Engage 2016: A Multiethnic Gathering—Why You Should Be There

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This summer from June 8-10 I plan to attend “Engage 2016: A Multiethnic Gathering” hosted by the CRCNA and located on the campus of Calvin College in Grand Rapids, Michigan. One could argue that I have a special interest for attending: I am the Executive Associate to the President for Diversity and Inclusion at Calvin College; I am the associate pastor at Angel Community Church, an emerging African-American unity church; and I had the pleasure of chairing the 2014 Multiethnic Conference planning committee. Yes, you could say I have a special interest in attending, but there is more to my reasoning to attend and why I am encouraging everyone within our denomination with a passion for racial reconciliation, social justice, and intercultural competency to attend. Notice that I said everyone and not just people of color or underrepresented ethnic groups within the CRCNA—this was intentional because this conference is for everyone.

In addition to two great keynote speakers at the gathering—Christena Cleveland, author of Disunity in Christ: Uncovering the Hidden Forces that Keep Us Apart, and Anthony Carter, author of Blood Work: How the Blood of Christ Accomplishes our Salvation—there will be workshops that will inspire, equip, and challenge participants to engage one another, the church, and our communities in this work.

But even more important, everyone within our denomination with a passion for racial reconciliation, social justice, and intercultural competency (even those with a developing passion or curiosity) should plan to attend Engage 2016 as a faithful response to God’s call to us as a church. The mission statement of the CRCNA reads as follows:  

As people called by God,

We gather to praise God, listen to him, and respond. 

We nurture each other in faith and obedience to Christ. 

We love and care for one another as God's people. 

We commit ourselves to serve and to tell others about Jesus. 

We pursue God's justice and peace in every area of life.

Engage 2016 will be a time of gathering in praise to God for the beauty and diversity of his creation; it will be a time for people of every ethnicity to come together to build each other up; and it will be a time when, together, we learn of the barriers and pathways to justice and peace. Romans 12:18 instructs believers to live at peace with all, so far as it depends on us. Attending this conference promises to increase our capacity to live in peace with others. 

And, finally, members of our denomination should attend Engage 2016 because the racial and ethnic composition of the CRCNA is becoming more racially and ethnically diverse with each passing year. Learning how to respond to, embrace, and leverage this aspect of our being the church together is crucial for the health of our members and our church.

For more details and to register for Engage 2016, click here

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This is a very timely topic. Our country will soon be a place where white folks are a minority. Rather than fearing the change, we need to embrace it. Hopefully, this conference can help us. What is missing in my mind is a space for discussion (even one workshop) regarding women, a different kind of diversity. Though women make up a majority of the population, we continue to feel marginalized in our communities, and not only there, but often even more so in our congregations and denominational structures. 

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