LOUISVILLE — The need for the church to revitalize and strengthen its commitment to evangelism in a rapidly growing multicultural world will be the focus of the ninth annual Multicultural Conference of the Presbyterian Church (U.S.A.) in San Antonio, Texas.
The official theme of the April 10-13 event is “Gather All Nations and Tongues: Good News for All Congregations,” inspired by the prophesy of Isaiah 66:18.
“We hope that Isaiah’s prophesy will be a blessing and inspiration for our gathering as we seek to claim, celebrate, and live our calling as a multicultural church, preaching the good news to all with emphasis on spiritual growth, peace and justice,” said Raafat Girgis, a conference planner and the PC(USA)’s associate for multicultural ministries.
The conference will bring together members and pastors of multicultural churches, representatives of middle governing bodies and others interested in ministries with people from a variety of races and cultures. It will be an occasion for celebrating multicultural ministry, worshipping in community, acquiring new skills and sharing resources and experiences. The group will network, listen to sermons, addresses and panel discussions and take part in workshops.
This year’s conference is being sponsored by the PC(USA)’s office of Multicultural Ministries in cooperation with Mission Presbytery, the Synod of the Sun, the Presbyterian Multicultural Network, and the Cross Cultural Alliance of Ministries.
Multicultural congregations are increasingly vital to the PC(USA). By 2056, sociologists say, the majority of the U.S. population will be non-European and non-white. Already, Asians, Africans, and Hispanics make up one-fourth of the population.
The PC(USA) is currently about 92 percent white, but a growing number of churches are attempting to incorporate cultural traditions of more than one ethnic or racial group, Girgis said. He estimates that more than 1,700 congregations (out of some 11,000 in the denomination) are at least moving toward a multicultural identity.
If this trend continues, Girgis believes it’s possible the PC(USA) will meet a goal adopted by the PC(USA)’s General Assembly in 1998: to increase the denomination’s racial-ethnic membership to 20 percent by 2010. Among the many models: bi-lingual or bi-cultural congregations; congregations with one cultural majority and significant influence from other cultures; and congregations with no single cultural majority. Another is that of “nesting” churches, which provide homes for congregations of different cultures and immigrant fellowships.
Organizers are expecting at least 400 people to attend the multicultural conference at the San Antonio Airport Hilton. In 2006, some 460 turned out when the multicultural conference was last held on its own in Orlando, Fla.
Reese to speak
The keynote speaker will be author and researcher Martha Grace Reese, who recently directed a four-year evangelism research project funded by the Lilly Endowment, and has written a book that encourages and guides churches on how to face evangelism head on. For the recently released Unbinding the Gospel: Real Life Evangelism, Reese interviewed more than 1,000 people in many of the nation’s most successful mainline churches in an effort to find the motivations and practices of the most effective evangelism efforts.
Conference preachers will be Rhashell Hunter, the PC(USA)’s director of Racial Ethnic and Women’s Ministries; James Kim, pastor of Trinity Church in The Colony in suburban Dallas; James Hickson Lee, evangelizing pastor of New Covenant Fellowship, a multicultural new church development in Austin, Texas; and Cyprian Kimathi Guchienda, pastor of All Nations Ministry at Highland Park Church in Dallas.
The conference will feature two panel discussions focused on multicultural ministry. One of the panels will be made up of five ministers and one elder, and the other panel will be comprised of staff and elected leaders from the PC(USA)’s Office of the General Assembly (OGA) and the General Assembly Council (GAC).
The panel of ministers and an elder will be elder Ruben P. Armendariz, church development consultant for Mission Presbytery; Jin S. Kim, founding pastor of the Church of All Nations, a multicultural PC(USA) congregation in Columbia Heights, Minn.; and Buddy Monahan, member of the Choctaw Nation of Oklahoma and the Maricopa tribe and chaplain at the Menaul School in Albuquerque, N.M.
Also on that panel will be Wanda Lundy, pastor of multicultural First Church in Edgewater, N.J.; Magdalena I. GarcÃa, pastor of Ravenswood Church, a multicultural and bilingual congregation in Chicago; and Robert Chestnut, retired pastor of East Liberty Church, a multicultural congregation in Pittsburgh.
Serving on the panel of OGA and GAC representatives will be Joan S. Gray, moderator of the PC(USA)’s 217th General Assembly; Clifton Kirkpatrick; stated clerk of the PC(USA)’s General Assembly; Curtis A. Kearns Jr., GAC executive administrator; and Linda Valentine, the GAC’s executive director.
For general information about the multicultural conference see the conference Web site, www.pcusa.org/multicultural/2008-conference.htm. Or contact Janeth NuÃ±ez, Multicultural Ministries administrative assistant, by phone (toll-free) at (888) 728-7228, ext. 5252. For more information about conference exhibits and youth programs, contact Anna McQuere, Multicultural Ministries intern, by phone (toll-free) at 888-727-7228, ext. 5344.