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!