[CLICK ON LINK for easier viewing] It was one of the most spiritually-uplifting events I've attended in recent times. And the devotional message I delivered captured the mood of the occasion and spoke to many hearts. The occasion was the 70th birthday of Dr. Joyce R. Aryee—a respected Chr...
|A Grassroots Youth Revival Movement||| Print ||
A Grassroots Youth Revival Movement
The Untold Story of the Struggle & Triumph of GYC
(With A Timeline and Background To Major GYC Events, Meetings, & Documents)
© Samuel Koranteng-Pipim, PhD
Director, Public Campus Ministries, Michigan Conference
“Those who cannot learn from history are doomed to repeat it. Those who do not remember their past are condemned to repeat their mistakes”
“Our ignorance of history causes us to slander our own times”
"The pen of truth is the most effective weapon against today's arrogance of power and history issues the final verdict"
They were students. They had a vision. They were underestimated—even opposed. But they couldn’t be marginalized—nor stopped. Their exponential growth surprised their critics, and the vision of their grassroots movement became a global phenomenon. Their Mission Statement reads:
There exists, today, an army of dedicated young people within the Seventh-day Adventist church who yearn to demonstrate Nehemiah's leadership, Daniel's integrity, Mary's humility, Paul's passion for evangelism, and Christ's love for God and humanity. . . . We aim to mobilize existing youth and young adult ministries that are fully committed to the distinctive message and mission of the Adventist church towards the proclamation of the Three Angels' Messages.Their name is GYC—the Generation of Youth for Christ (formerly known as the General Youth Conference)—a grassroots revival movement of North American Adventist youth. Their remarkable impact confirms that serious young people want something far better than is often offered them, and are disappointed when their adult leaders simply entertain them or expect little from them. In the courageous and selfless example of the youth of GYC we see how the Lord is today using “the mouth of babes” to glorify His own name (Matthew 21:16).
Given the close relationship between GYC and CAMPUS (Center for Adventist Ministry to Public University Students), it is not unexpected that, as Director of CAMPUS and as a member of GYC’s Board of Directors, I receive frequent questions concerning GYC-- inquiries about GYC's rise and growth, its struggles and triumphs, and its relationship with the organized church and other overseas youth movements. The timeline history contained in this document attempts to provide accurate information to these questions.
GYC, Generation of Youth for Christ (formerly General Youth Conference), is a thriving grassroots youth movement in North America. This youth-initiated and youth-led movement of racially-diverse young people is radically Bible-based, mission-driven, and church-supporting. It is committed to the “higher than the highest” philosophy of excellence among its members.
Registered as a non-profit organization in the state of Michigan, GYC’s headquarters is currently in Ann Arbor, Michigan. GYC is governed by its board of directors and supported by its official sponsors: Adventist-laymen’s Services and Industries (ASI) and The Center for Adventist Ministry to Public University Students (CAMPUS) – a division of the Michigan Conference Public Campus Ministries department.
The sudden rise, exponential growth, and life-transforming impact of GYC have convinced many observers (including some of its earlier critics) that, indeed, GYC’s unique approach to youth ministry is not only welcome but demanded by serious young people in North America and in much of the industrialized regions of the world.
However, the growth of GYC has also been greeted with opposition and criticism. Often, a lack of accurate information has led to a misunderstanding, if not a deliberate misinformation in certain quarters of the church. Similarly, those who have reasons to oppose what GYC stands for have tried to exploit this lack of knowledge to discredit the movement and all those known to be associated with GYC.
Because CAMPUS was the birth place and is a sponsor and currently houses the headquarters of GYC, and because individuals associated with CAMPUS (students, missionaries, and staff) have also been intricately connected with important aspects of the growth, leadership, and operations of GYC, it is not surprising that CAMPUS staff have also received much of the criticism and opposition directed against GYC. However, as will become evident from the timeline and summary of GYC key events, meetings, and documents, much of the criticism have been misdirected and underserved.
GYC’s Relationship with the Church
GYC emerged in North America as a response to the contemporary, entertainment-oriented approach to youth ministries on one extreme and the reactionary, critical approach on the other extreme. While the first approach essentially undermined the message and mission of the church, the second one questioned the organizational structure of the church. In the view of the young people who started GYC, these entertainment-oriented and critical approaches to youth ministries were being urged upon the young people by well-meaning adults who were convinced that their methods were what the youth really wanted.
GYC started as an “experiment” by young people in North America to show what they themselves (not some well-meaning adults) really wanted in youth ministry. Thus, in place of the contemporary approach, the pioneers of GYC sought one which was radically Bible-based, life-transforming and mission-driven. And instead of the independent, critical approach, the young people who started GYC wanted an approach which was connected with and supportive of the church.
The GYC pioneers sought a spiritually vibrant youth experience and Bible-based missionary challenge that was actively promoted in most of parts of the non-industrialized regions of the world church, but which was often unavailable to a growing number of young people in North America. These young people of GYC wanted:
• to uphold the distinctive message of the Seventh-day Adventist Church;The goal of GYC was to complement the youth work by the church organization, not compete with the denomination. Thus, although GYC was youth-initiated and is youth-led, from its very inception the movement has always sought to work in harmony with the organized church, not independently of it. This commitment to an excellent working relationship between GYC and the church was to be expected, for several reasons:
1) GYC was birthed and is sponsored by CAMPUS, a division of Michigan Conference Public Campus Ministries department, whose offices serve as the current headquarters of GYC. In this respect, GYC is a product of the church and is deeply ingrained in the church structure.Although the above facts are all readily available for those who seek to know, there exists some misunderstanding regarding how GYC has related with the organized church ever since its inception. Often, those who are urging contemporary, entertainment approach to youth ministry have tried to misinform people about GYC, suggesting that GYC is an independent, critical ministry—the reactionary approach that the GYC pioneers rejected.
The timeline below, highlighting key events, meetings, and documents, shows how GYC has attempted to avoid the entertainment-oriented and the independent, critical approaches to youth ministry, while remaining supportive of the church. It also highlights how GYC triumphed over initial obstacles.
The Conception & Birth of GYC
(The Early Years: 1999-2003)
September 1999—The idea of GYC was conceived at CAMPUS to mobilize and train a diverse group of Adventist youth and college students who shared a vision for a Bible-based, mission-driven, multi-racial, youth-led movement. The key architects of the GYC “experiment”—Israel Ramos (then missionary at CAMPUS), Justin Kim (then student at Brandeis University), and Andrea Oliver (then student at Princeton)—were all impacted by the ministry of CAMPUS and all had either been CAMPUS missionaries (Israel and Andrea) or joined the CAMPUS staff (Israel and Justin).
NOTE: Andrea Oliver has served GYC as its first president and (until 2008), the Executive Secretary; Israel Ramos had served GYC as Chair of Standing Committee (and until 2008) the President; Justin Kim had served GYC as Vice-President for Internal Affairs, Executive Secretary, Vice-President for Programming, Vice-President for Resources, and (since 2008) a General Vice-President.December 2002, GYC Meeting in Pine Springs Ranch, Southeastern California—First GYC meeting, themed “Pentecost: He Will Do It Again.” With its emphasis on spiritual revival, the first conference anticipated 200 attendees, but registered 400 and had to close registration because the facility was filled to capacity. Its theme reminded young people that what God had done in the past, He would do again. Most of the attendees were from secular universities, a good number of whom had been impacted by CAMPUS.
NOTE: The key speakers at the first GYC included three personnel associated with CAMPUS--Randy Skeete, Samuel Koranteng-Pipim, & Ken Dixon. Other key speakers included Chester Clark (Adventist-laymen, Services & Industries, ASI & Ouachita Hills Academy), Peter Gregory (IONA Bible Institute), Andy Im (Living Springs Church), Jonathan Zita (Canada Youth Challenge), and Eugene Prewitt (Ouachita Hills Academy).January-November 2003, Private Consultations—Caught off-guard by the young people’s enthusiastic support for the first GYC “experiment” CAMPUS/GYC leadership consulted privately or informally with some key church leaders about how to keep this emerging spiritual movement of young people within the church structure, while allowing it to preserve its grassroots leadership and initiatives.
Without exception, all who were consulted recognized the potential of the GYC experiment as a forceful spiritual asset to the church. However, noting that the GYC movement was growing beyond it’s initial CAMPUS base or influence, some of the church leaders who were consulted strongly encouraged CAMPUS/GYC leadership to keep this “waking giant” closely integrated within the church structure, while exploring how best to address the young people’s fear that their grassroots movement would be “hijacked, controlled, or killed” by church leaders who may be hostile to the principles of GYC.
The church leaders consulted include: Michigan Conference leadership (under Jay Gallimore), the then President of the Lake Region Conference and Professor at University of Michigan (Dr. Norman Miles), the then General Conference Education Director (Dr. Humberto Rasi), the then and present General Conference Youth Director (Dr. Baraka Muganda) and the then General Conference Associate Youth Director (Alfredo Garcia-Marenko), who was recommended by the GC Youth Director. The Director of CAMPUS also personally invited these leaders to attend the next GYC meeting in Ann Arbor, Michigan, to “check out” this emerging youth movement.
NOTE: Up until the ASI officially came on-board in 2004 as a sponsor of GYC (see below), CAMPUS, as a division of Michigan Conference Campus Ministries, was the only means by which GYC was connected with the church. Even then, the young people had fears about what would happen should Michigan Conference elect new leaders who would not be favorably disposed towards the radically Bible-based, mission-driven, and life-transforming approach of GYC.December 2003, GYC Meeting in Ann Arbor, Michigan—Second GYC meeting, themed “Higher than the Highest.” Expecting 700, the conference registered 800, and had over 1000 attended. This conference underscored the necessity of excellence in every sphere of a young person’s life and resonated with the idealism of youth.
Besides numerical growth, the Ann Arbor GYC was a marked improvement over the first GYC. It also witnessed growth in speaker quality (it included the world-renown sociologist Dr. David Williams, Andrews University Professor, Jerry Moon, and other respected church leaders), and growth in missionary-focus, professionalism and effectiveness.
This particular GYC meeting also attracted the attention and enthusiastic support and encouragement of then ASI President, Denzil McNeilus, whose well-trained business eye immediately understood how GYC can be a powerful asset to the church. (He personally called some members of the ASI leadership to come witness what was happening in Ann Arbor).
NOTE: The plenary speakers for the 2003 GYC meeting in Ann Arbor included some of the church leaders who were privately consulted after the first GYC: then GC Education Director, Humberto Rasi, and two Conference Presidents in the Michigan geographical area—Jay Gallimore (Michigan Conference) and Norman Miles (Lake Region Conference), although the latter missed his presentation because of heavy traffic.None of the GC Youth Directors was able to attend because they were attending the “World Conference on Youth Evangelism” in Bangkok, Thailand. Nevertheless, the Associate GC Youth Director (Alfredo Garcia-Marenko) sent a letter of support “to the Adventist Youth and Leaders attending the General Youth Conference 2003.” His letter (dated December 17, 2003) was reproduced in the GYC Brochure. Among other things, he insightfully noted:
“‘HIGHER THAN THE HIGHEST’ is the lovely and meaningful motto chosen for the Second General Youth Conference held this year in Ann Arbor, Michigan, USA. Michigan is the State where Adventists Youth Ministry began in 1879 with Luther Warren (14) and Harry Fenner (17), the two young pioneers who organized the first-ever Adventist Youth Society with a missionary purpose. . . . In a commendable way, 124 years later, you attend this youth event to re-emphasize the gospel commission in the same State of this nation, as part of a generation of young people who want to strive for spiritual excellence, even ‘higher than the highest.’ . . . I salute you on behalf of more than eight million Adventist youth around the world, who along with you, have decided to be faithful to Jesus and to His church, and go forward in faith with their highest destination: the kingdom of heaven.”Besides the letter of support from the GC Youth department, the youth department of the host conference—Michigan Conference—also expressed its support to GYC by making a $5,000 contribution to help defray GYC’s expenses.
The facts above clearly show that by December 2003, the fledgling GYC movement had an excellent working relation with the church—both locally and at the highest level. GYC grew out of the ministry of the Michigan Conference’s Public Campus Ministries Department and maintained its close relationship with this local Conference. While seeking to keep its grassroots nature as youth-led and youth-run, at no time did GYC seek to work independently of the church. In fact, an official organ of the church (CAMPUS) was a sponsor of GYC.
The Growth & Consolidation of GYC
(2004: The Year of Organizational & Theological Formulation)
In 2004, GYC took steps to clearly define its organizational structure in a way that would be consistent with its goal to encourage youth-led initiatives and leadership, while totally integrated with the church. It also defined its core guiding principles, which would affect its theological and missiological temperament. Finally, for the first time in its history, the young people of GYC appointed a board of directors to oversee the activities of their emerging youth movement. Thus, 2004 would be the year of GYC’s organizational and theological formulation.
March 7-8, 2004, GYC Leadership’s Meeting with ASI Leadership—A two-day meeting was convened at the Hilton Hotel, near Detroit Metro Airport, at the request of ASI leadership (present and past) to understand what GYC was all about and to explore potential working relationship with the ASI.
At this meeting, the GYC leadership acknowledged the roles played by other ministries in advising, directing, and role-modeling for their youth movement in the areas of theology, missions, education, event-planning, programming, and more. However, the GYC leadership identified some ministries they held in high esteem. They stated this in their discussion with the ASI leadership:
“Although we may not have any formal connection with some, these are the primary ministries we seek to promote as organizations that are fulfilling the needs of young people: Adventist Frontier Missions, Amazing Facts College of Evangelism, ARISE, ASI, Ouachita Hills Academy, and Public Campus Ministry (C.A.M.P.U.S.), Michigan Conference.”While expressing their admiration for ASI, the GYC leadership made it clear that, as young people, they did not want to be “politicized” or “controlled” by adult leaders (whether of the church or of any supporting ministry, such as ASI) to the extent of being restrained from candidly and biblically addressing “hot-potato” issues the young people were facing, but which many adult leaders and ministries were unwilling to address.
ASI offered valuable counsel to arrest the GYC leadership’s fear of being “hijacked, controlled, or killed” by leaders who had reasons to be hostile to the direction of GYC. It also asked GYC to study the possibility and terms under which the youth movement would feel comfortable being adopted under the ASI umbrella.
At the conclusion of the two-day meeting, one significant decision was taken: ASI agreed to be associated with GYC as its co-sponsor. (Up until this time, CAMPUS played the role of sole-sponsor of GYC.). ASI also requested GYC/CAMPUS to consider their invitation to assist in planning future youth meetings at ASI.
NOTE: Having two sponsors for GYC was deemed strategically valuable by the leaders of GYC. With the sponsorship of CAMPUS, GYC had the assurance that it was somehow structurally connected with the organized church, and with ASI’s sponsorship, GYC had the security of remaining a credible, grassroots, supporting ministry of the Adventist Church.April 2004, GYC Appoints A Board of Directors—To provide oversight for the activities of the youth leadership, the pioneers of GYC appointed its first board of directors. The sixteen-member GYC Board of Directors consisted of church leaders, pastors, businessmen, teachers/professors, laymen, and young people. Six of them (with names asterisked [*]), were representatives of the young GYC leaders who run the daily operations of their movement. The remaining ten board members were selected by the young people themselves because of their professional skills and their commitment to the ideals of GYC. Below are their names, and their professional backgrounds at the time they were appointed:
* Israel Ramos—GYC President, Program Director, C.A.M.P.U.S.As can be seen from the above list, the GYC leadership (consisting of young people and their adult mentors) had within their ranks professionally-trained personnel who were known for their commitment to youth ministry.
November 11-14, 2004, “The Spirit of GYC” Statement Adopted—From time to time some attendees attracted to the GYC had sought to impose upon GYC their unique understanding of certain theological issues (e.g., the 1888 message, the nature of Christ, the use of the King Version Bible, etc.) as hallmarks of what GYC stood for. Following some misunderstanding at the 2003 GYC meeting in Ann Arbor, Michigan, it was necessary for GYC leaders to come up with a statement that would clearly define the theological parameters of their movement—instead of allowing some well-meaning adult ministries to impose their agenda upon GYC.
Moreover, at a time when certain approaches to youth ministries were creating doubts over the Seventh-day Adventist system of beliefs, the GYC leadership felt it needed to clarify issues when they were in doubt, articulate issues for which the church had taken an official position, and defend areas that the church had articulated but were under attack.
In addition to determining the core theological focus of GYC, such a statement was also to provide a foundation and method for handling unresolved theological issues, as well as set forth the spirit in which legitimate disagreements were to be handled.
Finally, the document was to serve as a guideline in the choice of who speaks at GYC meetings and who should be invited to set up booths at GYC.
After a prayerful deliberation, the GYC Board of Directors approved the following ten-point statement, known as “The Spirit of GYC.” As the heartbeat of this youth-initiated and youth-led movement, all GYC participants and attendees are expected to uphold and exhibit the values expressed in The Spirit of GYC statement. It reads:
“In seeking to uphold the distinctive message of the Seventh-day Adventist Church, GYC will promote among its participants:NOTE: The final point in The Spirit of GYC statement makes it clear that “an attitude of humility and cordiality” should characterize discussions involving areas over which there would arise disagreement. This principle was intended to avoid the mean-spirited attitude that had all too often plagued Bible-believing movements and ministries.
December 2004, GYC Meeting in Sacramento, California—This third GYC meeting was themed “Carry the Light.” Registration was 1200, but attendance exceeded 1800. The subject of evangelism was not merely preached, but pragmatically implemented when 600 young people knocked on the doors of over 5,000 homes and enrolled over 800 people in Bible studies in preparation for ASI’s approaching evangelistic effort.
NOTE: This was the first time GYC meetings were telecast on TV. This publicity by 3ABN, together with the presence of the GC President and other influential church leaders, no doubt caught the attention of world church and others who had in the past tried to dismiss or ignore the GYC phenomenon.Youth attendees from Europe and Australia, themselves frustrated by the contemporary and critical youth ministry approaches in their countries, were refreshed by the 2004 Sacramento GYC meeting and expressed a desire to see GYC-like movements in their parts of the world. The broadcast of the GYC event overseas further inspired other young people outside North America to start Bible-based, mission-driven, church-supporting approaches to youth ministries (instead of the extremes of entertainment-oriented and critical approaches).
One of the founders of GYC (and until 2008, its President), correctly concluded that by the end of 2004 GYC was no longer an experiment. It was now a movement that had grown beyond the boundaries of North America. He summed up the reasons for the incredible success of the first three GYC experiments:
“From the three experiments at GYC conventions (2002-2004), we conclude that young people want to be taken seriously, are capable of making spiritual sacrifices and commitments, and are disappointed when others expect little from them. Young people want (1) to uphold the distinctive message of the Adventist Church; (2) to aspire to excellence in all aspects of their lives—academic, professional, and spiritual; (3) to embrace the call to radical discipleship, including a life of missionary service” (Israel Ramos, in Here We Stand, p. 65)
GYC Engages NAD Youth Leadership & the Larger World
(2005: The Year of Official Dialogue)
Since 2003 (immediately after the first GYC) GYC leadership had had informal and/or private consultations with certain church leaders at the NAD and General Conference levels who were positively disposed toward the grassroots youth movement. But none of them were official. Until the 2004 Sacramento GYC meeting, the leadership of the youth movement was not in a position to clearly articulate what the Lord was doing with their movement and where He wanted it to go. Thus, the leadership of GYC could not officially discuss their movement with the NAD or General Conference leaders.
However, after the Sacramento meeting (December 2004), it was evident that the movement that had started as a simple “experiment” had become an established “reality.” It had a voted board of directors, a clearly-defined set of guiding principles called The Spirit of GYC, and through its two sponsors—the Michigan Conference’s CAMPUS and Adventist-laymen Services and Industries (ASI)—it had a viable organizational affiliation with the organized church that was consistent with the goals of the movement.
The time had now come for GYC to officially inform the North American Division (NAD) Youth leadership of this new reality and seek its input. Also, since the world church had now been introduced to GYC through the positive 3ABN television coverage, it was time to publish a work explaining to the church why GYC came into being and what it stood for. The year 2005 was, therefore, the year when GYC was formally unveiled to the NAD and the world. CAMPUS/GYC took the initiative in approaching the NAD Youth Department.
January 18, 2005—Director of CAMPUS (Pipim) wrote to Elder James Black, NAD Youth Director, requesting an appointment “to update you on the history, development, and inner-workings of the General Youth Conference (GYC), and also seek counsel from you on its future growth and working relationship with the NAD Youth Department.”
March 30, 2005, Meeting with NAD Youth Leadership in Silver Spring, Maryland—The representatives of GYC—President (Israel Ramos), Executive Secretary (Andrea Oliver), Sponsors (Pipim for CAMPUS, and Chester Clark for ASI)—met with the NAD Youth Director and his associates/appointees at the GC/NAD headquarters. A 21-page document, detailing GYC’s “history, development, and current standing” was submitted and discussed.
The NAD Youth leadership asked detailed questions about GYC’s history, name, organizational structure, and operations. The meeting was fruitful, in that it enabled GYC leadership to clear up many misunderstandings about GYC. The NAD Youth leaders also gave positive counsel on how GYC could work closely with the church—including inviting a Conference youth director to attend all GYC Board of Directors’ meetings to give counsel.
NOTE: Thus, as a result of this official meeting and the 21-page detailed information placed in the hands of NAD Youth leadership, by the end of March 2005—a little over two years since the birth of the youth movement—the NAD Youth leadership had enough official information to inform anyone who wanted to know about GYC. The cordial relationship established at the meeting could also enable the NAD Youth leadership to contact any of the GYC leadership if there were any further questions.April 2005— One of the founders and, until 2008, President of GYC (Israel Ramos) published a detailed and insightful history of GYC in the 810-page, widely-selling Adventist classic, Here We Stand. This article was the first major work that explained to the world Seventh-day Adventist church why GYC came into being and what it stands for. The article was well-received in NAD and around the world.
May 25, 2005—The Director of Youth Ministries in the Australian Union Conference (Tony Knight) sent the following email inquiry to the Director of CAMPUS (Samuel Pipim):
“I am after some information concerning the General Youth Conference and was wondering if you could help me. I heard the name of this group in conjunction with your name and wondered if you could enlighten me a little about the organization.”A copy of the email was sent to the South Pacific Division Youth Director (Gilbert T Cangy).
May 25, 2005—Director of CAMPUS (Pipim) replied to the above inquiry by briefly mentioning the history and objective of GYC and its relationship with CAMPUS. The reply also attached a copy of the GYC President’s (Israel’s) detailed article about GYC, and further directed the Australian Union and Division Youth leaders (Knight and Cangy, respectively) to the GYC website where they could also download the Sacramento GYC 2004 meetings.
NOTE: Thus, besides the North American Division Youth leadership, the South Pacific Division in Australia was the second Division (first overseas) to receive official information about GYC.December 2005, GYC Meeting in Chattanooga, Tennessee—Fourth GYC meeting, themed: “Now is the Time.” With more than 2500 registered and attendance of about 4000, the theme was designed to call attention to the signs of Christ’s soon return and to encourage attendees to prepare their hearts and earnestly work for His coming.
This meeting attracted the largest number of students from Adventist institutions. The impact of this GYC meeting on the students and their glowing report when they returned to school in January may have been baffling, if not creating some apprehension, on most North American Adventist campuses—especially among chaplains and pastors who lacked an accurate knowledge about GYC and its leadership.
In summary, the year 2005 witnessed the coming of age of GYC. By the end of that year, GYC had two official sponsors (CAMPUS and ASI) and a voted board of directors. GYC’s mission and objectives were fully publicized on TV (3ABN), on its own website, and in the widely-distributed book Here We Stand. Additionally, the NAD Youth leadership and the South Pacific Division Youth leadership had been formally presented with information about GYC.
Thus, if there was to be any misunderstanding about GYC at any future World Division Youth Leaders’ meeting, it was not because there was no available information. With the official contact that had been established between the NAD and the South Pacific Division Youth leadership, any lack of information could readily be cleared up by calling those who were known to be associated with GYC.
GYC Faces Its Major Challenge
(Crisis & Propaganda Year: 2006)
From its inception GYC faced two major challenges. On the one hand, adult youth leaders who were urging a more contemporary, entertainment approach upon young people opposed GYC because of its radically Bible-based, life-transforming, and mission-driven approach to youth ministry. However, unable to fault GYC’s theology and mission, they sought other means to re-cast their opposition to GYC, especially its youth-initiated and youth-led approach to ministry.
On the other hand, independent groups—often hostile to the church—sought to legitimize their critical approaches by hijacking or piggy-backing upon GYC’s successes. They identified with much of the theology and mission of GYC, but wanted GYC to be independent of the church (fearing the church leaders would try to co-opt, if not kill, the movement). In some instances, they wanted GYC to adopt their unique understanding of certain theological issues.
Of the two major challenges, the greatest opposition came from those who were urging the contemporary approach to youth ministry. With the growing impact and popularity of GYC among young people in North America and around the world, it was not unexpected that some youth leaders who had reasons to oppose the radically biblical approach of GYC reacted against the grassroots movement.
The most significant of such reactions was in a statement issued by World Division Youth Leaders, in which they accused GYC of independent activities around the world and undermining church structure. The basis of their statement and its misuse by critics of GYC would create a needless controversy in the church. Below is summary of the events leading to and following the issuing of their statement.
January-February, 2006, Overseas Youth Conferences. Though birthed and based in the United States, immediately after the 2005 Chattanooga GYC meeting, the GYC phenomenon took hold in some overseas countries—notably Australia, Germany, Korea, New Zealand, and the United Kingdom. Several young people in these countries resonated with GYC's ideals and mission and sought to establish their own GYC-like youth movements.
Much of the synergy occurred by virtue of GYC's website, 3ABN's airing of GYC's programs abroad, and internet communication between youth who had been impacted by GYC and their friends overseas. As godly young people began taking ownership of youth programs and activities in their parts of the world, they adopted the template of GYC and organized their own youth conferences in their countries.
Some of these overseas groups contacted GYC leadership, requesting an official affiliation of their local groups with GYC. However, because GYC was a movement based in the United States and knew very little of the situation in overseas countries, there was a need for a first-hand knowledge before GYC could decide on establishing any formal relationship with overseas, locally-grown youth conferences.
Thus, in early 2006, GYC sent two representatives to attend each of the three locally-initiated youth conferences overseas in order to observe, discuss, and counsel with the youth leadership in those regions. The countries, dates, and GYC representatives were:
New Zealand (January 17-22, 2006)—Israel Ramos & Chester Clark,On the basis of the successes and shortcomings observed by the GYC representatives at the New Zealand, Korea, and Australia youth conferences, GYC leadership decided that it would “support, cooperate, or even affiliate or establish ties” with grassroots youth movements around the world, provided these overseas groups:
• are youth initiated and led by the young people themselves;NOTE: Though GYC was not the sponsor or organizer of any of these overseas meetings, and though GYC would strongly urge grassroots youth conferences to work closely with their local church leaders, some critics of GYC would later misinform people that GYC was “running all over the world to establish GYC chapters.”
April 2, 2006, World Youth Advisory Statement on GYC. Meeting at Mt. Aetna Camp, Hagerstown, Maryland, USA, from March 26-April 2, 2006, the World Youth Ministries Directors (comprising Youth Directors from the Divisions) issued their “World Youth Advisory Statement” to the World Church in which they registered their “concerns” over GYC. Although the World Youth leaders’ document concluded that they support “youth organizations that are involved in the mission of the church and committed to the high standards and ideals of the Seventh-day Adventist Church as a whole, and operating within its structure,” it appears that they did not view GYC as such.
Among other things, the Division youth leaders stated (see APPENDIX):
1. Although GYC “is based in North America, it has encouraged its members to establish chapters in other locations around the world.”
[NOTE: This statement essentially accused GYC of engaging in independent activities outside of North America. The truth, however, was that at no time had GYC encouraged its members to establish chapters anywhere around the world. If true, the implication is that those associated with GYC would have to be “stopped” from going to speak overseas. This is where the issue of “Service Requests” came in.]
2. “We are concerned that local church youth leaders and some college students are under the impression that this group is authorized by the General Conference Youth Ministries Department because of its close name association. They are independent of the Seventh-day Adventist Church Youth Ministry.”
[NOTE: This comment faults GYC for its name “General Youth Conference.” Previously, GYC had explained why it chose its name: “General” (because the youth movement was very diverse, racially, socio-economic status, etc.), “Youth” (because it was youth-initiated and youth-led), and “Conference” (because its meetings were annual training “conferences,” similar to professional conferences to which the public university students and young professionals were accustomed to). Though these facts about the GYC name were widely known, critics of GYC chose to make an issue of the name, claiming GYC was trying to confuse people into believing it was an entity of the General Conference Youth department. This is the reason why GYC would later change its name to Generation of Youth for Christ.]
3. “The Seventh-day Adventist Church has the best trained Youth Ministries Professionals on all levels of church governance, and we encourage organizations to stay within the church structure when it comes to leading our children and young people. This is something we do not take lightly. The General Youth Conference (GYC) has no Seventh-day Adventist Youth Ministries Professionals within its leadership structure.”
[NOTE: This comment is a veiled suggestion that GYC leadership is not professionally qualified to be engaged in youth ministry. The truth, however, was that there were qualified individuals—both church leaders and trained professionals—on GYC’s Board who were respected for their knowledge and commitment to the kind of youth ministries approach desired by the young people.]
4. GYC has “chosen to operate independently of any local conference, union, division, and General Conference youth departments. Any group operating as an independent supporting ministry should work with and through the structure of the Seventh-day Adventist Church. The youth of the Seventh-day Adventist Church should be encouraged to allow God to use them to evangelize the world as promised. We should also encourage them to work within the Body of Christ, His Church.”
[NOTE: GYC was birthed and sponsored by a church entity—the Michigan Conference. Though youth-initiated and youth-led, it had never chosen to be independent of the church. The youth of GYC were simply avoiding the contemporary approach to youth ministry that was being imposed upon them by certain well-meaning adults in the industrialized world. The youth leaders’ comment above was, however, designed to suggest that GYC was an “independent” or “fringe” group, not recognized by the church. Here’s where the issue of “church structure” comes in]
As would become evident later in GYC’s “Statement of Clarification,” the Division Youth leaders’ statement was based on a lack of knowledge and misinformation about GYC. Unfortunately, GYC itself was not consulted before the document was issued, and was not even informed that the statement had been circulated around the world. Had the “youth professionals” availed themselves of the facts, they would have saved themselves from the embarrassment that resulted when the GYC leaders issued their own “Statement of Clarification.”
April 19-26, 2006, Propaganda Against GYC—Based on the “World Youth Advisory Statement,” GYC leadership started receiving a stream of phone and email enquiries from overseas about the “serious problem” believed to exist between GYC and the world church and which had allegedly led the General Conference to “ban” the GYC. According to those making the inquiries, reports were circulating in their regions that the General Conference had issued a statement against the GYC because the General Conference believes the GYC is an “independent,” “fringe,” “dissident,” “offshoot,” “fundamentalist/ultra-conservative,” or “extremist” organization.
Others insinuated that GYC and its leadership were teaching “false doctrines,” “running a parallel structure” within/against the church or attempting “para-youth ministries,” or it was “engaged in independent activities around the world.” Most of the reports were coming from Australia and the two Divisions of Europe (notably from the UK and Germany)—regions generally known to favor the contemporary approach to youth ministry. Similar reports were later received from Asia after the “World Youth Advisory Statement” started circulating in those regions.
NOTE: Though there was no merit in any of the above rumors, the propaganda later became the basis upon which attempts would be made to discredit GYC on some North American Adventist campuses and to prevent, block, or deny overseas service requests to individuals known to be associated with GYC.Often the opposition to GYC was nuanced with variations of the phrase, “We are not against the young people of GYC, but the leadership of GYC”—a meaningless expression, since the leadership of GYC also comprised the young people who started and who ran the operations of GYC. The phrase “our problem is not the youth, but the leadership of GYC,” was actually a veiled reference to those on GYC Board of Directors who were associated with Michigan Conference—a Conference opposed by its critics for being “too conservative.”
April 27, 2006—After receiving another email inquiry about GYC from a credible official at the General Conference (who had been contacted from Europe), the Director of CAMPUS (Samuel Pipim) phoned the GC Youth Director (Dr. Baraka Muganda) about the rumors, asking whether it was true that the GC had issued a statement against GYC.
The GC Youth Director confirmed the existence of a “World Youth Advisory Statement,” gave background information on what necessitated the issue of the document (namely, some concerns by certain youth leaders in the industrialized world and some parts of Asia), and promised to forward the document to Dr. Pipim. He requested that upon the receipt of the document, Dr. Pipim should help the GYC leadership to come up with a “clarification” document to foster a better understanding between GYC and the church.
NOTE: In subsequent email communications with the GC Youth Director (Dr. Muganda) following the receipt of the “World Youth Advisory Statement,” Dr. Pipim expressed his personal dismay and disappointment over much of the factually-challenged “World Youth Advisory Statement.” At the request of the GC Youth Director, he was to calm down the predictable reaction anticipated by the young GYC leadership over the problem caused by the youth leaders’ unfortunate statement.
GYC Leaders Explode!
(Initial Reaction to Youth Leaders’ Document: April 28-30, 2006)
Consistent with the CAMPUS philosophy of empowering young people themselves to exercise godly leadership, the Director of CAMPUS immediately forwarded the GC Youth leaders’ document to a few key leaders of GYC, urging them to draft a mature “Statement of Clarification.” Their draft document, with input from other leaders, would be submitted to the Board of Directors for approval. The final document would then be released—first, to the GC Youth Director, and later (as circumstances would dictate), to the general public.
April 28, 2006—GYC Leaders’ Frustration, Disppointment, & Outrage. Some of the young leaders of GYC were very disappointed and saddened by the document issued by the World Youth Advisory. The pain and frustration is captured in one of the GYC leaders un-edited email to me (dated April 28, 2006), after he had received the GC youth leaders’ statement:
“My primary reason for disappointment is not the inaccuracies of some of the information contained therein or the spirit in which I perceive the document may have been written. I am saddened by the process which was taken in writing the statement:Other GYC leaders were not as restrained in their outrage. Perhaps, the outrage is best captured in the words of one youthful GYC speaker and active member, who sent the following email to the Director of CAMPUS:
“This is ABSOLUTELY, POSITIVELY, UNEQUIVOCALLY, PLAINLY, AND PAINFULLY ridiculous!April 29, 2006, Director of CAMPUS Advice to GYC Leaders—In a bid to calm down the emotions of the GYC leaders, the Director of CAMPUS wrote to the key leaders who were drafting a response (later to be known as “GYC Statement of Clarification”):
“I fully understand . . . [the above GYC leader’s] frustration about the GC Youth Advisory statement. We have all been placed in a very difficult situation by the document about GYC. Indeed, it does not take a space-scientist to know that:Indeed, the young GYC leaders rose up to the challenge by drafting their “Statement of Clarification” document—a well-crafted work that stood in sharp contrast to that produced by the World Youth Advisory body. But before looking at the GYC leaders’ response, it might be helpful to call attention to two important articles published by two of the three key founders of GYC.
Key GYC Founders Publish Articles
(Spring 2006: A Vision of Spiritual Youth Leadership)
In 2005, a year before the church leadership issued their statement against GYC, one of the three founders (and then President) of GYC had published his article “What Adventist Young People Really Want: The General Youth Conference Experiment” in the widely-distributed volume Here We Stand. The article provided a history behind GYC and why “thousands of dedicated young people, their friends, and loved ones [were] being drawn to the ideals of GYC.”
However, in the Spring of 2006, in the heat of the opposition and propaganda against GYC, it was not coincidental that the other two original founders of GYC decided to publish insightful articles, articulating what young people expected from their adult leaders. Both articles were published in the Spring 2006 issue of the Adventist Affirm journal, an issue that was themed on leadership.
The Need for Spiritual Youth Leadership: Written by the GYC Vice-President of Resources (and at that time a youth pastor and Program Director of CAMPUS), the article by Justin Kim first described the two models in contemporary youth ministry and explained the need for a third model—apparently the one being advocated by the grassroots GYC movement. Here are excerpts from his article (titled, “Spiritual Youth Leadership: Why It Is Desperately Needed”):
“Youth ministry has become a laboratory to experiment with different approaches and options. Today’s models range from variations of social outreach to blatant entertainment. Though well-meaning, the adoption of these models by some youth leaders has plunged the church into a crisis, leaving many youth disillusioned and desperately looking for spiritual leadership and direction. . . .
The Need for Godly Role-Models. The second published article was written by another founder and first President of GYC. She was at that time the Executive Secretary of GYC and a Law Student at Washington & Lee School of Law. Titled, “
“This article is a humble plea for help and guidance from the experienced leaders and role models who have gone before us. It is a challenge to those who have neglected their part. It is an expression of appreciation to those who have helped pave the way for the next—and, prayerfully, final—generation of young leaders. And it is an injunction to us all to invest in our young people, ‘for whatsoever a man soweth, that shall he also reap.’ [Galatians 6:7] . . .Thus, even though the initial reaction of the GYC leaders to the church leaders statement was one of dismay, disappointment, and even outrage, they channeled their energies into carefully articulating the kind of youth ministry young people really wanted and the kind of adult leaders young people wanted to mentor them. Perhaps divine providence made the timing of the publication of these two articles coincide with the issue of the GYC “Statement of Clarification.” For when the GYC document was finally released, many church members got to understand what the GYC was all about and the nature of the opposition the young people faced.
GYC Issues Official Response
(Statement of Clarification: May-June 2006)
May 3, 2006, GYC Issues “Statement of Clarification”— GYC Board of Directors approved the “Statement of Clarification,” in which GYC offered a detailed explanation of its organizational structure and operations. Being a response to the “World Youth Advisory Statement” of April 2006, the GYC’s “Statement of Clarification” carefully corrected some of the misunderstanding that underlay the youth leaders’ document. In addition to emailing the document to the GC Youth Director, the GYC requested that Chester Clark III, a member of GYC’s Board of Directors (and ASI Vice-President), personally deliver the document to the GC Youth Director (see APPENDIX).
NOTE: The GYC “Statement of Clarification” became (and remains) the most definitive description of the history, organization, and inner operations of GYC. The spirit of the document also reveals the maturity of the GYC leadership, whom their critics claimed lacked “youth ministries professionals within its leadership structure.”May 8, 2006, Letter from Southern Asia-Pacific Division (SSD)—On this date, the Executive Secretary of the Southern Asia-Pacific Division, headquartered in the Philippines, circulated a letter that was to be disseminated to “all missions, conferences, institutions and churches.” Among other things, the Executive Secretary of the SSD, Eld. G. T. Ng, (who, since October 2006 had become a General Conference Associate Secretary) wrote to his leaders:
“There have been questions about an organization called The General Youth Conference (GYC). . . . Our leaders would like to know if GYC is an authentic Adventist organization.NOTE: Though the above information about what the “GYC is and is not” was factually-challenged, it was apparently passed on to the Southern Asia-Pacific Division (and perhaps other world Divisions) by the General Conference Youth Department. Observe, however, the following facts:
(i) As a movement based in North America, GYC had at no time encouraged its members to establish chapters in other locations around the world;The outcome, if not the intent, of the SSD communiqué (apparently received from the GC Youth Department) was that people overseas started perceiving the GYC not as “an authentic Adventist organization,” but rather as an “independent” (read, “offshoot,” “fringe,” “divisive,” “church-within-the church,” or “para-church”) organization. As would soon become evident, this misinformation about GYC would later be used as the basis to blacklist people known to be associated with GYC.
May 8, 2006— CAMPUS Director (Samuel Pipim) notified the GC Youth Director that, with a steady stream of emails, inquiring, “What is this we hear about the GC being against the GYC?” he had shared the GYC “Statement of Clarification” with those who sought the truth from him. He also urged the GC Youth Director to “act expeditiously” in disseminating the GYC Statement of Clarification. He mentioned this to the GC Youth Director:
“As I have shared [the GYC Statement] with friends and those who have asked me, in my opinion, the real issue that some people have with GYC is theological in nature—though our critics don't have the guts to say so explicitly. They correctly recognize that the growth and popularity of GYC among young people disproves their oft-repeated claim that the youth want to be entertained (with say, watered-down messages, clowns, rock music, cartoons, pizza parties, etc.) and are not interested in the distinctive doctrines, prophetic message, or lifestyle challenges of our Seventh-day Adventist church.”June 2, 2006—GYC President, Israel Ramos, took the initiative by officially writing to request a meeting of the GYC leadership and GC Youth Director: “The purpose of our brief meeting would be to formally introduce ourselves, seek your counsel, and establish a more formal and forward moving relationship between us.”
June 2, 2006—GC Youth Director wrote to inform GYC that “the GC administration is planning to schedule a meeting with the GYC leadership” to resolve the misunderstanding created by the Division youth directors April 3, 2006 statement.
June 6, 2006—A pastor in Austria (Sascha M. Mroczek) received a copy of GYC’s “Statement of Clarification.” Because he had previously received (on April 21) the “World Youth Advisory’s Statement” from the Youth Director of his Division, the Euro-Africa Division (Corrado Cozzi), the pastor wrote to his Division’s Youth Director: “I think it’s fair to have this [GYC] statement from the GYC, too. Yo[u] will find the statement attached. Please send it to all Youth Director in the EUD. Thank you very much.” Copies of his email were sent to the GC Youth Director (Baraka Muganda), the EUD President (Ulrich Frikart), EUD Treasurer (Peter R. Kunze), and EUD Secretary (Gabriel Maurer).
June 7, 2006—In a letter to the Director of CAMPUS (copied to the above key leaders of the Euro-Africa Division) the GC Youth Director wrote to register his “concerns” that the “GYC Statement of Clarification” had been shared with enquirers from the Euro-Africa Division. He wrote:
“I am writing to you to register my concern in what you have done sending to the whole world a ‘Statement on the Clarification to Baraka Muganda’. That document was from you to the General Conference office only and it was not to be sent out to the world church. Who asked you to send it. The clarification is to Baraka and it is not to the world church. Your clarification is still under study with the GC Administration. By you sending this document out to the entities you select, you are making it so hard for us to resolve the problem in a timely manner, you are now creating more confusion among the world church entities. My plea to you please work with us.”June 7, 2006— The Director of CAMPUS (Samuel Pipim) responded to the GC Youth Director’s letter, explaining that the steady stream of email enquiries about the use and misuse of the youth directors’ April document was the reason why he himself and “the GYC leadership believes their statement should be given wide dissemination—both through your [GC Youth Director’s] office and through our own channels.” He explained:
“Those of us who are known to be associated in some way with the GYC are receiving a number of emails and phone calls from many people asking about the ‘rumor’ they have heard about a ‘problem’ between GYC and the world church. Among other things, they are asking whether it is true that:NOTE: About a month earlier, Dr. Pipim’s May 8, 2006 letter had informed the GC Youth Director that he had shared the “GYC Statement of Clarification” with individuals who sought to know the truth about what they were hearing “about the GC being against the GYC.” Thus, the GC Youth Director’s letter of “concern” (copied to the EUD leadership) was quite puzzling.
The Director of CAMPUS (Dr. Pipim) also informed the GC Youth Director why the GYC leadership had chosen to place their “Statement of Clarification” on their website:
“[T]he GYC leadership itself is also being bombarded by similar questions and inquiries, and instead of constantly responding to each individual inquiry and risk being misquoted or misunderstood, the leaders of GYC have placed the entire ‘GYC Statement of Clarification’ on their website for the world to know what GYC is all about and how it operates. Furthermore, the GYC leaders feel strongly that as long as the World Youth Advisory’s document remains in circulation, their ‘GYC Statement of Clarification’ must also be available to all—especially since the content of their statement is a more accurate depiction of who they are and how they operate.”
Blacklisting GYC Leaders & Key Speakers:
(July 2006-Present: The Issue of Service Requests)
Beginning in July 2006, reports started reaching CAMPUS/GYC leadership that key leaders or speakers associated with GYC have been “blacklisted” by certain anonymous leaders in the GC/NAD headquarters who were employing the official service requests protocol of the church to block, deny, or recommend against the invitation of these individuals from speaking overseas.
The unnamed church leaders spread word around that GYC and those known to be associated with it were “controversial,” “divisive,” and “engaged in independent activities worldwide”—unfounded allegations that would be used as the basis to attempt discrediting GYC and its backers.
Because many may not be familiar with what is at stake, this may be the right time to discuss the issue of service requests and how it has a bearing on GYC.
As pointed out earlier, when the World Youth leaders’ April 2006 statement alleged that although GYC “is based in North America, it has encouraged its members to establish chapters in other locations around the world” and that it was operating “independently of any local conference, union, division, and GC youth departments,” the statement essentially accused GYC of engaging in worldwide independent activities outside its home base of North America. If true, the implication is that those associated with GYC must be “stopped” from going to speak overseas, lest they cause “division” in those regions. The official mechanism to do so is the “Service Requests” protocol of the church.
A “service request” is the church’s official mechanism by which it processes invitations for speakers from a local field in one Division to a field in another Division. Service requests serve two major purposes: (1) they protect the local church from false teachers and false teachings, and (2) they protect the denominational worker should anything happen to him/her when he/she is officially in an overseas field. When abused, however, service requests can become a tool of coercion, control, or defamation of character.
Though many examples can be cited, two recent ones will clearly illustrate how—even to this very day—the critics of the GYC have misused the April 2, 2006 Division Youth leaders’ document to undermine GYC and its well-known supporters.
In March 2007, on the recommendation of unnamed GC/NAD officials, attempts were made to block the service requests for two well-known CAMPUS/GYC leaders to speak overseas. Their critics alleged:
“[They] belong to the same group. Besides being ultra conservative, they are very critical of the church. These people would not say it out loud, but they believe that the church has apostatized and needs to be redeemed. They are also working closely with General Youth Conference, a fringe youth group that tries to set up branches around the world. If [the named CAMPUS/GYC leader] is permitted to go to [named overseas city], he would bring serious threat to church unity.”Again in May 2007, service requests for two respected GYC speakers (both scholars and church employees in Michigan) to speak at a youth conference in an overseas Division were blocked on the recommendation/advice from certain officials at the GC/NAD headquarters. An email that was subsequently forwarded to the Director of CAMPUS (Pipim) from the inviting organization overseas indicates that it had received a communication through their Union and Division that the two GYC speakers are teaching doctrines which are not in harmony with the church’s position. The inviting organization was surprised, not only by the fact that the GYC speakers and well-known scholars are accused of holding some wrong teachings but also by the fact that their critics are not willing to give evidence for their accusations. The dismay of the inviting entity overseas is contained in their email:
“Surprisingly, no one wants to support that decision through a written document. Probably is not their usual way to proceed. They just verbally explained that [named individuals] holds positions in some areas (they are no specific in what areas) that seems to contradict the Seventh Day Adventist Church official position. . . . Since we do not understand (and nobody explain us specifically either) what those conflict issues are, would really like to have the presence of [named individuals] among our preachers.”NOTE: The action of these anonymous church leaders based in the GC/NAD headquarters was not only unethical, but also contrary to the spirit of the service request protocols and policy of the Seventh-day Adventist church. It was unethical because the anonymous church leaders offered no valid reason for recommending the denial or blocking of the official requests from overseas fields. One would have expected that if they had justifiable reasons for their actions, they would have notified the GYC speakers concerned and their employers (Michigan Conference) to investigate the merits and validity of their actions. By failing to take these steps they succeeded in spreading false rumors or sowing doubts about the reputation of the GYC/CAMPUS speakers.
Also, the action of the anonymous GC/NAD-based church leaders went beyond the limits of their legitimate authority. Generally speaking, because the Seventh-day Adventist system of church governance invests authority in the local field, whenever any local field overseas extends invitation to a denominational worker “in good standing” in another field, an intermediate layer of church administration (i.e., Union, Division, or General Conference) simply to processes the service requests without comment. A Union, Division, or the General Conference does not have the power to unilaterally recommend or discourage any service request to a church employee in “good standing.” Such an authority rightly resides in the local field of the person whose request is being sought by another field (because the employers of the worker whose services are being sought are supposed to know more about the worker than those in the intermediate layers of church structure).
This is why it is a violation of the service request policy for certain GC/NAD-based church leaders to unilaterally attempt to block legitimate service requests to denominational employees “in good standing.” Even if these well-meaning church leaders think they had justifiable reasons to “recommend” the blocking/delaying of service requests Christian teaching and ethics demands that, before disseminating their unfavorable “recommendations” about fellow workers to other fields, they should first have formally discussed their “legitimate” concerns with both the persons whose services are requested and their local fields or employers. Otherwise, their “recommendations” are liable to be understood as nothing more than a veiled, but deliberate, attempt at censorship! This is especially the case when the information about personnel from CAMPUS/GYC or Michigan Conference that was being passed on to other fields was totally baseless or without merit.
Such unilateral exercise of power in the service request mechanism can be avoided if, and only if, those who pass on negative “recommendations” about others are officially called upon to justify their actions. Such accountability is demanded of every church administrator—whether at the Conference, Union, Division, or General Conference levels—who “recommends” against the approval of a legitimate service request.
In summary, the GYC leadership had good reason to be concerned by the factually-challenged statement that they were engaging in “independent activities” worldwide. In the view of many perceptive observers it was a calculated attempt to utilize the service request mechanism of the church to “stop” certain individuals associated with GYC, who were perceived to be “conservatives” and wielding “too much influence on young people around the world.”
GYC Crisis Management by Church Leaders
(August 2006-January 2007: Role of “GYC Advisory”)
It should be clear by now that when the World Youth leaders tried to brand GYC as an “independent” group that was not working within the “structure” of the church, a lot more was at stake than many people would realize. Perceptive individuals have suspected that it was an attempt by certain youth leaders (notably those in regions that favored the contemporary, entertainment approach to youth ministry) to stop or kill GYC-like youth initiatives—i.e., the approach to youth ministry that is radically Bible-based, life-transforming, mission-driven, and church supporting.
The World Youth Leaders’ document and the GYC “Statement of Clarification” must, therefore, be seen for what they really are. Any solution to the “problem” created by the youth leaders must satisfactorily address the issue of GYC’s name, place in the church structure, and service requests without undermining what the young people were trying to accomplish. These are the concerns that the “GYC Advisory” would be charged to accomplish
August 3, 2006, First “GYC Advisory,” Dallas, TX, ASI National Convention— This date marked the first meeting of GC/NAD officials with representatives of GYC and ASI to discuss the substantive issues raised in the April 2006 statement that was issued to the World Church by the World Youth Advisory. Those invited to the meeting were:
Mark Finley (GC Vice President)NOTE: The invitees to this first meeting would later constitute the official “GYC Advisory,” a committee set up to ensure maximum cooperation and good working relationship between GYC and the world church. The “GYC Advisory” would meet regularly at ASI national conventions to discuss any relevant issues, plans, etc. involving GYC and the world church.
The meeting of the first “GYC Advisory” was the first time representatives of the church youth leaders and GYC leadership met to speak candidly about the cause of the misunderstanding and to explore a way forward. Four major issues were identified as worthy of further discussion, within the context of GYC’s stated goals: (1) the Name of GYC, (2) the place of GYC in the church structure, (3) service request protocol, (4) future confidence-building procedures.
GYC expressed its intention to give thought to these areas, while urging the church youth leaders to “advise” those on their “team” who were hostile to GYC.
December 20, 2006, GYC Issues “Statement of Intent”— Voted by its Board of Directors, GYC sent its “Statement of Intent” to GYC Advisory. This statement formally identified the specific issues that would form the basis for GYC’s cooperation and dialogue with the world church. (See APPENDIX)
NOTE: The GYC “Statement of Intent” is different from the earlier GYC “Statement of Clarification.” Whereas the “Clarification” statement was a response to the World Youth Advisory April 3, 2006 statement, the “Intent” statement identifies important areas that needed further discussion on the relationship between GYC, NAD and the world church.December 21, 2006—GC Youth Director acknowledged receipt of and “fully accepts” the GYC Statement of Intent. The GC Youth Director also conveyed his “regards to all the delegates to the  GYC Convention and to let them know that we support their commitment and faithfulness to the Bible principles and the Seventh day Adventist Church.”
GYC 2006, GYC Meeting in Baltimore, Maryland— This fifth GYC meeting was themed “By Every Word.” Around 2,600 people registered for the conference, and 4,000 people attended the Sabbath morning services. On Sabbath afternoon, the attendees took part in a massive outreach opportunity where they knocked on 8,950 doors, prayed with 894 people, distributed 7,538 Bible study cards, and signed up 719 people for Bible studies. These contacts were followed up by four dedicated GYC Bible workers, who also conducted lay Bible Workers’ training at local churches over a period of 7 weeks. This was followed by an evangelistic series conducted by GYC young people in collaboration with the Chesapeake Conference. More than 200 lay Bible Workers were trained and about 40 souls were baptized.
To counter the misinformation about GYC and to provide attendees with accurate information about the movement, for the first time in its history GYC published and distributed a small 20-page color brochure titled “General Youth Conference: An Army of Youth.” The document summarized the history of GYC, its mission, organizational structure, past speakers at its conventions, and more.
In his plenary address at the GYC meeting, a Vice-President of the General Conference (Ted Wilson) encouraged GYC to continue with its noble mission and urged them to “work closely” with the church. His message should be understood against the backdrop of the discussions that had taken place at the “GYC Advisory” and GYC’s “Statement of Intent.”
Also as a sign of goodwill, the NAD Youth Director (James Black) was present on Friday evening, and during the Sabbath morning Divine Service, he brought his special greetings to the GYC attendees.
January 3, 2007, GC Youth Director Letter to Division Youth Leaders—updating them on GC leaders’ discussions with the GYC leadership. Concerning the first “GYC Advisory” meeting in Dallas, it noted: “The outcome of this meeting was very productive and good understanding came out of it. We must emphasize that the Leadership of GYC understood every concern in a very positive way. Our side which was representing the Leadership of the church came out very satisfied with the whole [de]liberations.”
Concerning GYC’s “Statement of Intent,” the GC Youth Director’s letter stated: “The GYC leadership made a sincere commitment to solve these critical concerns [namely: the name of GYC, the structure under which GYC will operate within the church, and the Communication/Service Request procedures]. Our side saw this as a very good sign of working together to build a bridge of good relationship and working together as a church.”
The GC Youth Director concluded his update to his Division leaders:
“We would like to reiterate that the church has no problem with the young people and what they are doing. Their passion for evangelism and being God’s witnesses in every word, according to the Bible is very commended. The church has however the three concerns that have been put before the GYC leadership. We need these young people in our youth meetings to spread this fire among our youth. We need their passion as such it is important to work with the GYC leadership to solve these concerns as soon as possible. It is because of this spirit that with much consultation within our group we agreed to send a letter of greetings to the participants to the just ended Convention in Baltimore. The letter is a good gesture to the youth that we have not fight with them. Our concerns are with the GYC leadership which are now being addressed by the board.”Ignoring the unjustifiable attempt to drive a wedge between GYC “young people” and “GYC leadership,” it should be clear that by January 2007, the initial overreaction, if not a perceived hostility, of the church youth leaders to GYC had essentially abated. There were clear indications that the church leaders wanted to put the issue behind them. The work of the “GYC Advisory” played a major role in the change of attitude.
Resolution of the Problem:
(April 2007-December 2007: Toward GYC’s “Statement of Understanding”)
With the official cessation of perceived hostility to GYC by the church youth leaders (at least at the GC/NAD levels), GYC leadership now worked to address the specific areas of concern to the church. Of the three major issues mentioned by the youth leaders, the name change seemed to be the most substantive. With respect to the structure under which GYC operates, GYC took an action to become an organizational member of ASI. As far as the service request protocol was concerned, GYC leadership agreed to follow this mechanism “where applicable.” The name change, however, would involve legal issues etc.
April 2007, GYC Board of Directors Vote a Name Change—At its Spring Board of Directors meeting, the board voted to change its name from General Youth Conference to “Generation of Youth for Christ”—while keeping the acronym GYC.
It should be noted that when GYC started, the “General Youth Conference” name was carefully chosen to reflect the true nature and mission of GYC:
“General” depicts the broad appeal of GYC to young people. From teens to young adults, from students to professionals, people from diverse backgrounds and all walks of life are included. All are united by love for their church and a desire for a Bible-based revival, demonstrated by true Seventh-day Adventist teaching, godly living, missionary commitment, and excellence in every facet of life.However, in discussions at the “GYC Advisory,” it became clear that the “General Youth Conference” name can be confusing to some who may think it represents “General Conference Youth” (i.e., an entity of the General Conference). Thus, the board felt it necessary to change the name to avoid any confusion (especially when the name “General Youth Conference” is translated into other languages. However, since the GYC acronym had become well-known, the new name was to preserve that acronym.
After long deliberation—sometimes serious, and other times humorous—the name “Generation of Youth for Christ” was chosen. As evidence that the unprovoked crisis was over, the GYC leadership could even joke about the change of their old name. Among the humorous and satirical names that were mused over were:
--Great Youth Controversy (to summarize the church youth leaders’ initial reaction against GYC)
As may by now be evident to discerning readers, in the long run the only legitimate criticism the church youth leaders could marshal for initially opposing GYC was its name! There was no merit in the accusation that GYC was engaged in “independent activities worldwide.” Neither was there any merit in the claim that GYC had no qualified “youth professionals” within its leadership structure, or that it was operating “independently of the church.” Perhaps, history will one day reveal the true motivation or the real reasons behind the unsuccessful attempt by some adult leaders to quench the spirit of the Bible-based revival movement by young people.
August 2007, Second “GYC Advisory,” Louisville, Kentucky, National ASI Meeting—At “GYC Advisory” meeting (involving GC, GYC, and ASI representatives), GYC leadership provided an update on the Statement of Intent, informing the “GYC Advisory” of: (1) the name change to “Generation of Youth for Christ”; (ii) its status as an “organizational member of ASI,” securing for it a place in the church structure as a supporting ministry; (iii) that “where applicable, GYC will honor the Church’s Policy regarding service requests as stated in the Church Policy Book.” GYC also included other confidence-building measures to “maintain good relations” with the church. Finally GYC leaders expressed their desire to submit the organization’s final “Statement of Understanding” before the December 2007 GYC meeting in Minneapolis, Minnesota.
NOTE: The “Statement of Understanding” was to be a document reflecting the consensus understanding of decisions of the “GYC Advisory.” Thus, it was to reflect what was mutually acceptable to GYC and the world church.November 1, 2007, GYC “Statement of Understanding” Issued—GYC issued its “Statement of Understanding,” a culmination of the dialogues between GYC and church leadership. The GYC Board of Directors formally voted the following key items in October 2007 (see APPENDIX):
1. Become an organizational member of Adventist-laymen Services and Industries (ASI)As decided at the 2007 “GYC Advisory” during the Kentucky National ASI convention, the “Statement of Understanding” was directed to the NAD Youth Director, to be channeled to the various levels of church leadership for approval. The GC/NAD members on the “GYC Advisory” indicated that once this final step is taken, the world church would then issue a definitive statement to the world.
GYC 2007, GYC Meeting in Minneapolis, Minnesota—This sixth GYC meeting was themed “BE” (shortened form of “Be ye transformed,” Romans 12:2). Taking its cue from the historic 1888 GC session that took place in Minneapolis, this GYC meeting focused on salvation and what it means to be a real Christian. Because of scheduling problems with the convention center, the date for this Minneapolis GYC meeting coincided with examination week for many students. But although a low turn-out was anticipated because of the timing of the event and the extremely cold winter weather in Minneapolis, there were some 3000 in attendance on Sabbath.
On Sabbath afternoon, 1,148 attendees of GYC boarded 25 school buses to locations in Minneapolis for outreach activity. That cold afternoon, the young people knocked on thousands of doors, distributed 12,820 Bible study cards, and prayed with 959 people. Some additional 230 GYC attendees engaged in “street ministry,” praying with 111 people, and passing out 1,410 pieces of literature. While the young people were out in the cold doing the outreach, 35 people stayed at the Convention Center to pray for them. At the time of writing, some 487 requests for Bible studies have been received and more are coming through the mail weekly.
NOTE: By the 2007 GYC meeting in Minneapolis, the grassroots young people’s movement was operating under its new name, “Generation of Youth for Christ.” Attendees were informed about the establishment of “Regional Youth Conferences,” and the “GYC Liaisons” for these conferences were introduced.This historic meeting in Minneapolis also marked a major transition to new leaders, many of whom were not part of the original group who started GYC. During the introduction and consecration of these new leaders, the Director of CAMPUS (Pipim) gave them a charge: “Don’t Betray the Trust.”
The story of GYC is the story of how ordinary young men and women—mostly from secular university campuses of America—dared to take a stand for Biblical Adventism when many adults were reluctant to do so. In daring to stand up for their convictions, they were only building on the foundation laid by their Seventh-day Adventist pioneers, many of whom were also young people.
For example, in 1844 James White was 23 and Ellen White was telling her visions publicly at 17. That year, J. N. Andrews was 15. He held evangelistic meetings at age 21, and by age 24 he had published 35 articles. In 1844, Uriah Smith was only 12. He later became editor of the Review at age 23, having already written a 35,000-word poem called “The Warning Voice of Time and Prophecy” that the Review published in installments the year before. What set these youthful Seventh-day Adventist pioneers—and GYC founders—apart from many of today’s youth is that they were an army of converted and studious Bible students.
The question was asked—and was eloquently answered—by one of the original founders (and until 2008, the President) of GYC:
What is it about GYC that is so attractive to young people? Is it entertainment? Is it the downgrading of the church’s distinctive doctrines and practices? Is it the adoption of contemporary worship styles? Is it an outlook of ease and fun?
The story of GYC gives assurance that God is still leading His church, and that He can—and He will—get His message out—with or without our cooperation. In the words of Jesus Christ, “the stones would immediately cry out” if we refuse to speak out (Luke 19:40). The experience of GYC clearly shows that, indeed, the Lord can even use “the mouth of babes” to glorify His own name (Matthew 21:16; cf. Psalm 8:2).
There’s another lesson from the GYC story: Whenever situations occur in which God's truth and honor are being jeopardized, rather than allowing the matter to go away by default, God often raises up individuals to impress the issue upon people's attention in order to compel if possible a change of heart about it—even if it is at personal risk to their reputation, career, and life. The effectiveness of these individuals and the movements they spawn abide in the force and power of their lives and the eloquence of the truth which they teach. But because their convictions are stronger than their apathy, such individuals are not only admired, but they are also misunderstood, misrepresented, and sometimes vilified and even killed. Nevertheless history—both secular and sacred history—eventually vindicates the rightness of their cause.
In the GYC movement, we see the stones crying out as the Lord is glorifying Himself, using the mouth of babes. We discover that, although they were initially underestimated—even opposed, the youth revival movement couldn’t be marginalized—nor stopped. The question is: Have we—both young people and church leaders—learned anything from their history? Let’s remember:
“Those who cannot learn from history are doomed to repeat it. Those who do not remember their past are condemned to repeat their mistakes”--George SantayanaThe GYC Story continues. Though we cannot predict what the future holds and how the movement will eventually fare, this much is certain: God has greatly used this grassroots youth revival movement to inspire and galvanize today’s young people to a radical commitment to biblical Christianity. The vision of GYC has become a global phenomenon, confirming that serious young people want something far better than is often offered them, and are disappointed when their adult leaders simply entertain them or expect little from them.
The GYC movement has also been used by the Lord to arouse the conscience of Seventh-day Adventist church leaders to seriously re-evaluate the way youth ministry is currently being done. Even the critics of GYC cannot deny the fact that the Lord has used this movement started by secular university students in the United States to advance His cause in this generation. As the Director of CAMPUS, it has been my privilege to be associated with the youthful pioneers of GYC who dared to do the unthinkable. To God be the glory!
GYC STATEMENT OF CLARIFICATION
May 3, 2006
[NOTE: This statement has been prepared by the General Youth Conference (GYC) leadership in response to a request by Eld. Baraka Muganda, the Youth Director of the World Seventh-day Adventist Church. The intent is to facilitate understanding between the GYC and the church, especially in view of a document that was issued by the World Youth Advisory body in April 2006 (see Appendix)]
A Revival. In the late 1990s, God began to move upon the hearts of a small but diverse group of young people across the United States, and He did so through their encounters with the Bible, the Spirit of Prophecy, sound biblical preaching, and participation in Bible-based evangelism. These young people, mostly students, were Black, White, Asian, and Hispanic, yet they were bound together by their common hunger for a deeper relationship with Christ and their thirst to be active in His service.
It was in this context that the General Youth Conference (GYC) emerged. The young leaders of the fledgling group had a vision to bring together all these youth under the common goal of taking the gospel to the whole world so that they could see Christ come in their generation. Their dynamic faith experience gave them a desire to link up with other youth who were equally on fire for the Lord and to seek mentorship from adults who shared their passion. Ambitious as they were, they still did not conceive of the explosive growth that would soon result from the Lord's blessing of their humble efforts.
A Need. Prior to the emergence of the General Youth Conference (GYC), a substantial number of dedicated Seventh-day Adventist young people in North America had become frustrated, and even disillusioned, by the contemporary, entertainment-oriented approach to youth ministries on one extreme and the reactionary, critical approach on the other extreme.
These young people felt that through such approaches they were not being biblically challenged nor spiritually edified in a way that would enable them remain solid Seventh-day Adventists. Often, these entertainment-oriented and critical approaches to youth ministries were being urged upon the young people by well-meaning adults who were convinced that their methods were what the youth really wanted.
A Vision. The pioneers of GYC, however, sought a vibrant alternative that was youth-initiated and youth-led, but one which was radically Bible-based, mission-driven, and church-supporting. These young people wanted:
· to uphold the distinctive message of the Seventh-day Adventist Church;
· to aspire to excellence in all aspects of their lives—academic, professional, and spiritual;
· to embrace the call to radical discipleship, including a life of missionary service; and
· to be supportive and respectful of denominational leadership, even while it remained a youth-led movement.
Even though the above vision was actively promoted in most of parts of the non-industrialized regions of the world church, such an alternative was often unavailable to a growing number of young people in North America. GYC emerged to meet this need. The rapid growth and overwhelming support GYC has received suggests that, indeed, such an alternative was not only welcome but demanded by serious young people.
Today, this vision of GYC, first conceived by dedicated students on secular university campuses, has been embraced by thousands of Seventh-day Adventist students and young professionals in denominational and supporting institutions, as well as by parents, lay people, pastors, and church leaders in North America and around the world.
Some Challenges. However, with the growth of GYC have come two major challenges: (1) youth leaders who are urging a more contemporary approach upon young people perceive the youth-initiated and youth-led approach of GYC as an attempt to undermine their influence and authority, or even church structure; (2) independent groups—often hostile to the church—have sought to legitimize their critical approaches by hijacking or piggy-backing upon GYC’s successes.
These two challenges have resulted in a misunderstanding, if not a misinformation, in certain quarters of the church about the true identity, mission, and operations of the GYC. This misunderstanding may have contributed to a document prepared by the World Youth Directors at the World Youth Advisory meeting in March 26 – April 2, 2006 at Mt. Aetna Camp, Hagerstown, Maryland, USA entitled: Clarification Statement Regarding General Youth Conference (GYC) (see Appendix, below).
Unfortunately, because the World Youth Advisory’s document is based on a lack of understanding of GYC, the document is likely to be misunderstood and misused by those who are not well-informed about what GYC is and how it operates, and by those who have reasons to oppose what GYC stands for.
An Invitation. Upon consultation with Dr. Baraka Muganda, the Youth Director of the World Church, it was agreed that the leadership of GYC should draft a “Statement of Clarification” to help facilitate better understanding among denominational leaders, church members, and youth around the world about the aims and objectives of GYC and its relationship to the church and other youth movements overseas.
In March 2005, the GYC leadership had already met with the North American Youth leadership and provided it with such information in a 21-page document. Nevertheless, GYC recognizes that not all world divisions are similarly informed. Moreover, the world youth leaders may not be well-informed about the exact nature of GYC’s relationship with other emerging grassroots youth movements overseas. For these reasons, the GYC leadership welcomed Dr. Muganda’s gracious request and respectfully submits the following “GYC Statement of Clarification” with a prayer that it will help remedy any misunderstanding created by a lack of knowledge about GYC.
B. GYC Statement of Clarification
1. Who We Are
The General Youth Conference (GYC) is a grassroots Seventh-day Adventist movement organized and led by young adults from diverse backgrounds. Through the networking, communication, and organization that GYC provides, young people are encouraged to experience personal revival and reformation and to work hand-in-hand with the Seventh-day Adventist church in taking the Three Angels’ Messages to the world in this generation.
As an expression of these objectives, the GYC leadership drafted the following Mission Statement:
There exists, today, an army of dedicated young people within the Seventh-day Adventist church who yearn to demonstrate Nehemiah's leadership, Daniel's integrity, Mary's humility, Paul's passion for evangelism, and Christ's love for God and humanity. It is the goal of the General Youth Conference (GYC) and its members to seek and galvanize such young people. We aim to mobilize existing youth and young adult ministries that are fully committed to the distinctive message and mission of the Adventist church towards the proclamation of the Three Angels' Messages.
2. What We Stand For
The Spirit of GYC is a set of statements that describe the core guiding principles of the movement. It is the heartbeat of the General Youth Conference and sets forth what it stands for. All GYC participants and attendees are expected to uphold and exhibit these values. It reads:
“In seeking to uphold the distinctive message of the Seventh-day Adventist Church, GYC will promote among its participants:
1) A respect for Scripture—as the foundation and test of all teachings and practices;
2) An appreciation for the Spirit of Prophecy—as an authoritative source of instruction, comfort, and warning;
3) A quest for Biblical holiness—through a daily prayer and devotional experience with Jesus and a commitment to following His Word;
4) A vibrant worship experience—one that is characterized by principle, reverence, and decorum;
5) A passion for lost souls—animated by personal experience in the saving love of Jesus and a desire for His imminent return;
6) A cultivation of godly relationships—preserving purity and encouraging accountability;
7) An exemplary and abundant lifestyle—in recreation, entertainment, dress, and healthful living;
8) An enthusiasm for service—through care for the needy, service to the community, promotion of human rights, and stewardship of the environment;
9) A commitment to the Seventh-day Adventist Church as God’s remnant church—by supporting and upholding its principles, organization, and leadership;
10) An attitude of humility and cordiality—as we seek to clarify, articulate, and defend the Biblical teachings of the Seventh-day Adventist Church.”
3. Our Aim
GYC seeks to equip and inspire young people to be Christian ambassadors in their respective places of work and study by:
4. Our Conference Goals
To accomplish its objectives, GYC organizes annual youth conventions. These gatherings are designed to be five-day training and inspirational events. They are held in December, beginning on Wednesday evening and ending on Sunday at noon.
We expect the participants to leave the conference with:
5. Our Conference Speakers
Consistent with the mission and objectives of GYC, those who are invited to be speakers and presenters at GYC conventions are bonafide Seventh-day Adventist members, scholars, and leaders who are known to share the ideals of GYC and who are well-qualified to address biblically specific issues of concern to young people. Past GYC speakers and presenters have included well-known and respected Seventh-day Adventists from diverse walks of life. Among these are the following denominational thought leaders and speakers:
6. The Fruits of GYC
A GYC meeting is not simply an annual event, but also a life-transforming experience. Lives are radically changed, decisions are made for baptism, and commitments are made for mission service. Examples from the last two GYC meetings underscore this fact. For example:
· At the 2004 GYC meeting, GYC youth knocked on the doors of more than 5,000 homes, prayed with nearly 300 people, and enrolled over 800 in Bible studies. Additionally, 200 youth responded to an appeal to give six to eight years of their life as a career missionary.
· At the 2005 GYC meeting, 27 busses took attendees to the surrounding community for outreach, resulting in over 1200 Bible study requests to be followed up by Mark and Ernestine Finley's evangelistic meetings later in 2006. Hundreds of young people responded to God's call to preach at evangelistic meetings before the 2006 GYC meeting, and 50 attendees decided to be baptized or rebaptized. The Sabbath morning divine service offering was about $120,000!
· Finally, among the crowning jewels of the annual conferences are the hundreds of young people who recommit their lives to the Lord.
These tangible fruits of GYC's meetings suggest that, indeed, young people want to be taken seriously, are capable of making spiritual sacrifices and commitments, and are disappointed when their adult leaders simply entertain them or expect little from them.
In addition to the Lord's blessings, such results also demonstrate the benefits of the grassroots-nature of the GYC movement and its unique relationship with the church. This fact is best understood by briefly describing the history of GYC and its method of operation.
7. Our History
In 1999, Adventist young people on public university campuses decided to conduct an experiment. Desiring a unique, life-changing movement, they sought to make a difference by taking seriously the claims of Biblical Adventism. These young people embarked upon a movement committed to serious Bible study, intense prayer, uncompromising lifestyle, and boldness in sharing Christ with others.
In 2002, this vision gave birth to the organization of the first General Youth Conference. Since then, there have been four GYC conventions. A summary of each appears below, along with a prospectus of the 2006 convention.
· GYC 2002 – Pine Springs Ranch, Southeastern California. Theme: “Pentecost: He Will Do It Again” – With its emphasis on spiritual revival, the first conference anticipated 200 attendees, but registered 400 and had to close registration because the facility was filled to capacity. Its theme reminded young people that what God had done in the past, He would do again.
· GYC 2003 – Ann Arbor, Michigan. Theme: “Higher than the Highest” – Expecting 700, the conference registered 800, and had over 1000 attended. This conference underscored the necessity of excellence in every sphere of a young person’s life and resonated with the idealism of youth.
· GYC 2004 – Sacramento, California. Theme: “Carry the Light” – Having registered 1200, attendance exceeded 1800. The subject of evangelism was not merely preached, but pragmatically implemented when 600 young people knocked on the doors of over 5,000 homes and enrolled over 800 people in Bible studies in preparation for ASI’s approaching evangelistic effort.
· GYC 2005 – Chattanooga, Tennessee. Theme: “Now is the Time” – With more than 2500 registered and attendance of about 4000, the theme was designed to call attention to the signs of Christ’s soon return and to encourage attendees to prepare their hearts and earnestly work for His coming.
· GYC 2006 – Baltimore, Maryland. Theme: “By Every Word” – We expect at least 5000 young people to attend this year’s meeting which will focus on the authority of the Bible in every aspect of the Christian’s life.
Having been in existence for a short time, GYC has experienced exponential growth. It has also received encouragement from dedicated parents, adults, pastors, and church leaders at the highest level and welcomed satellite broadcasting from the Three Angels’ Broadcasting Network (3ABN).
8. Our Inspiration
Three notable institutions inspired the vision that would later result in the establishment of the General Youth Conference. Foremost among them is CAMPUS (the Center for Adventist Ministry to Public University Students), based in Ann Arbor, Michigan, near the University of Michigan. CAMPUS provided the vision of challenging young people to spiritual, academic, and professional excellence.
In addition to changing the lives of the University of Michigan students, CAMPUS was influential in shaping the lives of others including:
These students formed a network of young people, which would later become the foundation for the GYC organization.
The two other institutions that greatly inspired GYC and shaped its outlook were: Adventist-Laymen’s Services and Industries (ASI) and Ouachita Hills Academy (OHA), based in Amity, Arkansas. These two institutions provided the vision of youth evangelism, the passion for sharing Christ, and the example of young people holding evangelistic campaigns. ASI and OHA continue to challenge young people with the principles of true education and encourage them to give their lives in sacrificial service as soul-winners, not only in church settings, but in professional environments as well.
9. Our Name
The “General Youth Conference” name was carefully chosen to reflect the true nature and mission of GYC:
· “General” depicts the broad appeal of GYC to young people. From teens to young adults, from students to professionals, people from diverse backgrounds and all walks of life are included. All are united by love for their church and a desire for a Bible-based revival, demonstrated by true Seventh-day Adventist teaching, godly living, missionary commitment, and excellence in every facet of life.
· “Youth” not only emphasizes that the movement was conceived by young people themselves, but also captures the qualities of idealistic vibrancy and spiritual boldness of young people. The “youth” points to the prophecy where youth in the last days will be Spirit-filled and commissioned to proclaim God’s message (Joel 2:28-29).
· “Conference” – describes the convocation/gathering of like-minded young people who seek to be trained and networked so they can do God’s work.
10. Our Logo
The GYC logo emphasizes the young people’s role working within the Seventh-day Adventist church. It conceptualizes Seventh-day Adventist young people working together and supporting the church, uplifting its message, and fulfilling its mission to spread the gospel around the globe.
Prominence is given to the “Y” holding a book to emphasize that this spontaneous, grassroots movement was initiated by the youth themselves, is youth-run, and is committed to upholding the authority of the Bible.
11. Our Organizational Structure
As a supporting ministry within the church, GYC is fully committed to the message and mission of the world-wide Seventh-day Adventist Church. It encourages its members to support the Biblical goals and objectives of the General Conference and its subsidiary branches and departments.
GYC is registered as a non-profit organization in the state of Michigan, and is currently head-quartered in Ann Arbor, Michigan. It is governed by its board of directors and supported by its official sponsors: Adventist-laymen’s Services and Industries (ASI) and The Center for Adventist Ministry to Public University Students (CAMPUS) – a division of the Michigan Conference Public Campus Ministries department.
In its role as an official sponsor, ASI has given counsel, encouragement, and general convention format, as well as financial contributions to assist GYC in its efforts towards evangelism in Sacramento, Chattanooga, and Baltimore. On its part, CAMPUS continues to provide GYC with a biblical vision and methodology, a philosophy of excellence, and a model of courageous leadership.
The GYC Board of Directors consist of trained professionals, church leaders, and young people who command respect among the youth for their leadership skills, their commitment to the Seventh-day Adventist Church, and to the ideals and mission of GYC. These individuals provide guidance to and oversight over GYC.
2006-2007 Board of Directors
Director of Resources, C.A.M.P.U.S.
Student, Loma Linda School of Medicine
Student, Southern Adventist University
The Executive Committee Officers run the daily responsibilities of the organization. They comprise of a diverse group of Seventh-day Adventist young people, committed to the message and mission of the Seventh-day Adventist Church.
2006-2007 Executive Committee
Director, Radiant Living Ministries
12. Our Relationship with the Church
GYC sees itself as complementing and supporting the youth work by the church organization, not competing with the denomination. Though youth-initiated and youth-led, like ASI, GYC maintains an excellent relationship with the Seventh-day Adventist Church. This is to be expected, for several reasons:
1) GYC was birthed and is sponsored by Michigan Conference Public Campus Ministries department, whose offices serve as the current headquarters of GYC.
2) GYC’s board of directors include trained professionals and qualified individuals who command respect among the youth for their leadership skills, their commitment to the SDA church and to the ideals and mission of the GYC.
3) From time to time, GYC seeks advice from individual denominational youth leaders—past and present—who are known to embrace the vision of GYC.
4) It has always been GYC’s desire to work in harmony with church leaders. A recent indication of this occurred on March 30, 2005, when GYC leadership, at its own initiative, met with the North American Division youth leadership to explain in a detailed 21-page document how GYC operates and to solicit counsel from the NAD youth leadership. GYC continues to be open to wise guidance from the NAD youth leadership.
5) At the suggestion of the NAD Youth Director, the GYC leadership has invited a current Conference youth director to attend all GYC Board of Directors’ meetings to give counsel;
6) GYC does not support any youth movement in NAD or overseas that does not uphold Point #9 of The Spirit of GYC, namely: “A commitment to the Seventh-day Adventist Church as God’s remnant church—by supporting and upholding its principles, organization, and leadership.”
7) The speakers who are invited to participate at GYC meetings are all individuals who are known to be bona fide Seventh-day Adventist church administrators, scholars, and members.
13. Our Future Outlook
Consistent with the desire for energetic evangelism, spiritual and professional excellence, and individual Christ-like sacrifice, GYC aspires to accomplish the following in the next five years:
· To be active partners in the General Conference Evangelism initiative “Tell It to the World” and the “Elijah Project,” the initiative for youth evangelism;
· To continue to work closely with Eld. Mark Finley, GC Vice President for Evangelism, in the training of young people for evangelism;
· To establish GYC chapters
o on Seventh-day Adventist and public university and college campuses, and
o in the North American Division (NAD), along the denomination’s Union boundaries;
· To develop electronically-available resources for young people;
· To encourage young people to assume leadership responsibilities in both local church and professional settings;
· To stimulate young people to become actively involved in evangelism, missions, and service; and
· To continue being financially self-sufficient in its operations, and to encourage young people to sacrificially support the mission of the world church.
14. Our Relationship with Youth Ministries Overseas
With the rapid growth and enthusiastic support of the GYC in North America, several young people in overseas countries—notably Australia, Europe, New Zealand, and Asia—have come to embrace GYC's ideals and mission. Much of this has occurred by virtue of GYC's website, 3ABN's airing of GYC's programs abroad, and internet communication between youth who have been impacted by GYC and their friends overseas. Many of these young people outside North America seek to start similar youth movements in their parts of the world.
Because GYC is a movement based in the United States, it has not established chapters or organized any meetings overseas. (It has only responded to inquiries, requests, or invitations from locally initiated youth groups or youth conferences overseas.) Should it be deemed necessary in the future for GYC to establish chapters outside North America, GYC will work with the Division Administration to establish such chapters.
As increasing numbers of godly young people begin to take ownership of youth programs and activities in different parts of the world, and as they seek to be biblically challenged, spiritually edified, and mission-driven, it is inevitable that some groups will seek to duplicate the ideals of GYC. When this happens, GYC will support, cooperate, or even affiliate or establish ties with these grassroots youth movements around the world, provided these overseas groups:
· are youth initiated and led by the young people themselves;
· work closely with their local church and/or invite some church leaders in their field to sit on their boards;
· specifically request guidance or assistance from GYC;
· embrace all points in The Spirit of GYC statement; and
· invite to their meetings only speakers who are known to be bona fide Seventh-day Adventists.
While establishing close ties with grassroots youth movements and ministries overseas, GYC will under no circumstances encourage or support any local youth movement in the North American Division or in an overseas field if that youth group is not committed to the Seventh-day Adventist Church as God's remnant church by embracing or upholding its principles, organization, and leadership.
15. Our Invitation to Denominational Youth Leaders
To facilitate a better understanding and good working relationship between GYC and the church’s denominational youth leaders, GYC will:
· Continue to welcome timely counsel from any denominational youth leader.
· Where finances are available, waive registration fees and provide room and board to all denominational youth leaders who are willing to attend GYC meetings.
We believe that such an open communication between GYC and denominational youth leadership, together with their attendance of GYC meetings and events, will offer excellent opportunity for dialogue and understanding.
16. A Summary
This “GYC Statement of Clarification” has highlighted the following important facts:
17. Our Appreciation
We greatly appreciate the gracious invitation from the Youth Director of the World Church for us to submit this “Statement of Clarification,” and his promise to pass it on to all the division leaders. We take this opportunity to invite him to personally attend this year’s GYC meeting in Baltimore, Maryland (December 27-31, 2006), and to say a few words of encouragement to some 5,000 of his young people. His presence will be the greatest statement of support from denominational youth leadership to the youth of GYC.
[This “GYC Statement of Clarification” was submitted to Eld. Baraka Muganda, Youth Director of our World Church, on May 3, 2006, with a request that it be disseminated among youth and church leaders]