Increasing Diversity - Bottom Up or Top Down?

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In one of my pre-synod blogs I asked, “Does the recommendation of the Board of Trustees about future hires of the CRC’s senior leadership ensure greater diversity or does it set us up for another failure? Now that synod has adopted that recommendation, the same question can be asked.

Synod 2005 reviewed the practice of appointing ethnic advisers and encouraged classes:

a.  “to include at least one ethnic minority person in its synodical delegation beginning with Synod 2006.”

b.  “to develop a strategy to intentionally incorporate ethnic minorities into the life and government of the local church and   broader assemblies and submit their plan to the BOT by March 15, 2007 (Acts of Synod 2005, p. 748 & 755).

Synod also instructed “the Board of Trustees…to report in the annual Agenda for Synod, and to make recommendations if necessary, on the denomination’s progress in attaining its goal of at least one ethnic minority synodical delegate from each classis… (Acts of Synod 2005, p. 756).

The Board of Trustees has never reported on our progress or lack of progress in this area and has never offered recommendations for improvement. Our Race Relations office has never reminded our classes about this goal as classes gather to elect their synodical delegates.

If the recommendations of Synod 2011 regarding diversity are going to make a difference in our life together, our denominational offices must hold these recommendations before the churches and remind us that we have set a goal for which we are to strive.

But churches and classes must also be active in identifying, incorporating and training ethnic minorities who are new to our denomination. As far as I know, the Board of Trustees did not remind classes to submit their plans to “intentionally incorporate ethnic minorities into the life and government of the local church and broader assemblies…” But each classis had four delegates at Synod 2005. Each classis knew what synod had decided, and yet very little action resulted from those decisions. In fact, I recently talked to a stated clerk (secretary) of a classis who said he had never heard of the 2005 decisions.

This year, as is true every year, our Executive Director will send a letter to all church councils highlighting the decisions of synod. And this year, as is true every year, those decisions will be forgotten unless we are determined to practice what synod has preached.

To increase the participation of ethnic minorities at the synodical table and in leadership positions our leadership at every level – council, classis, synod, denominational offices – must demonstrate that this is an important value to be pursued, not merely a synodical decision to insert into our official record. 

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In Classis Yellowstone we are blessed with an interesting combination. Whereas Montana is something like 97.8% Caucasian, we have Utah- primarily the Salt Lake region that is overflowing with a highly diverse "spectrum of color."

Most recently one of our member churches, Cambodian CRC now called West Valley CRC, underwent a significant change.  The first part of that change was precipitated by a "hate crime;" some hooligans burned down a building the Cambodians were restoring to become their church.  Then through an outpouring of love and grace, God enabled many volunteers from all over the continent to co-opt with the church members and rebuild that church into a functionally beautiful structure for worship and ministry.  On Sunday, June 19, a celebratory service will take place to dedicate that facility. Praise God for this event- yes, even the fire.

Not only did the fire enable a "re-structure" of the building, but the members- those original Cambodians, underwent a transformation too.  On June 19, West Valley is opening its doors officially to all ethnic groups. While that may have been the unspoken rule before, the congregation is attempting to intentionally "re-structure" its cultural make up.  This will not come without a paradigm shift on the part of its members- but God's "grace" will enable them and see them through.

Not only did a church in the Classis undergo a change, but so did a regional seminary- Salt Lake Theological Seminary.  SLTS was the offspring of 1st Salt Lake CRC Christian Education movement, and financial and prayer support of Classis Yellowstone.   When 1st Salt Lake CRC closed the doors of its Christian School, those who supported Christian Education saw the value of "reforming" the movement into one which trained adults in Christian ministry opportunities in a highly diverse city- ethnic and Mormon.  Partnering with other churches- Presbyterian and the like, they started a Bible College that was transformed into the only Seminary of its kind in the Intermountain area.  It’s library was a unique research facility that was built from the gifts of books from the ministers of Classis and many others across the country.

However, a couple of years ago a faltering economy along with failed gift giving forced the Seminary to close. The professors worked the last year without pay to help the last Senior class graduate.  Christianity Today reported SLTS as perhaps the only casualty of its kind during the Great Recession.

Yet, once again the mercy of the Lord was at work.  The Board of the Seminary and those who once supported SLTS, being highly gifted and creative, opened the doors of "the Vine Institute."  This newly planted institution is working, along with Classis Yellowstone's Home Missions Committee, to reach and train the immigrant and ethnic groups of the Salt Lake region for Christian ministry opportunities.

Together, West Valley CRC, "the Vine," and Classis Yellowstone are being transformed into a colorful mosaic which demonstrates God's unique plan for his church.

Perfect...not really yet; Classis Yellowstone still sends three or four "white guys" to Synod- it is tough for working ethnics of color to find away to leave their work and family responsibilities.  However, God will enable a change soon perhaps...maybe not through fire or economic difficulty- but he knows the way!

To learn more, see these sites:  "the Vine"- http://vine-institute.org/   ;  West Valley CRC- http://www.cambodiancrc.org/ 

 

 

Over my years of ministry I have been blessed to live as a minority in Gary, IN, in Honolulu, and now in Aurora, IL where the minorities make up the majority (41% latino, 11 % black).  I am also a miniority in the Fox Valley Christian Ministers Alliance.  I have enjoyed the varied fellowship and worshipped for several years with a Lao congregation in South Bend, IN and as a minority Sunday School teacher in the Korean CRC in Honolulu.  Having been a minority in all these environments has made me aware of how entitled we majority feels and acts, and even more so, how minority representatives of the majority are treated by the majority minority.

In visiting briefly with one of the members of the ethnic conference earlier this month, he affirmed that the leadership of the denomination has not in his experience attended the ethnic conference as one of the participants.  I would like to suggest that all of our denominational executives attend an entire ethnic conference as a minimum for their leadership training.  That they not serve as presenters, or consultants, but minority attenders.  It is a wonderful way to get to know new and inexperienced folk becoming members of the CRC.   One comment I heard, actually from a white minister coming into our denomination is that the leadership of the church made him feel like a second class citizen.

It is time we took our shoes off as we join the new faces and colors coming into our churches.

I truly thank agin to George to think/raise this important issue for our denominational direction at this time.

Personally I want to comment 2 things in relation to this matter which I feel very crucial

 

The first one is that all the synodical decisions is cleraly understood to ethnic-minority leaders/churches?

Do they follow or understand them in thier local settings and thier ministries too, even we all in same boat-CRCNA?

We have to make sure all together what is happened and decided in every synod for our cores/identity.

How do we know this, we all have to struggle and find out best solution for ethnic-minoritiy leaders/chueches, especially Hispanic, Korean, even Navajos and other races too.

 

That is why I suggest that some crucial synodical decisions should be translated into their languages-i.e., FOS, Creation and Science, Homosexuality, Confessions, and even ED letters. Because still most of ethnic-minority leaders/churches is first generational speaking people in our CRCNA. We should continue to share our cores into their best understanding throughout continuing educations(we thank this followed through Credential Co. Report).

As we all know that God's diverse and unified family is our CRCNA true blessings and strengths, which is given and worked out by His Spirit now among us. Let's follow it in our best together.

Participant

I fully agree with Brother Kim about translating synodical decisions into our various congregants' languages.

In my journey through Southern and West Africa, I was amazed that long ago our Missionaries took the time, energy and love to translate hymnals, Bibles and books into local languages like Xhosa, Sooto, Zulu.

And I believe that is a cornerstone of the strength of the Uniting Reformed Churches of Southern Africa (for example).

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