In 2018, General Convention passed resolution C014, which recognized that "clergy and adults who work with youth are often on the frontlines of suicide prevention" and resolved that "the institutions and diocesan programs that educate Priest and Deacons be encouraged to offer four (4) hours of suicide prevention education, using evidence-based trainings, for its students, and that dioceses offer similar suicide prevention training for their clergy and adults who work with youth." In addition, the resolution continued, "that the General Convention urge local congregations to call on state and federal leaders to develop and implement strategies to increase access to quality mental health, substance abuse, and suicide prevention services." The resolution was assigned to for implementation to the Department of Faith Formation along with the budget line item of $75,000, which was allocated for the triennium.
In September 2019, leaders in the identified program areas were convened for a day-long "Summit" in Denver Colorado to begin the process of developing suicide education resources and trainings. As an immediate first step, several resources were identified as helpful and relevant. These are listed below, organized by categories created during the Summit:
- Crisis Text Line, 741741
- Colorado Office of Suicide Prevention, 303-692-2369
- Suicide Prevention Lifeline, 800-273-8255
Resources for High Risk Groups
- Trevor Project
- The Reformation Project
- Lost n Found Youth
- Igniting the Warrior Spirit
- Four Corners Warrior Spirit Conference
- Suicide Prevention Resource Center
- Sweet Grass Program
Faith Based Resources
- Episcopal Health Foundation
- Stephen Ministry Training
- Episcopal Church Foundation
- Confirm not Conform
- Mental Health Ministries
- Soul Shop
- Suicide Prevention Ministry
- Hope & Healing Center & Institute
Training & Advocacy Resources
- Peer Ministry Trainings
- Youth Minister Health First Aid book
- Safe Space Training
- Connect Program
- Living Compass
- Talk Saves Lives (American Foundation for Suicide Prevention)
- Living Works
- Thrive NYC
- Critical Incident Stress Management
- Bystander Intervention Training
- Trans 101 Training
- Episcopal Public Policy Network
- More Than Sad
- Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration
- Thistle Farms
- Alcoholic Anonymous/Al-Anon
- Epic Intentions
- Recovery Ministries
- First Nations Youth Suicide Prevention
- Time to Talk Liturgical Resources
- NBC Today Show mental health segment
- Brené Brown
- JED Foundation
- Half of Us
- Crisis Chat
- CDC suicide facts & figures
Related General Convention resolutions
- 2009-D011: Reaffirm the Principles with Regard to the Prolongation of Life
- 2000-A069: Authorize Additions to Supplemental Liturgical Materials
- 2000-D008: Adopt Diocesan Resolution on Suicide Prevention
- 1997-C013: Request Study of Theological Implications of End of Life Issues
- 1994-A056: Amend General Convention Principles on the Prolongation of Life
The canonical definition of adult in The Episcopal Church who has voice and vote at a parish meeting is a Communicant in Good Standing at least 16 years old. These people are also eligible to run for Convention Delegate (in most dioceses) and as General Convention Deputy.
These are the functioning definitions used by the Department of Faith Formation for The Episcopal Church (meaning they are not canonical, just our functional definition):
- 12 to 18 years old
- still eligible to be enrolled in high school
- considered to be a minor legally
- Church-wide events and gatherings typically are for minimum age of 15 or 16 depending on the event due to travel
- 18 to 30 years old
- no longer eligible to be enrolled in high school
- legally considered an adult (mostly)
- target constituents for Young Adult and Campus Ministry initiatives
The are many ways in which the Church subdivides this group for legal and safety reasons. Youth Ministries requires adult leaders with responsibilities for minors to be a minimum of 25 years old. We do allow some exceptions for 21-24 year olds when specifically supervised by another adult of the preferred age range with experience. But many hotels and auto rental companies will not conduct transactions with folks less than 25 years old.
Some of our programs are different age ranges due to the specific content of the program. For instance, most of our Province IX dioceses are located in cultures that do not recognize “young adult” as any different than youth. But for them “youth” is equivalent to 16 to 26-ish. Thus we have adjusted the participant age range for the upcoming Evento de Jóvenes Episcopales accordingly.
The Episcopal Church's Constitutions and Canons have some specific details. Click here to view them. Notice, in particular, Canon 17: Of Regulations Respecting the Laity. There are also sections for Vestries and Bishop’s Committees as well as for Diocesan level leadership. There are stipulations regarding compliance with state and federal statutes and the fiduciary responsibilities required of vestries often are aired as the clause which prevents elected leadership younger than 18. In many states you can simply record the legal minor as being recused from any votes on business transactions to be in compliance with state law.
Additionally, it is important that you consult a diocesan chancellor to be certain of local legalities.
Questions? Email Bronwyn Clark Skov, Director of the Department of Faith Formation.
General Convention ended on July 13th, the Official Youth Presence (GCOYP) left on the 12th. My mother, a deputy, kept me in Austin for the extra day, so I had the honor of being the only youth in the entire Official Youth Presence section of the House of Deputies. It was odd to be in a place so empty in a room so full.
I joined the GCOYP because of a passion for government, but I have left with a passion for God like I have never experienced before. To witness the whole church in action was a truly awe-inspiring thing. From worship services to legislative sessions, I could see God working through all of us. My faith was revived. Not only that, but I finally felt I understood my church. I now know our stance on issues I had never even before considered. I know how our governance works. I know our shared history. I have managed to double the amount of Presiding Bishop Michael Curry sermons I have heard, and am eternally astonished at his ability to stay engaging even when he speaks for twice as long as usual.
I can honestly say that the myriad new experiences that made up GCOYP have changed my life forever. Some are simple: Speaking before a committee, listening to Spanish, watching as history is shaped. Others are less concrete: Spending almost the entirety of the last ten days with the exact same group of people. I will admit, I am not the most social human being. It can take an eternity for me to be comfortable around others. But somehow, every single person in this group is someone I am happy to have shared this time with. Without them, this experience would not have been as transformative as it was. I don’t know who selects GCOYP members, but they did an extraordinary job.
General Convention taught me that youth can have a voice, that my age does not mean I have no influence on the world. It taught me that working through an entire day is not impossible and that the result is worth the work. I learned that I can do more than I thought. I learned that there are many amazing youth in the Episcopal Church ready to be leaders. I learned that three years from now I should plan to be in Baltimore because I will certainly be doing this all again, long after I have grown from youth to adult.
Written by Claire Parish.
General Convention can be intimidating. On our first day on the floor, the Official Youth Presence filed into our seats in the back of the House. We looked out on hundreds of people, and tables set up within an impossibly large room. We sat stiffly in our chairs, listening as carefully as we could to the discussion before the floor (this was during orientation so discussion largely revolved around the proper ways to use iPads). I scanned the crowd for my diocesan deputation, which turned out to be across the room, what seemed like a mile away.
As days have gone on, however, the House of Deputies has become a second home to the GCOYP and other deputies. I know there have been days where I spend more time on the House floor than in my hotel room. It is not just the time spent in the House that alters perceptions, however. It is also the various uniquenesses that bring life to a room that is naturally all grey: grey walls, grey floor, and a grey ceiling covered with cold metal pipes.
The first uniqueness I noticed was the decorations that have appeared on top of the pillars that mark each deputation; they add personality to each area. Some wonderful person even left a couple of stuffed animals and other decorations so that the GCOYP could join in. As the days continue, gifts continuously appear on our tables. From stress balls to candies, each gift brings with it a little bit of brightness to start our day.
People also bring new life to this place. Although strict regulation is necessary to allow debate in such a large body of government, Robert’s Rules of Order can seem stifling as the the the hours pass. My first recollection of laughter in the House started with a vote. As the results were revealed two pigeons flew across the room. After so dramatically making their presence known, one of the pigeons seems to have fully accepted its role as the comic relief of General Convention. At one point it even landed at a microphone, seemingly doing its best to offer its opinion on the issue before a Convention.
Humans do quite a good job bringing life into the room. The camera, which I assume is operated by a human being, has developed an entertaining ability to identify and zoom in on interesting events, from the aforementioned pigeon to notes held up by youth, sending laughter throughout the house. One of the most impactful of actions by the House occurred after the vote electing the president of the House of Deputies. Despite the rules, the house gave a standing ovation in response to the result: the re-election of the Rev. Gay Jennings as President of the House of Deputies.
On July 9, the Official Youth Presence was given an opportunity to contribute our own bit of life to the house. President Gay Jennings invited us forward, and we were able to stand at the front while one of us addressed the house. To stand before the House was an exhilarating experience, and I hope through we were able to do our part to bring life and interest to the House of Deputies. I know that, when I stood there after my peer’s speech (read her speech here), I felt honored and acknowledged by the deputies and the audience. It gave me confidence that the voice of youth is heard and will be heard.
It has been an honor to be part of the House of Deputies and to bring my own uniqueness and my own life into this room. As General Convention continues, I have hope that all youth will grow in the role that they play in this church, and will be given many chances to use their own lives to challenge and revitalize the church of today.
Written by Claire Parish.
Buenas tardes. Mi nombre es Maria Gonzalez, soy de la diócesis de Olympia, y estoy aquí con la presencia oficial de jóvenes. Gracias por permitirme hablar delante de ustedes hoy.
My name is Maria Gonzalez. I am sixteen years old. I am the daughter of a Pennsylvanian. I am also the daughter of a Mexican immigrant. My experiences as a Mexican-American female in the United States have played a prominent role in shaping my world view and my beliefs. However, I would argue that my experiences as an Episcopalian have been even more influential. As I have grown up at St. Mary’s, in the Diocese of Olympia, I have learned what it means to strive for justice and peace, respect the dignity of every human being, and love your neighbor as yourself. But as I look at our world today, it’s obvious that we suffer from a lack of love.
This is apparent in racism, homophobia, sexism, and xenophobia. It can also be seen through war and poverty, but I think this lack of love is most clearly seen in the human rights abuses that occur daily throughout our world. These abuses come in a multitude of forms: in Colorado, a couple is unable to purchase a wedding cake because they are members of the LGBTQ+ community; in Nigeria, girls continue to be kidnapped by Boko Haram; in the Middle East, there are more than 7 million Palestinian refugees and the Israeli-Palestinian conflict remains unresolved; at the Mexico-U.S. border, migrant children who were separated from their families still have not been reunited with their parents.
So how do we, as Episcopalians, make things better? How do we teach love? It starts with making an effort to show that the Episcopal Church truly welcomes and supports all people, especially women, youth, minorities, and members of the LGBTQ+ community. Inclusivity is key; we must expand the language of liturgy so that it encompasses all people. We must continue to fund youth and young adult programs. We also have to make gender parity in church leadership more than a goal—it must become a reality.
The Episcopal Church has amazing ministries through which we have the ability to change the world for good. But change never comes from compliancy. I dream of a church that is not afraid of being a little bit controversial—controversial in that it stands for what is right instead of what is easy. This means questioning decisions made in Washington D.C. that lack love and compassion. It means using the Office of Government Relations and the Episcopal Public Policy Network to make our voices heard. Instead of scrambling to maintain ground on issues, we must try new methods; we must aim to make headway with the current administration so that we really do shape and influence policy on critical issues.
We must also remember to treat all people with the dignity they deserve, even when others neglect to do so. We are servants of God—Jesus’s hands and feet in the world. We are called to lift up the last, the lost, and the least, wherever they may be. We are called to serve one another humbly in love. As such, it is imperative that the Episcopal Church continues to provide opportunities for domestic and international outreach, and expands the mandates of Episcopal Migration Ministries, Global Partnerships, and Episcopal Relief and Development.
I know that none of this will be easy. To be perfectly honest, the world that we live in today scares me because it is filled with uncertainty. But I have faith in God, and tremendous faith in humanity. I have been incredibly fortunate to grow up in a church where the power of love is always recognized. I have also been fortunate to learn that the Christian conceptualization of love is something that is truly special; our love is rooted in the teachings of Jesus Christ: it is a love that bears all things, believes all things, hopes all things, and endures all things. It is a love that never ends.
Please, do not forget the call to walk in love, because it is only through loving and through being loved that we can teach others what love is. It is only through love that we can hope to live in unity and harmony as God intended.
Finalmente, mientras nos esforzamos por mejorar este mundo, por favor, recuerde incluir a los jóvenes. Soy parte de una generación apasionada. Tenemos ojos ávidos y fuego en nuestros corazones. Podríamos ser los futuros líderes de la iglesia, y posiblemente del mundo, pero también somos líderes ahora, y estamos aquí para ayudar.
Finally, as we strive to make this world a better place, please remember to include youth. I am part of an impassioned generation. We have eager eyes and fire in our hearts. We may be the future leaders of the church, and even of the world, but we are also leaders today, and we are here to help. Thank you.
Maria presented this witness on behalf of the GCOYP in both the House of Deputies and the House of Bishops.
Youth can be a disruption. I am sure most would agree. As a youth myself, I have accepted this fate. Deputies, bishops, and various other General Convention attendees surely can attest to this fact. As Convention continues these people will most likely encounter a sudden gaggle of teenagers, wearing the red name tags of deputies and rushing through hallways alongside other General Convention attendees with shouts of “OYP” following us as our wranglers attempt to keep us together. We are accompanied by muffled reminders of “situational awareness”, to stay on one side, avoid blocking elevators, escalators, and entrances, be a little quieter. The unfortunate truth, however, is that we cannot avoid being a disruption.
By now you may be wondering why seventeen teenagers are traveling through General Convention in the first place. What, exactly, does that shout of OYP stand for?
The letters OYP are actually an abbreviation of GCOYP which, in turn, stands for the General Convention Official Youth Presence. We are one of the many official disruptions in the organized chaos that is General Convention.
Prior to General Convention youth from around the world apply to be part of GCOYP, and two from each province are selected. GCOYP is given seat and voice in the House of Deputies, as well as the opportunity to be immersed in General Convention. When the House is in session we can be found listening, and sometimes speaking, on the floor of the House of Deputies; when out of session we remain involved by visiting legislative committees, joint sessions, and various other events.
While we are able to speak on the floor of the House of Deputies, it is important to note that GCOYP members are not deputies. We are not delegates. We are a presence. We are here at General Convention to be present, a simple privilege that holds a great weight.
By inviting youth to be present in the House of Deputies and throughout General Convention, a disruption has been invited as well. However, these youth are not only a disruption because a group of seventeen is hard to move. GCOYP also has the potential to disrupt General Convention in an ideological way. We are here to provide a young voice, a new perspective. New perspectives can often be the greatest disruptions, but this does not mean they cannot bring great benefits.
Few organizations would know this better than the church, which began with one great disruption, the Jesus Movement. So although we may be slightly irritating when we are present in the middle of a hallway, I hope all will see the importance of this presence during General Convention. And I hope you will accept the disruption the words of youth may bring to your thoughts and your hearts, not only during the 79th General Convention but also for many years to come.
Written by Claire Parish
On Friday July 6 General Convention experienced the first of several joint sessions between the house of bishops and house of deputies. The screens at the front of the house, however, made no mention of joint sessions- instead they were emblazoned with the word “TEConversations.” Immediately my mind went back to a meeting GCOYP had with the Presiding Bishop earlier this week. He had mentioned events patterned off TED talks, where various speakers could engage us in conversations about issues facing the church and the world today, but it was hard for me to imagine how these events would fit into the process of General Convention. Once I learned joint sessions were TEConversations in disguise, I soon realized that they were in a position to be one of the most interesting and engaging portions of General Convention. The one we attended on the sixth discussed racial reconciliation. Speakers ranged from an ex-neo-nazi to a dreamer who crossed the border to the US at seven years old. Many of these speeches followed the example of TED talks, with speakers talking about their experience for a few minutes. There was enough variation to keep people engaged, however, with a video shown and a poem read to the audience. As someone who has always enjoyed TED talks, I greatly appreciated the opportunity to listen to so many impactful speakers.
There was another part of this session, however, that made me think it was more than copyright issues that changed the word “Talk” to the word “Conversations”. At a talk, you are merely talked at. This is not a bad thing, one only needs to look at the popularity of ted talks to understand that; however, this was not all that occurred that Friday morning. Something more was added to the format: a conversation. For the last half hour, we were invited to talk with the people around us. During this first TEConversation we discussed racial reconciliation; we were given an opportunity to share our reaction to what we heard. We were able to consider with each other how we might affect racial reconciliation as an individual and how the church can further support reconciliation in the coming years.
This conversation was especially impactful for two reasons. First of all, it allowed for those who were not deputies or bishops, the onlookers at the side of the house, to speak among themselves and participate as wholly as those on the floor were able to. Secondly, an atmosphere was evoked that was far different than when I normally spoke about what the church can do for racial reconciliation. I have participated in similar activities before and had that same conversation quite a few times. This time, however, it felt like a real change was being created, not just a change in myself but also a change in the church. We talked on the floor of the house of deputies, where the government of the church is discussed and decided. Suddenly, my words seemed to carry a little more weight, compared to when I mentioned how the church should support racial reconciliation back home. Realistically, words to my youth group in Michigan are far less likely to effect change compared to the words of hundreds of deputies in conversation at General Convention.
I began the second TEConversation with anticipation. This time, the GCOYP was told to sit with our deputations instead of talking amongst ourselves. This only served to improve my experience; many of the youth afterward spoke of how they had felt acknowledged and listened to during the session, and felt as if they had been able to communicate with the voting members of the house of deputies. Although the second session discussed Evangelism, a topic I have much less interest in compared to Racial Reconciliation, I found myself still completely engaged during the talks and the discussion. As I watched various people, from alternates to observers to deputations to bishops, join together in conversation, it seemed as if a small amount of history had been placed before my eyes. The moment and the event was truly awe-inspiring. It felt like I was participating in a true conversation across the Episcopal church; a conversation where people not only talked but also listened.
Written by Claire Parish
The 16 members of the Episcopal Church General Convention Official Youth Presence at the 79th General Convention have been announced.
The General Convention Official Youth Presence was established by an initial resolution in 1982. Members of the Official Youth Presence are permitted seat and voice by the rules of the House of Deputies and will participate in committee hearings and floor debates.
“Each convention since 1997, the Official Youth Presence has had the privilege of seat and voice in the House of Deputies,” House of Deputies President Gay Clark Jennings said. “Our legislative deliberations and debates are enlivened and enriched by these impressive young people, and I look forward to welcoming this year’s participants to our house. I am especially grateful to House of Deputies Vice President Byron Rushing and Deputy Ariana Gonzalez Bonillas of Arizona for their work in helping to select the young people who will be with us in Austin.”
“Members of the Official Youth Presence will participate in a General Convention orientation and training April 5-8 in Austin to ensure they are ready for General Convention when they arrive in Texas on July 2,” noted Bronwyn Clark Skov, Episcopal Church Director for Formation, Youth and Young Adult Ministries. “These young people will participate in every aspect of General Convention, from committee meetings to legislative deliberations on the floor of the House of Deputies, where they are granted both seat and voice.”
The following youth will be serving as the 2018 Official Youth Presence at General Convention.
- Georgia Atkinson, Episcopal Church of New Hampshire
- James-Paul Forbes, Episcopal Church in Connecticut
- Anthony Baldeosingh, Diocese of Long Island
- Wentao Zhao, Diocese of Long Island
- Alexander Ward, Diocese of West Virginia
- Andrew K. Kasule, Diocese of Washington
- Justin Mullis, Diocese of North Carolina
- Helena Upshaw, Episcopal Church in South Carolina
- Claire Parish, Diocese of Western Michigan
- Alexander Koponen, Diocese of Indianapolis
- Emily Jetton, Diocese of Iowa
- Luisa Van Oss, Episcopal Church in Minnesota
- Michaela Wilkins, Diocese of Texas
- Cecelia Riddle, Diocese of Kansas
- Angela Cainguitan, Diocese of Hawaii
- Maria Gonzalez, Diocese of Olympia
Province IX is currently discerning participants.
Adult mentors for the Official Youth Presence will be:
- Cookie Cantwell, Diocese of East Carolina, Province IV
- The Rev. Randy Callender, Diocese of Maryland, Province III
- Karen Schlabach, Diocese of Kansas, Province VII
- The Rev. Israel Portilla Gomez, Diocese of Colombia, Province IX
- The Rev. Vincent Black, Diocese of Ohio, Province V, serving as chaplain
Joining Skov are Episcopal Church staff members Wendy Johnson, Officer for Digital Formation and Events, and Valerie Harris, Associate for the Formation Department.
The Formation Department received 107 applications from youth in dioceses across the Episcopal Church. Applications were reviewed by a committee that included House of Deputies Vice-President Byron Rushing of Massachusetts, Deputy Ariana Gonzalez Bonillas of Arizona, members of the Youth Ministry Network Leadership Council and the Formation Department staff.
For more information contact Skov
The Episcopal Church’s General Convention is held every three years to consider the legislative business of the church. General Convention is the bicameral governing body of the Church, comprised of the House of Bishops, with upwards of 200 active and retired bishops, and the House of Deputies, with clergy and lay deputies elected from the 109 dioceses and three regional areas of the Church, at more than 800 members. Between Conventions, the General Convention continues to work through its committees and commissions. The Executive Council of the Episcopal Church carries out the programs and policies adopted by General Convention.