by Heidi Regier Kreider, Conference Minister
Last week I attended the annual Pastor’s Week at AMBS (Anabaptist Mennonite Biblical Seminary) in Elkhart, IN. The theme was Cultivating Inter-Cultural Leadership for Diversity-Oriented Churches. In preparation for the week, participants were encouraged to take an online survey to assess our personal “CQ” or Cultural Intelligence, which is a person’s capability to function effectively in a variety of cultural contexts. While CQ is essential to navigate today’s globally-connected businesses, educational institutions, and other organizations, the most important reason that we as church members and leaders were encouraged to strengthen our CQ is to more faithfully participate in God’s mission of reconciliation and shalom.
The keynote speaker, A. Brian Leander, other preachers (including Byron Pellecer from WDC), worship services and workshops encouraged us to consider the Biblical vision of a multicultural church and practices that can help move us toward that vision. These were some key scripture texts that we considered:
Isaiah 2:2-3 – “In days to come the mountain of the Lord’s house shall be established as the highest of the mountains, and shall be raised above the hills; all the nations shall stream to it. Many peoples shall come and say, “Come, let us go up to the mountain of the Lord, to the house of the God of Jacob; that he may teach us his ways and that we may walk in his paths.”
Ephesians 2:14-21 – “For he is our peace; in his flesh he has made both groups into one and has broken down the dividing wall, that is, the hostility between us. He has abolished the law with its commandments and ordinances, that he might create in himself one new humanity in place of the two, thus making peace, and might reconcile both groups to God in one body through the cross, thus putting to death that hostility through it. So he came and proclaimed peace to you who were far off and peace to those who were near; for through him both of us have access in one Spirit to the Father. So then you are no longer strangers and aliens, but you are citizens with the saints and also members of the household of God, built upon the foundation of the apostles and prophets, with Christ Jesus himself as the cornerstone. In him the whole structure is joined together and grows into a holy temple in the Lord.”
2 Corinthians 5:18-20 – “All this is from God, who reconciled us to himself through Christ, and has given us the ministry of reconciliation; that is, in Christ God was reconciling the world to himself, not counting their trespasses against them, and entrusting the message of reconciliation to us. So we are ambassadors for Christ, since God is making his appeal through us; we entreat you on behalf of Christ, be reconciled to God.”
These scriptures point us toward the realization that God’s norm is not the “homogeneous unit” principle (which has often been the principle of church growth) but rather a culturally, socially, and economically diverse community of people who have been transformed and brought together in Christ.
Ironically, as Pastors’ Week participants returned home inspired to embrace God’s vision for authentic multicultural relationships, news was breaking of president Trump’s executive orders to build a wall on the border between U.S. and Mexico, and to ban immigrants and refugees from entering our nation – all in the name of national “security.” Along with many who protest these actions, I believe these orders will instead jeopardize international relations, hurt the economy, fuel terrorist recruitment and increase resentment against the U.S. But the most important reason I oppose these actions is that I believe they dehumanize and divide God’s children and contradict our scriptural calling as Christians to extend God’s shalom. As stated on the Mennonite Central Committee website, these actions “portray immigrants and refugees as criminals and threats rather than seeing them as God’s beloved children. By building walls and turning away refugees we ignore Christ’s call to care for those in need and to love the stranger among us as we love ourselves.” ( https://mcc.org/get-involved/advocacy/alert/oppose-efforts-build-walls-criminalize-immigrants )
I encourage WDC congregations, members and leaders to discern how God is calling each of us to demonstrate God’s vision for authentic multicultural relationships in our world today. May we have the wisdom to listen carefully to the leading of the Holy Spirit, and courage to cross boundaries of hostility and fear in order to join God’s work of reconciliation.