I’m back!

•September 23, 2007 • Leave a Comment

The summer is over, classes are back in session, and I’m back from a busy summer of getting married.  I hope now that I’m settling back into a routine that I can keep this blog going and continue reflecting on what it means to be multicultural in a methodist context.

This issue is become more and more pertinent for me as there are a few of us at seminary here who are starting to vision about being/doing a church plant in the New England Conference.  We’re still discerning locations, although there is one that we feel more drawn to than the others, primarily because of its multi-ethnic population.  This characteristic was important to us in our initial dreams about this project (though this is coming from four white folks).

Nevertheless, I do envision a multicultural ministry wherever we feel called…though we’ll see what that might entail…

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A Poll

•May 13, 2007 • 2 Comments

A multicultural church: do you have to be intentional about creating that atmosphere (i.e., have it as a core value) in order to have one? Yes or No – and why?

Sixth Americans

•May 12, 2007 • 2 Comments

Michael Emerson in his book People of the Dream: Multiracial Congregations in the United States coins a new term: Sixth American. He draws from David Hollinger’s work, Postethnic America, where he talks about how the how the United States is a racial melting pot.  Emerson writes, “Immigrants come to the United States as ethnics, as people of a particular nationality or region.  But they learn in the United States that for political, social, cultural, and even religions reasons, they are to meld into a racial group.  They are expected to do so, and they garner advantages by doing so” (Emerson, 98-99).  So there are actually 5 different melting pots: Indian/Native American, African American/Black, European American/White, Hispanic/Latino, and Asian American/Asian.  Therefore, Hollinger concludes that there are five different types of Americans and individuals in each group are expected to conform to the cultural norms of that group.  People are expected to socialize with those primarily in their own group, marry within the group, and live in neighborhoods populated with others in their group.

Yet what Emerson uncovered in his research of multiracial congregations in the United States was a group of people that didn’t fit these categories.  They may physically look like one of the five groups mentioned above, but their social network is racially diverse.  If each group above is a melting pot, then “Sixth Americans live in multiple melting pots simultaneously,…not a racially homogenous world with some diversity sprinkled in…[but] a racially diverse world with some homogeneity sprinkled in” (Emerson, 99).  One’s pastor, doctor, lawyer, butcher, teacher, banker, and friends, are more likely to be of different races than one’s own.

I find this an interesting concept.  Of course, our ability to be a Sixth American is limited by our geography…but only to some extent.  Our country is fast becoming more racially mixed and more people are falling into this “Sixth American” group – especially among younger generations.

Being in seminary where I am with its commitment to diversity (age-wise, racially, and somewhat theologically) helps me understand what this Sixth American group is all about.  I value the many relationships I have with people who are from a different racial background than me.  They offer me a different perspective than my own.  It has helped me realize that racial diversity is something valuable and something to be cultivated, especially in our churches.  There is a richness when one is immersed in cultures that are dissimilar from one’s own.

I wonder what a church for Sixth Americans would look like.  How would people worship?  I’d imagine that there would be songs and liturgies from traditions and languages all over the world.  I picture that no one racial group would hold a majority.  Or it might be something else entirely.  I’m interested in hearing feedback about the concept of the Sixth American.  Does this appeal to you?  Are you one?

What does it mean to you?

•May 10, 2007 • 1 Comment

I want to pose this question to everyone: what does multicultural ministry mean to you? Is it a good thing, a bad thing, or neither?

My Story

•May 10, 2007 • Leave a Comment

I grew up in a primarily white suburb of the whitest state in the nation. I attended church in a nearby “city” (well, it was a city to me) and although we had a few Cambodians who worshiped with us and we in the junior choir sang a couple songs in different languages, we had a very Anglo style of worship.

As I began high school and started attending my Annual Conference, I discovered a whole myriad of churches coming out of different racial backgrounds. We celebrated our diversity – we were Hispanic, Black, Korean, and Caucasian. We talked about how wonderful it was that we were all in the same Conference together. But our racial diversity wasn’t reflected in our local churches. In fact, we talked about diversity so often that it began to lose its meaning.

Diversity began to mean something different to me at that time. Diversity meant that it was OK to look different from each other, but it wasn’t OK to have a different theological perspective. Diversity was something for older people only; as a youth I was often overlooked. Diversity meant that it was cute to have the youth paraded about on stage, but nowhere else. That didn’t sit right with me. Diversity was only a racial issue (and maybe a gender issue). I remember elections for the 2004 General/Jurisdictional Conference.  A few people would be elected, and then we would have a slew of speeches on the Conference floor saying (essentially): “We have two African-American men elected, but no Asian women” or “We have a white woman already, but no African-American women.”  It was not about generational diversity. It was not about theological diversity.

Several years later, I don’t believe things have changed much, and I think the issue goes a lot deeper. It’s hard to talk as an Annual Conference about being diverse and being multicultural if the local churches are primarily homogeneous culturally – all the same age, largely the same race, and all holding (mostly) a similar theological perspective. We can’t truly be multicultural if (1) we don’t know what being multicultural means and (2) we don’t have multicultural churches.

The world is becoming rapidly more diverse racially and globalization is a part of our daily lives. We have entered a post-modern, post-Christian culture, and the church doesn’t yet know how to handle it. I believe that multicultural churches are part of the future for United Methodism, perhaps the future. However, I don’t see many people talking about multicultural ministry, and consequently, I don’t see many multicultural churches.

I know they must be out there. Somewhere.

It is my hope that this blog will be a place for those engaged in multicultural ministry and those who wish to learn more about it to come together for conversation about pertinent issues related to multicultural ministry. I hope that this will be a place for sharing stories, resources, requests for prayer — keeping in mind that we all come from different backgrounds and bring many different gifts to the table.

Please e-mail me or leave a comment if you wish to join in the conversation and post your thoughts and experiences. I’m looking forward to learning from all of you!