Former United Methodist Student Movement leaders participated in General Conference 2012 in Tampa, Fla. as voting delegates, worship participants, and monitors, ensuring each person’s voice is heard.
At least 26 people who were involved in the national student leadership development program participated in General Conference, some as leaders.
Among them were Marcus Briggs-Cloud, a member of the Maskoke Nation and a worship artist and musician, who wrote some of the music for the Act of Repentance Service; students Nickie Moreno and Taylor Johnson who spoke during the Higher Education plenary presentation; and the Revs. Motoe Yamada and Anna Guillozet who participated in worship.
Rachel Birkhahn-Rommelfanger, a delegate from Northern Illinois, was part of the subcommittee that wrote compromise legislation on restructuring the church, although that legislation was rejected by the full committee and a different restructuring plan eventually adopted.
Now a student at Wesley Theological Seminary in Washington, D.C., Birkhahn-Rommelfanger served as co-chair of the United Methodist Student Movement, which organizes Student Forum, a national leadership event sponsored by the Board of Higher Education and Ministry.
“I think it was at Student Forum that I found my voice enough to use that voice at all levels of the church,” Birkhahn-Rommelfanger said. Because of her involvement in UMSM, she was invited to the Pre-General Conference News Briefing before the 2008 General Conference and to Higher Education Night.
“I felt respected and included, by both the Board of Higher Education and Ministry and the people on it,” she said.
She said as the leadership program changes, she’d like to see jurisdictional events allow more colleges and students to participate and build regional connection.
“I would want to make sure the event still holds onto the prophetic voice of young people which comes through committed service, mission, and justice,” Birkhahn-Rommelfanger said.
The Rev. Theon Johnson III, a former steering committee member who now serves as campus minister at Jackson State University in Jackson, Miss., said his experience with UMSM played an important role in his life.
“The Steering Committee provided a space where I, along with other young leaders, encountered the church beyond the local church and prayerfully and faithfully committed to providing leadership,” Johnson said.
As far as changing the event, Johnson said “every day is a good day to start all over again envisioning change that is timely and relevant for the people you work with.”
Johnson and the Rev. Anna Guillozet, associate pastor of North Broadway United Methodist Church in Columbus, Ohio, both served as monitors, observing the proceedings and reports to make sure each person’s voice is heard. They comment if they see things such as more men being recognized to speak than women.
“At Student Forum I worked with other young people who didn’t always agree, but were in holy conversation with a common sense of unity even among disagreement,” Guillozet said. While many in the UMC think all young people want the same thing, she said that just isn’t true. “We don’t all think the same things; our theology varies.”
This year, the annual May event is changing to a new event, Imagine What’sNEXT,that will be held every other year in November, partly to better accommodate student schedules, partly because of tighter budgets.
The new event will challenge and inspire United Methodist college students to consider and plan the next faithful steps for their vocations, their communities, the church, and the world, said Beth Ludlum, GBHEM’s director of Student Faith and Leadership Formation.
Scheduled for Nov. 9-11, 2012, in St. Louis, Mo., the new event is organized by a launch team of college students, campus ministers, chaplains, and young adult clergy and laity from across the United Methodist connection, and sponsored by the Board of Higher Education and Ministry.
The Rev. Meg Lassiat, the board’s director of Candidacy, Mentoring, and Conference Relations, worked with Forum for a number of years.
“Student Forum has been an important event that provides a place for college students to address critical issues and formulate stances to share with the church. Additionally, it provides a place for students to learn and practice leadership skills for UMSM, the general church, and beyond. I look forward to how the new event will continue to develop and train young adult leaders.”