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First gathering of Episcopal “ethnic” ministries

First gathering of Episcopal “ethnic” ministries

Due to a long time desire for a consultation, missioners working with predominantly Latino/Hispanic, Native American, Asian and Black congregations were able to come together in Oklahoma City to study the Bible, and share experiences of mission, leadership and theological training in their settings. Lelanda Lee of Executive Council reports some findings at a Facebook group:


Alternative Leadership and Theological Training. Lee notes, “the four ethnic missioners, and with the facilitation of Ruth-Ann Collins from Faith Formation, sought to get us out of our silos and away from competition in regard to limited resources.” Even with the short notice and lack of publicity, 165 people joined the Facebook group to learn about and support these ministries. Lee writes:

It was interesting for me to observe how each ethnic group tended to approach these discussions in non-linear ways and to organize their discussion output more globally or more specifically. This reflects the cultural sensitivities and habits born out of traditions of the different ethnic communities.

Some Common Elements regarding Existing Education and Training for Lay and Ordained Ministry (as observed by Lelanda Lee)

Partnerships/Collaborations with local colleges and universities to provide some theology courses. Online and remote theological courses. Often requiring supervision by the dioceses. Education for Ministry (EfM). Often used as a pre-ordination opportunity. Formal Diaconal Training Programs within dioceses – School for Deacons. Safe Church Training, Anti-Racism, and other TEC church-based workshops such as Fresh Start, Y2A, etc. Clergy Conferences and Clergy Leadership Workshops.

Congregational Development Institute and Workshops. In every ethnic ministry group, there are many “contextualized” learning opportunities, either directed at specific target audiences or specific skill/knowledge sets. In other words, identifying specific needs and meeting those needs with specific education in conjunction with generalized content. Not only content delivery, but also focus on working with specific contexts – respecting and honoring cultures and traditions, not trying to “make them like us.” Lee explained that “us” refers to the potential for all affinity groups, in addition to the mainstream Anglo culture, to be self-referent and self-centric, and that is to be guarded against. She further pointed out that the shear size and weight of the mainstream Anglo culture makes this a bigger problem for the Anglo community than for the ethnic cultures which are smaller in numbers. (Who is “us”?)

Workshops/Seminars/Mentoring geared towards raising volunteers to stand for election to TEC dioceses and churchwide leadership roles. Repeatedly pointed out – many ethnic persons do not comfortably or confidently step forward without being invited and encouraged.

Conferences and gatherings which not only focus on content but also on networking and relationship-building. There are not enough opportunities for ethnic ministry leaders to interact with the wider church and beyond the boundaries of their dioceses.

Emphasis on importance of continuing education and care for church leaders – “If the shepherd isn’t fed, then the shepherd eats the sheep.” In some ethnicities, especially when people come from other churches and cultures, classes and discernment training on basic TEC theology and roles of the ministers of the church in parish and mission churches. In almost all instances, there are some culture-specific theological schools – such as Spanish and Chinese language theology colleges, programs geared towards the Sudanese. Incorporation of newcomers specific to particular ethnic groups, including subjects such as Christianity 101 and Church 101.

Anti-Racism Training for the whole church (building a Common Vocabulary, Deconstructing Racism and Institutionalized Racism), directed at both ethnic communities (learning about Internalized Racism) and the wider and Anglo church communities (Anti-Racism and White Privilege), as an effort that must move forward in conjunction with, at the same time as, work on building up ethnic ministries. Viable, sustainable ethnic ministries cannot exist without insightful, impactful Anti-Racism Training. And Anti-Racism Training does not stand alone as a resource for ethnic ministries/racial justice. A number of dioceses that have significant sized presence of ethnic ministries are developing or have developed formalized, ethnic-based ministry training programs. In some instances dioceses (like South Dakota and North Dakota) have ethnic communities that overlap and cross diocesan and state borders. Collaboration between bishops and diocesan clergy is imperative.

Geographical distance, remote locations, cultural isolation and economic privation are major impediments to providing and supporting ministry development in Native American communities and reservations.

Partnerships with non-TEC organizations are important to ethnic ministries, because some services and resources are not available within TEC. There is an increasing awareness and claiming of the fact that a person’s ethnic identity is not opposed to, or in conflict with, his/her Christian identity and that people who believe there is such a conflict are thinking and working out of a privileged attitude in which the Anglo culture is the norm.

The ethnic ministries generally find that evangelization and making disciples of people from ethnic communities must involve the “whole person.” In other words, pastoral imperatives must include understanding, respecting, honoring and working within specific cultural contexts. There must be a meshing and melding of ethnic culture and traditions when doing the work of Christian evangelization and raising up theological leaders in ethnic communities.

Ethnic ministries cannot be bounded within diocesan lines. A lot of the work happens inside dioceses, but a lot of the work also cannot be bounded and owned by dioceses, bishops or specific missioners. That is why this first-time ever Consultation of Ethnic Ministries is such a valuable precedence; this cannot be a one-time event

Bishops who attended the meeting are Michael Smith and Carol Gallagher of North Dakota, John Tarrant of South Dakota, Dave Bailey of Navajoland, Alan Scarfe of Iowa, Diane Jardine Bruce of Los Angeles, and Ed Konieczny of Oklahoma.

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