In the days following the last Multi-Ethnic Symposium (MES2010)of 2010, a few of your classmates exchanged ideas and observations. One of the glaring observations was the lack of involvement, rather engagement by the student body while the MES2010 was happening. I say glaringly obvious because you could count the number of student participants on one hand, with a finger and thumb left over. It was during those discussions between students, that an article for Around the Tower was written and a Resolution from Student Association to the Faculty the importance of students being engaged in the MES going forward. The reasoning was simple, the Lutheran Church-Missouri Synod(LCMS) while it does not show at first glance is diverse. One of the many things learned at MES2010 is while there is divisions and misunderstandings between the numerous ethnic groups inside of the LCMS, they are all united in the belief of One Triune God, One Faith, One Hope, and One Baptism. It was the discussions that revealed this unity in the LCMS among the various ethnic communities that Student Association felt it imperative that going forward, formation students should be actively involved in these discussions. Why? This is one of the many ways that you are formed to serve in the ministry. In order to be prepared and informed about what is happening in our churches and within the various ethnic groups. Below I have included the article written in the Around the Tower following the MES2010. Those of us who were present then look forward to seeing the next step as the Concordia Seminary student body joins the Multi-Ethnic Symposium 2012 – “Gifts of Hope” by engaging, sharing, discussing, and above all else…learning about each other.
Here Am I, Send Me (to people who are like me)
By: Matt Behrens
OK – theologically we are sent to people who, like us, are separated from God by sin. That’s not what the title is getting at.
In 1952 the Mission Board of the Synodical Conference prepared a report encouraging the integration of African American congregations into the geographic districts of the LCMS. While gathering comments, the board received many letters from pastors and others within the Synod. Here is a quote from one of those letters:
“I believe it to be far wiser to encourage our Lutheran Negroes to establish their own missions and churches, even if they are but small groups, than to take them into the White congregations, where there will most likely be difficulties of various kinds for them to contend with – perhaps even open unfriendliness on the part of some. It is all well and good to insist on the equality of all races and nationalities before God. But the Lord still maintains important differences between different peoples, which should be taken into consideration in planning the work of His Church.”
Race relations in the United States have come a long way in the past 70 years. This is true of the wider culture as well as in our church. Christians have been influential in the positive changes which have come about, and our LCMS churches and church members have played their role. However, I wonder if the attitude underlying the above quote still finds its way into our thinking.
Our church body is composed predominantly of Caucasians of western European heritage. Even with this “heritage,” our ties to Germany and other parts of Europe are several generations removed. We are not an immigrant church anymore. Our church stands in contrast to the cultural mix of our country. Our nation’s population is increasingly non-white. Today’s immigrants are from all parts of the world. And, they are actually immigrants. This has huge implications as we consider communicating the gospel cross-culturally. At the very least, these are factors we, as future church leaders, should be thinking about. But, do we?
Less than one percent of our on-campus student body attended the multi-ethnic symposium earlier this month. It was a free event for students. Of course, classes were in session and as students we have jobs, homework, families and field work to balance. Still, only three students attended any part of this event? But, maybe this view is too pessimistic about the whole thing. Maybe that number should be encouraging. After all, to the best of my knowledge all of the church workers attending the conference were already working primarily with minority populations. I don’t know of any pastor who attended the event who was from a “white church.” The handful of Caucasian participants present were serving in specifically cross cultural or non-white ministry settings. So, the attendance of two white seminary students (the third student attendee was Eric Ekong) might have been a step in a positive direction for our Synod. It just wasn’t a very big step.
So, give it some thought. The majority culture of our church didn’t show much interest in issues of ethnic diversity. The majority culture of our student body showed a similar disinterest. Are the issues of ethnic and cultural diversity unimportant to ministry? Are there really no issues to speak of? If our churches “stay the course” will these relationships simply fall into place? Or, like the pastor who wrote to the Mission Board, would we rather not deal with the difficulties of cross-cultural relationships?
Credits: Around the Tower – March 2010 – Special Edition
“This 2012 symposium, Gifts of Hope, will build on that foundation and identify the gifts of cultural diversity that inform and enliven the fullness of the Body of Christ in a unity not bound to one culture but embodying the contributions of many cultures… The goals of this symposium will seek to address the critical questions facing our church in this multi-cultural world, beginning with the intersection of theology and culture. How do we express the unity of our faith and confession within the diversities of culture? How do we allow for different cultural expressions within a common bond of faith and practice? Is diversity something to be affirmed and celebrated or collapsed into a common “meta-culture” of the church? Is the vision of Rev. 7:9 something to be found only in heaven or already on earth, and if so, how is heavenly worship expressed within the incarnational realities of God’s people in space, time, and culture?
We will hear from those ethnic communities that remain a minority amongst us. What has the expression of our Lutheran theology and practice brought to these different cultures, and what gifts come to our Lutheran unity from the diversity of cultures?
Finally, we will work together toward the future. What will a truly multi-cultural LCMS look like in 2017, when we celebrate the 500th anniversary of the Reformation together? What will it look like in 2037 and 2047? . . . or in the immediate future, in the 495th anniversary year, in 2012? And what do we need to do to get there?” – Andrew H. Bartelt