A Renewed Approach to Multi-Ethnic Ministry
"But God has put the body together, giving greater honor to the parts that lacked it, so that there should be no division in the body, but that its parts should have equal concern for each other. If one part suffers, every part suffers with it; if one part is honored, every part rejoices with it." 1 Corinthians 12:24-26
The body of Christ feels more divided than ever, as do our nation and our college campuses. We see it in politics. We experience it in conversations about LGBTQ people. And we feel it deeply when we talk about race.
Yet, central to Christ’s final prayer for His followers was that we remain united (John 17:20-26). Paul went so far as to connect the Gospel to a call to tear down the dividing walls of hostility between ethnic groups (Ephesians 2:14). And Revelation paints a picture of the coming Kingdom as one where people from every nation, tribe, people and language bring the best of their cultures to worship God (Revelation 7:9, 21:24).
Unfortunately, most of Christian history has limited our understanding of God and creation to that which is defined by straight, cis-gender, White men. Through this, we reflect an incomplete image of God. Incarnation Ministries strives to break down the dividing walls of hostility and proactively create space where people from every nation, tribe, people, language, gender and orientation equally shape our understanding and experience of God. As we do, we will form a more complete body of Christ and reflect a more complete image of God.
Our renewed approach to multi-ethnic ministry is not merely about bringing students of diverse ethnic and racial backgrounds together. The walls that divide us can not come down until we as a Church sit down and really listen to each other. In particular, we need to hear the stories of people of color and marginalized peoples, learn the history of racism in our country and also the Church, and wrestle with how this history results in structural and systemic racism today. As Native American Christian writer and activist Mark Charles states (relying on principles set forth by respected Aboriginal leader George Erasmus), we need to create a common memory in order to be able to form true community.
Incarnation Ministries is committed to doing this transformative work of creating common memory among college students, reaching them at a critical point in life when they are seeking to learn and expand their understanding of themselves, society, history and culture.
We believe that this work of loving one another, seeking justice and building fellowship and community is a core aspect of our Christian faith. Addressing racism and prejudice is not a side issue or a passion and calling that only some Christians may have. Addressing racism goes to the very heart of God’s call for justice for the oppressed and for us to love one another. Therefore, all Christians are called to pursue actively the creation of community that truly loves and dignifies all people, specifically, people on the margins. We are all called to pursue God’s justice and to dismantle systems and structures and ways of thinking and being that dehumanize and devalue categories of people.
We are aware that this is difficult work that will challenge both our staff and our students. Inevitably, mistakes will be made, but we believe this work is vitally important for the Church today and are deeply committed to it. Incarnation’s multi-ethnic ministry will be a continual work in progress, and we will continue to rethink, reimagine, innovate and challenge ourselves in this area.
We are open to innovative ways and models to do this kind of multi-ethnic ministry, but approaches we are considering include:
- Mandatory trainings for all staff on multicultural competence and multi-ethnic ministry.
- Mandatory training for staff on pastoral care for students of color.
- Multi-ethnic trainings and workshops for students that are integrated into incarnation’s core curriculum for all students.
- Creating physical and virtual spaces for ongoing dialogue on race and current movements, such as Black Lives Matter, immigration reform, and other issues affecting students of color on college campuses.
- Providing guidelines to staff and student leaders on how to pastor students as events happen and how to tie them to the greater conversation.
- Creating protected spaces for students of color to fellowship and share.
- Rethinking fundraising models for staff in order to improve racial, ethnic and socioeconomic diversity among staff.
- Training staff and student leaders about creating campus ministry environments that are inclusive and that do not “tokenize” minority student members and leaders.
- Offering resources for pastoral care for student activists or students experiencing trauma or secondary trauma from the violence in the news.
- Seeking intentionally to hire more staff of color at every level of the organization.
- Implementing “shared power” leadership models at every level of the organization.