Global youth gathering begins with typhoon, ends with unity

By Amy Forbus Editor Four Arkansans attended the 2014 Global Young People’s Convocation and Legislative Assembly (GYPCLA), held July 16-20 in Tagaytay, Philippines. And so did a Category 3 typhoon named Glenda. “Typhoon Glenda and I arrived in the Philippines at the same time,” said Brooke Hobbs, a member of Mountainside UMC and president of the Southwest District Council on Youth Ministries for 2013-14. “The delegates, however, did not get lost in the chaos of the moment; we all found ways to bond with one another through fellowship and songs of praise.” Brooke Hobbs, left, president of Arkansas’ Southwest District Council on Youth Ministries and a member of Mountainside UMC, participates in UMCOR typhoon relief work. Typhoon Glenda, a Category 3 storm, arrived in the Philippines just as the Global Young People’s Convocation Legislative Assembly was beginning. Attendees took time to help the United Methodist Committee on Relief prepare bags of meals for others displaced by the typhoon. PHOTO BY JAY CLARKThey didn’t let loss of electricity or damaged buildings keep them from serving, either. Instead, the more than 300 attendees took action: The United Methodist Committee on Relief (UMCOR) offered a mission project for people affected by the storm. Delegates worked together to assemble food baskets, providing hundreds of Filipino families with enough food for five days. And with storm damage to their original gathering location, the group moved to another facility close to Manila and continued with legislative work and conversation. The Arkansas attendees were Hobbs, a non-voting youth delegate with voice; Miller Wilbourn, voting youth delegate; the Rev. Jay Clark, non-voting adult worker delegate with voice; and Sarah Steele, representative of the Division on Ministries with Young People of the General Board of Discipleship. The assembly is designed to give United Methodist young people a collective voice and a direct avenue for submission of supported proposals to the General Conference. Petitions approved at GYPCLA make their way to the 2016 General Conference in Portland, Ore. One petition that did not receive approval came from voting delegate Miller Wilbourn, a member of Pulaski Heights UMC Little Rock and Arkansas Conference Council on Youth Ministries president for 2013-14. The petition proposed deleting the sentence in the United Methodist Book of Discipline that declares the practice of homosexuality “incompatible with Christian teaching.” With all voting delegates participating, the vote came to a 54 to 54 tie. After some confusion about whether the tie could be broken, the results stood. Arkansas Conference participants in the Global Young People’s Convocation included, from left: Miller Wilbourn, voting youth delegate; Sarah Steele, representative of the Division on Ministries with Young People of the General Board of Discipleship; Brooke Hobbs, non-voting youth delegate with voice; and the Rev. Jay Clark, non-voting adult worker delegate with voice. “People on all sides of the issue hold passionate positions,” Wilbourn said. “But in the moment of greatest contention, where many felt anger or unfairness, we were able to accept and respect the result.” “The common theme to me for the GYPCLA was watching young people listen to each other in a way that really does not happen at General Conference,” said the Rev. Jay Clark, who served as a reserve delegate to General Conference 2012. “There are the same disagreements over many of the same issues, but young people want to discuss and learn from each other—not just win for their side.” Clark commended Wilbourn for presenting legislation, as well as for listening to varied perspectives and working with delegates who disagreed with him. Wilbourn was among five delegates from around the world who held differing beliefs on the matter, yet brought to the floor a statement on unity the last night of the gathering. “It passed overwhelmingly, which I think many of us saw as a hopeful sign for the future of our church as we continue to struggle with this issue,” Wilbourn said. “We hope that the rest of the United Methodist community will thoughtfully consider this plea for unity, especially because it comes from this group representing the youth who will inherit the United Methodist Church.” “The bringing together of those voices to present the statement on unity was very powerful and reminded all of us about who the global church should act like and look like,” Clark said. “I hope many of these young people will be considered by their conferences as delegates for General Conference, as their voices need to be heard as we move forward.” Hobbs found attending worship at Manila’s Kamuning UMC was a highlight of her experience. “Being at this service proved just how connectional the United Methodist Church is,” she said. She also toured a fishing village and saw how residents had been affected by the typhoon. “The people of the village said it will take approximately one month to recover from Typhoon Glenda. With an average of 26 typhoons a year, however, it might not be long before they are devastated by another storm,” she said. “I urge all who can to donate to this in some way—through UMCOR or any disaster relief organization.” This report includes information provided by the UM General Board of Discipleship ( For more information on GYPCLA, including videos from the event, visit