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Dutch church council looks to youth for advice

Young adults dubbed "ambassadors for ecumenism" are to scrutinise the work of the Council of Churches in the Netherlands for one year as of September.

The council’s chairperson, Henk van Hout, made the announcement in Utrecht at a 21 June symposium to mark the 40th anniversary of the foundation of the council, the main ecumenical body in the Netherlands. The grouping will also request the "ambassadors" to examine the readiness of their own denominations to work with other churches.

Council leaders said the initiative heralded a shift in focus towards young adults aged between 20 and 35, who, said Van Hout, organise themselves differently from previous generations. "[They think] more in terms of projects than structures," he said. "They communicate with images and impressions rather than with dogmas or abstract concepts."

The council has asked each of its member churches to propose at least one young adult to serve in the ambassadorial role, the council’s general secretary Klaas van der Kamp told Ecumenical News International.

Still, Marloes Keller, one of the speakers at the symposium, said that if the church council wanted to reach out to young adults, it needed to give more attention to new forms of communication.

"Internet users do not think in terms of long meetings, carefully considered vision papers, and formal structures but instead prefer direct personal contact, a quick reaction to topical issues, and informal networks," said Keller, who is the Internet content manager for the Dutch ecumenical broadcaster IKON, and a member the World Council of Churches’ central committee.

The Council of Churches in the Netherlands groups 17 churches and church movements, including the country’s two largest denominations, the Roman Catholic Church and the Protestant Church in the Netherlands.