Young adults express frustration, hurt over exclusion at gathering

TAMPA, Fla. — The Rev. Stephanie Gottschalk had a message for General Conference delegates: I love you, but I feel betrayed.

Gottschalk, 31, is a first-time delegate from the Western Pennsylvania Annual (regional) Conference to the 2012 General Conference. She said she came to the top lawmaking gathering to “hear other voices and share my own … to be in holy conferencing and grow together through that.”

Although inspired by the dreams and visions for the future of The United Methodist Church that were shared throughout the conference, she said the gathering “opened my eyes to a painful reality — the pain of coming to the table with a heart open to listening and finding closed-door meetings, manipulation of the process and systematic prejudice against those of color and those of gender and those of different ages, whether young or old.”

Throughout the 11-day assembly April 24-May 4, young adult delegates urged greater inclusion of young people in the decision-making of the church. Many expressed feeling their voices were ignored.

Just before Gottschalk spoke, delegates rejected a motion to increase the number of youth and young adults represented on the denomination’s general agencies and boards in the new church structure delegates approved May 2 called Plan UMC.

During Gottschalk’s moment of privilege before the body, young adult delegates and guests lined the perimeter of the bar in silent protest.

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