The number of female and youth attendants to the World Alliance of Reformed Churches’ General Council increased by more than ten percent collectively, the council reported on August 8. However, the statistics still fall short of the proposed increase of female and youth participation.
The WARC General Council, which meets once every 7 years, proposed a target delegation of 50 percent women and 15 percent youth during their 12th Council 15 years ago in Seoul, Korea.
This year’s figures from the Accra, Ghana council shows delegates to be 43 percent women – up 34 percent from the last general council in Debrecen, Hungary in 1997 – and twelve percent youth – up from eight percent in Debrecen.
Despite this growth, the delegates in Accra are still most likely to be ‘male, ordained and middle-aged,’ according to statistics. Ordained men alone outnumber all women delegates, but laymen are scarce; over 70 percent of male delegates are ordained. About a third of each region’s women delegates are ordained, except in the Caribbean where two thirds of female delegates are ordained and North America where over three quarters of women delegates are ordained.
Members at Accra explained that most likely, the reason for the lack of female delegates is due to the financial plight of many member churches. Often, “cash-strapped” churches may not even be able to send even one delegate to the Council, and if one is chosen, the church prefers to send a male leader.
In terms of youth, Churches in Europe are more likely to send delegates under the age of 30 to represent their congregations than other regions; one in five are of the ‘youth’ category. The other regions selected only 10 percent of their delegates from youth.
The youngest delegate is 16 years old – from Indonesia. The oldest is 75 – from Portugal. Overall, there were 390 delegates at the Accra Council, representing 163 churches of the 218 member Alliance.