What does a healthy multicultural church look like? Following is an except from the book, The Vision of a Multicultural Church, published in 1998. I was impressed that, for a document originating out of the Uniting Church, it had a clear focus on evangelism along with the expected social justice focus. There are many good principles here I think.
We believe that a multicultural church is one where the following concepts are embraced and put into practice.
1. A Common Faith
The multicultural church is united by a common faith in the triune God and the desire to serve and witness to the compassion, love and justice of God. The image of the church as the body of Christ means that we who are in Christ have a variety of gifts, functions and cultures and yet we can be connected to each other without doing everything the same way. We have our cultural differences and yet we can work together within the framework of what the Uniting Church in Australia is. This framework is set out in The Basis of Union and Constitution which establishes the foundations of our commitment to Christian unity.
2. Affirming One Another’s Culture
A multicultural church is one with an inclusive understanding and acceptance of all cultures. It is a church where one can sustain one’s own cultural identity while affirming others. It is a church where every culture is embraced but where the barriers are broken down. It is open, accepting and joyful. It respects and nurtures mutuality of ministry. It acknowledges a variety of cultural expressions of the one faith.
3. Sharing of All Resources
A multicultural church is able to share everything, including cultural richness as well as property and resources (power). It shares each other’s language, values and customs. When we share property and resources well, feelings of racial discrimination or nationalistic superiority will be overcome.
4. Equal Participation in Decision Making
A multicultural church is like a table, a round table. At a round table, people can participate as equals. No new migrant member should have to feel like a guest in such a church. It is a place where we are welcomed as we are. There is cultural sensitivity in decision making where the minority groups are consulted and decisions are not solely made according to western value systems. People whose mother tongue is not English are often diffident about contributing to a debate in synod or presbytery meetings, but this should not prevent their experiences and views being sought more extensively in the whole life of the church. Equal participation also means sharing of responsibilities as a congregation and individual members. Each group needs to endeavour to fulfil their tasks according to their capacity and capability, regardless of when they joined or the cultures from which they came.
A multicultural church is inclusive of all peoples and cultures, women and men, young and old. It affirms different cultural groups worshipping in their own language or operating in their own way. But all congregations also need contact with the wider church, striving to work together as one body in Christ. It sometimes involves distinguishing between what is cultural and what is faith. It holds an ecumenical perspective that seeks the unity of all those who bear the name Christian.
6. Being a Sign of Hope and Reconciliation
A multicultural church is a sign of hope within the community and particularly to those who are pushed to its fringes. It actively works for the reconciliation or restoration of different individuals or groups who are otherwise alienated from each other. It binds all people together in the name of love. It is a church that works for justice and peace for all. In this area a multicultural church takes its prophetic task seriously.
7. Growing in Mission and Evangelism
A multicultural church reaches out to people of different cultures with the clear message of the gospel of Jesus, proclaiming it joyfully, sharing its life with them and serving them. While maintaining the need to take a strong role in global mission, it also sees the need for an effective evangelism in Australia, which is becoming racially, religiously and culturally a microcosm of the world. Many people such as Asian students, refugees from Asia, Africa and Eastern Europe and others are arriving here to reside. These people are in need of jobs, housing, language training, social links, community integration and spiritual nurture.
8. Accepting and Preparing for Changes
A multicultural church is not static. It is a church which is able to adjust to the changes of our time and life. A multicultural church is serious about the meaning of changes to prepare for the future. The implications of these changes are enormous. They directly affect structure, mission strategy, administration, and Christian education. As the community surrounding us is rapidly changing, changes in the church will be inevitable, because the church is an agent to serve the community.