Roundtable Offers Support to Multiethnic Pastors

Post a Comment » Written on December 16th, 2005     
Filed under: News
CHICAGO, IL (December 16, 2005)  – Pastors of multiethnic congregations say  they are excited and encouraged by a recent roundtable that focused on  their unique needs and challenges.

“It was refueling,” says Anne Vining Pederson, pastor of First Covenant  Church in St. Paul, Minnesota. “It was just what I needed. I was  reminded that I am not alone in the work that I’ve been called to.”
Thirty pastors and Evangelical Covenant Church leaders met in Portland,  Oregon. The event was sponsored by the Department of Church Growth and  Evangelism (CGE) and was hosted by Henry Greenidge, pastor of Irvington  Covenant Church.
“The event was designed to help pastors resource one another in  identifying opportunities, strengths, strategies, and obstacles in  multiethnic ministry settings,” says Gary Walter, CGE executive  minister. Participants engaged in biblical and theological reflection,  worship, problem-solving, fellowship and prayer. Cross-cultural  accommodations also were arranged.
Roughly 40 churches in the Covenant are multiethnic, says Walter. “To be  classified as a multiethnic congregation, it must have more than a  smattering of diversity. It must cross a 20 percent threshold,” he notes.
“Multiethnic churches comprise less than two percent of all Christian  churches,” says Ikki Soma, who pastors Connection Covenant Church in San  Antonio, Texas. Churches at the event represented congregations of all  sizes and ages, from the newly planted to some more than 100 years old.
“I learned that multiethnic churches look different in different  contexts of ministry,” says Soma. “There are no pat principles that work  everywhere every time.”
“Bringing various cultural perspectives together can create a richness  not found in monocultural congregations,” says Walter. “It can also  bring additional challenges.”
“I don’t think they (multiethnic congregations) grow as quickly as  culturally homogenous churches since they are not the normal experience  for many people,” says Soma.  “Also, multiethnic pastors deal with the  cultural conflicts and cultural power struggles between ethnic groups.  Each culture looks at the way they do church as the ‘right’ way.”
Linnea Carnes, pastor of Immanuel Covenant Church in Chicago, says she  was moved by the words of Donn Thomas of Messiah’s World Outreach in  Atlanta, when he told the gathering that their challenge is to embody  the reconciliation that Christ has accomplished through his work.
“Some are more successful than others, but it takes hard work to break  through some of the barriers that exist,” says Carnes. Fourteen  languages are spoken among the 70 people at Immanuel, she observes.
Walter drew attention to what he calls “the diversity of the diversity.”  Aside from pastors who represented the majority of the people in their  congregations, there also were pastors in attendance who did not reflect  the majority in their respective congregations. “There were Caucasian  majority congregations lead by African American pastors, African  American majority churches lead by Caucasians, Hispanic/Asian American  congregations, and plurality congregations (no-single majority).
Attendance fluctuates between 60 and 80 at Connection Covenant, which  had its grand opening November 6. “Sometimes each of the ethnic groups  fluctuates between 10 and 40 percent,” says Soma. “Our community is  about 10 percent African American, 10 percent Asian American, 40 percent  Hispanic, and 40 percent Anglo.”
The staff mirrors the United Nations. “I am Japanese,” says Soma. “My  wife, who oversees our children’s ministry, is African American. Our  worship leader is Hispanic. Our treasurer is half Hispanic and half  British. Our guest relations director is African American and her  spouse, our business manager, is Hispanic. Our worship coordinator is  Anglo and his wife, who runs our sound board, is half Hispanic and half  Italian.”
First Covenant was formed in 1874 with an attendance of 250 and is  working now to embrace the change in its neighborhood, says Pederson.  “We are intercultural, intergenerational and economically diverse.”
Pederson notes that the 2000 U.S. Census showed that during the prior  decade, church communities went from 89 percent Anglo to 49 percent  Anglo. Most of her congregation’s newcomers have been Hmong, she says,  adding that each of the three generations of Hmong that attend the  church have different interests and needs.
First Covenant had its first “urban musical,” says Pederson, who was  excited at how well it turned out despite being “out of everyone’s  comfort zone.” The show featured a 14-year-old African American Mary and  a 16-year-old Caucasian Joseph.
Pastors say they intend to stay connected and pray for one another.  “Building relationships between pastors of multiethnic churches is  helpful to all of us since we can benefit from one another’s experiences  – both successes and failures,” says Carnes.
(Editor’s note: The accompanying photograph, taken during the  roundtable, shows, from left, Peter Hong, Kevin Butcher, Joel Oyoumick,  Gary Walter, and Promise Lee.
Copyright © 2011 The Evangelical Covenant Church.
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