by Brian Romero
“We must do even better in tapping into women’s strength, women’s industry, and women’s wisdom.” – Michelle Bachelet
So often young people hear the age old phrase from our Christian predecessors- “you are the church of tomorrow”. But from February 19th to the 26th I found myself among nine other young adults who like myself disagreed with that. We instead believe what The Most Rev. Katherine Jefferts Schori, Presiding Bishop of the Episcopal Church said to us, “we are the church of today”. This was never more evident to my new friends and I then during our visit to the United Nations Commission on the Status of Women, an annual conference held by the oldest commission of the Economic and Social Council of the UN. With delegates from the Dioceses of Minnesota, Northern California, Tennessee, Louisiana, Idaho, Massachusetts, New Jersey, Connecticut, Los Angeles and last but definitely not least Long Island (myself) the Episcopal Church was represented among many other non-governmental organizations that fight for gender equality.
During our time at the UN and the Episcopal Church Center (815) many of us learned a lot about the structure of our church and its various initiatives in social justice and human rights issues. Advocacy and theology combined in a new way of evangelism for some of us and for others we were educated on the many issues presented by the oppression of women. For the newcomers (myself included) we learned the effect that gender inequality had on the prolonged achievement of the Millennium Development Goals, women’s health and reproductive rights, international peace, education for women and girls, the competiveness of our nation etc. At the NGO orientation of Ecumenical Women, a network of NGO’s which support gender equality, Michelle Bachelet, former President of Chile and now Under-Secretary-General and Executive Director of the newly launched UN Women, spoke about the importance of universal gender equality and the many initiatives the new entity would engage in.
The Episcopal Young Adult Delegation (EYAD) was convened by Jason Sierra, Officer of Young Adult and Campus Ministries of the Episcopal Church Center and P’tricia Egbert. By attending parallel events, side events, caucus meetings, mission briefings and engaging in constant prayer and dialogue with fellow Christians from all kinds of denominations and parts of the world many of us left with similar messages. While we know the church is changing and that new innovative ways of spreading the word of God are being discussed, we must do all we can to continue to defend those who are treated unequally in our many societies and cultures. Women all over the world need to be granted equal rights in the workplace, encouraged to pursue education in science, technology, engineering and mathematics (STEM), ceased from being victims of violence and put in higher positions of leadership and decision making in all social institutions. The Church must continue to be an advocate for those who cannot advocate for themselves and young adults need to be involved in the interreligious and ecumenical dialogue if we are to continue it in the future. My sincere gratitude is extended to Bishop Provenzano for both his financial and spiritual aid during this very important life changing experience.
The Episcopal Young Adult Delegation with The Most Rev. Katherine Jefferts Schori, Presiding Bishop of the Episcopal Church and Conveners Jason Sierra and P’tricia Egbert