Talking Together as Christians Cross Culturally
The Church today not only lives in a multicultural world; the Church itself is also a multicultural body of Christ that is still struggling and learning to live fully into that reality. Two personal examples may illustrate this struggle and why talking together as Christians cross-culturally is important for the Church’s life and mission. The congregation in which I grew up was located in a largely White blue collar suburb. When Latinos and African Americans started moving into the area in greater numbers, members of the congregation, many of whom lived in the immediate area, began to discuss this informally. When I suggested that perhaps we ought to welcome them, the pastor abruptly changed the subject. No effort was made to invite the newcomers to the area to worship with us. The congregation which once saw between 125 and 150 people worship on a Sunday now has about 30 at worship each week. While that first example is a mission failure marked by fear of people who are culturally different, the other concerns an effort at cross-cultural spiritual discernment about an urgent matter for church and society. A few of us from that same congregation also met with others in the Lutheran Human Relations Association at Messiah Lutheran Church—LCMS, an African American congregation in San Diego’s Logan Heights section, during the late 1950s and 1960s. We met to discuss developments in civil rights campaigns of the Southern Christian Leadership Conference, and to talk about what the realities of race in America and these developments meant for us as Lutheran Christians in that time.
The Church imagines for itself a more flourishing multicultural future, a future for which it may now act in hope. This field guide is offered as a means to help the Church live into that imagined future. Any effort such as this one to provide a field guide for cross-cultural conversation in the Church is naturally a crosscultural one itself involving many conversations. This project gratefully acknowledges the collaboration of several ELCA congregations and their pastors, who acted hopefully by engaging in conversations that helped open up for us how these congregations engage in public conversation in their own cultural contexts. These conversations inform material in Sections 19-25 of this field guide.
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