Abigail Koech is a Jurisdictional Lay Delegate and first alternate to General Conference. She is a member of Lenexa UMC in Lenexa, KS. Abigail is 18 and a freshman in journalism at Johnson County Community College. She plans to transfer to the University of Kansas.
As a young college student who has grown up in the United Methodist Church, I’ve always felt a sense of consistency and routine in church. Since General Conference, there have been conversations of a split. As you probably know, the Protocol of Separation and Grace Through Reconciliation was recently released. Lately, people have had many questions and concerns about how to navigate the current state that we’re in. I’m not a clergyperson, so I don’t know what it’s like to lead a congregation in that way. However, I think being a young person gives me a slightly different perspective because of my role within the church.
I’ve received a few questions from people who are worried about the future of the whole church and how it will affect both clergy and laity. I also don’t believe that there is only a specific group of people that carry these concerns. If there’s one thing we all share, it’s the stress that comes from the state that our church is in right now. It’s apparent that things are becoming more serious, as legislation keeps coming out. I completely understand why people feel like they don’t know where we’re headed; however, it’s important to note that our society is ever-changing. In five years, the church will most likely be unrecognizable. Not only due to a possible schism, but because of generational and political change.
My optimism lies in the fact that this change is occurring as a result of a shifting mindset. Meaning that people are hopefully willing to take on the responsibility of serving justice and equality. Something that we can do to alleviate uneasiness is have faith in our young people. I believe that the future of the church is ultimately determined by the young members of the UMC. Not necessarily because they have potential to be future pastors and lay leaders, or even because I’m young myself. The fact is that younger generations have a different experience and perspective of the church that is very much needed today. I understand that we are in a very challenging time, but I hope that we can find peace of mind in that we have younger generations of competent leaders.