On November 17, the Iowa Conference Commission on Religion and Race invites all ethnic clergy and laity, and all members of the church (especially members of their congregation’s Staff-Parish Relations Committee), to the Iowa Conference Center for a special workshop on cross-cultural and cross-racial appointments.
“Iowa is a welcoming conference, and we are so blessed that we have a lot of ethnic pastors appointed right now within the whole conference,” says Rev. Dan Fernandez, chairperson of the Commission on Religion and Race. “The blessing is that you don’t have to go to the Philippines to learn about the Filipino culture—because you have a Filipino pastor. You don’t have to go to Nigeria or Congo in Africa to learn something about the culture there because you have their pastor. You don’t have to go to Seoul, Korea or Pakistan or India or Mexico or Guatemala to learn about different culture.”
The pastors coming from these other countries can offer a bridge between different nations and different people who nonetheless share a common faith. “Growing churches are coming from this part of the world,” Rev. Fernandez points out. “The African continent, the Asian continent, these are the continents right now that the Methodist church is growing.”
The workshop, which goes from 9 am to 3 pm and includes lunch, will highlight the importance and value of cross-racial and cross-cultural appointment. The session will feature presentations, a short video, a segment about effective communication skills, break-out sessions, and discussion. “We will have a holy conversation, question and answer,” says Rev. Fernandez. “We can also talk about the differences, the challenges that the ethnic pastor, coming from different background and culture, will be doing ministry in a culture that is a predominantly white congregation.”
Rev. Fernandez understands well the serious challenges that ethnic pastors often face, including the specter of racism, but he is confident that they can be confronted. “My accent is different, but I can do nothing about that,” he explains. “What is important is I can speak and I can communicate. What is important is that we have the same Bible, we sing the same songs, and we serve the same God. This language, English, is my third language I should say. But that is the challenge. The accent, the communication barrier, the use of words, those are some barriers that sometimes need to be addressed and given more importance and time in listening and learning from their own respective ethnic pastor.”
These are the kinds of conversations that will be had at the workshop. “How we can assimilate and, at the same time, how we can communicate and also effectively do our ministry based on the love of God through Jesus Christ our Lord. Without status in life, without race, and that is our Methodist foundation: the spirit of inclusivity. So hopefully that will be one of the main issues that we also try to impart.”
To register for the workshop on November 17, contact Felicia.firstname.lastname@example.org. There will also be a special banquet for the Commission on Religion and Race, together with their families and friends, that evening from 6 pm to 9 pm, featuring Bishop Laurie. You can find out more about that by contacting the same email address above.