The following is a letter was written by an adult chaperone the day she returned from Youth Gathering. She is not a member of my congregation, but the letter was shared with me by her pastor (and with her permission). I did not include her signature (as I did not ask if I could share her letter in this forum, but I thought it would inform our discussion).
Dear Church Council and Pastors,
I want to share my thoughts with you as a parent and chaperone on the recent trip to New Orleans.
First of all, I have to say that I love our kids! I spent a week with wonderful children, full of energy and enthusiasm and hunger for giving of themselves. Out of the whole experience the overwhelming majority of them lifted up the service project as their favorite part of the trip.
On Thursday, we worshiped with our Synod in the morning and then spent the afternoon learning about discipleship and doing a scavenger hunt to find places or items that would represent the 7 faith practices: Prayer, Worship, Evangelism, Study, Giving, Encouraging, and Serving. These were positive experiences where the Bible was lifted up.
Most of the kids' favorite speaker at the dome was Nadia. I agree with them. Her message was theologically very solid. Aside from a slam to the parents who were concerned prior to the youth gathering, she was entertaining and had a great message.
Unfortunately, I have very little more that is positive to say about the gathering. I am alarmed at the direction in which the national church is moving.
a. The Bibles that the kids received have microscopically small font. They are portable but not usable.
b. There was no Biblical foundation for devotions. Zero. No verse to be found. Highs and lows, excerpts from speakers at the dome and prayer were they only aspects of "Final 15".
c. At every level, at the mass events in the dome, there was a reference to homosexuality. Every speaker, every skit. Frequently this was tied to anti-bullying.
d.. There were frequent anti-American references and more than one pro-Occupy Wall Street reference. Other political themes had to do with immigration-reform, anti-war, social justice.
e.. Half of the songs were secular.
f. Gandhi's quote, "Be the change you want to see in the world" was more emphasized than any Bible verse - even the theme verse from Ephesians took 2nd place to Gandhi. Seriously. 4 varieties of the quote were available to purchase as t-shirts.
g. On the service day the video about justice told our kids that justice means "doing what is in your heart that you know is right." Secular Humanism another frequent theme of the gathering.
I found myself dreading the dome experience. What kind of emotional manipulation with horrible theology would we be exposing our kids to tonight? There was a very clear open agenda that the national synod is using to indoctrinate the youth. I just wish it was using a Biblical foundation and not a political and social one.
I don't want my year old to miss out on the fun of a large youth group experience, but my husband and I will not be sending her to the Gathering in Detroit in 2015. Nor will I ever attend another ELCA gathering.
Please let me know if you would like to see any of my notes from the gathering, or if you would like to talk to me and the other adult leaders. I am not the only one that was horrified.