centered [supporting ministries] were professing a performance-driven Christian lifestyle that would earn them salvation,” he said.
“We discovered through our meetings that this was not the view that was embraced. It’s unfortunate that some extreme groups have tended to see some supporting ministries from that perspective,” he added.
Going forward, Cangy said he hopes both mainstream and supporting youth ministries will work together to address “extreme elements.”
Cangy envisions that similar summits will be held worldwide, “particularly where tensions exist” and there’s “a desire to bring together people of goodwill to address issues constructively.”
One such place is Europe, said Paul Tompkins, Youth Ministries director for the church’s Trans-European Division. Church leaders there face mounting secularism and outreach must be carefully handled, he said. Still, youth ministry leaders are optimistic.
Tompkins said a unified approach to youth ministries would go far toward accomplishing the church’s mission.
“We’re too small to complete the work [alone],” he said.
—click HERE to view a pdf document of the summit’s resolutions