Intercultural Ministry

Hope for a Changing World

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Editor(s): 
Grace Ji-Sun Kim, Jann Aldredge-Clanton
  • Valley Forge, PA: 
    Judson Press
    , March
     2017.
     224 pages.
     $19.99.
     Paperback.
    ISBN
    9780817017798.
     For other formats: Link to Publisher's Website.

Review

Christian churches have faced enormous challenges regarding how to embrace intercultural ministry while dealing with conflicting issues caused by the increasing diversity of races, ethnicities, nationalities, cultures, traditions, and genders in North America. In Intercultural Ministry, the editors and contributors offer hope for a changing world, inviting pastors, theologians, and teachers to reflect on their experiences of intercultural churches and intercultural ministry. They pursue a form of diversity that allows “the interaction of people across races, ethnicities, and nationalities to learn to value and celebrate each group’s traditions” (v). With fifteen contributors’ voices from diverse ethnic groups, this book is composed of three parts: the doctrinal and theological foundations of intercultural churches and ministries; congregational and real-life strategies for building intercultural churches and ministries; and vision casting for intercultural churches and ministries. The goal of this book is to create intercultural ministry that seeks to build “just, mutual, respecting, equal, accepting, and diverse communities” (xii).

Both editors attempt to articulate the importance of intercultural ministry through their own experiences of discrimination in their different cultural contexts. Grace Ji-Sun Kim, as an ordained pastor and scholar who has a background in the Korean Presbyterian church in Canada, has encountered marginalization due to her ethnicity and gender in ecumenical circles as well as in society at large. Thus her difficulties growing up on the margins of both society and the church eventually led her to realize the importance of inclusivity (xi). For this, Kim recommends that American churches pursue more interracial and intercultural ministry because the church is bigger than any one ethnic group (xiii). Jann Aldredge-Clanton’s dedication to her intercultural ministries comes from her own experiences of sexism that she encountered as an ordained Baptist minister, even though she felt privileged as a white, straight, and middle-class woman. According to Kim and Aldredge-Clanton, intercultural ministry requires the willingness of leaders and congregants to leave the comfort zones of their own separate traditions.

One of the striking realities that readers will discover through the contributors’ testimonies is their experiences of “discomfort” in practicing intercultural ministry. For example, chapter 1 contains Amy Butler’s confession that diversity and interculturalism generate discomfort because congregations have to cultivate a high tolerance to difference (3). In addition, to pursue intercultural ministry, readers will be informed that the dehumanization of all people and the destruction of the imago dei have been perpetuated by the white supremacy in the churches of North America. For example, Brandon Green, as a black minister, experienced difficulties in being inclusive or participating in an intercultural ministry for all ethnicities because of his memories of racism. Although he is aware of this struggle, Green yet believes that “the church’s inability to build intercultural community lies in our reluctance to claim our prophetic responsibility and define a reality rooted in a common past” (19). Thus, even though most contributors believe intercultural communities of Christian faith are the fruit of the gospel, there is a reality of tension and conflict not only within the Church community but also within the pastors’ own hearts when they are called to intercultural ministry.

In Intercultural Ministry, race is more than a social construct; it is more like a living organism that humanity has lost control of. Green describes racism as Frankenstein’s monster and explains that “the construct of race is an attempt to redefine our reality without the influence of God’s image and character” (22). This is an important point for developing intercultural ministries that readers should not miss. “The Principles for InterCultural Ministry Development,” designed by the Office of InterCultural Ministry Development Episcopal Church in Province VIII, provides definitions of terms such as culture, ethnicity, mono-cultural, cross-cultural, multi-cultural, intercultural, and race. According to these principles, “race is initiated by European and later US American colonial powers in order to maintain the dominance of their cultural positions and justify genocide, slavery, discrimination, and oppression. Continued use of the term [race] is no longer appropriate because there are no biological/physical/cultural/ethnic foundations for such a concept” (The Principles for InterCultural Ministry Development). In this respect, intercultural ministry should be practiced beyond interracial diversity.

This book will greatly inspire ministers who pursue intercultural ministries in North America. The diverse experiences of contributors in the fields will guide them with theological, biblical, ecclesiastical, and practical information such as shared common memory, creating safe and graceful spaces, intentionality for equality and sharing power, and so on. Also, this book will assist immigrant and American churches that pursue intercultural ministry by engaging with social justice issues.

About the Reviewer(s): 

JungJa Joy Yu is a doctoral candidate in women's studies in religion at Claremont Graduate University.

Date of Review: 
October 6, 2017
About the Author(s)/Editor(s)/Translator(s): 

Grace Ji-Sun Kim,  is an ordained minister within the PC(USA) denomination and associate professor of theological studies at Earlham School of Religion. She is author of ten other books, including The Grace of Sophia: A Korean North American Women’s Christology and Theological Reflections on “Gangnam Style”: A Racial, Sexual, and Cultural Critique, co-written with Joseph Cheah. Kim serves on several committees of the American Academy of Religion: co-chair of Women of Color Scholarship, Teaching and Activism Group, Research Grants Jury Committee, Comparative Theology Group, and Religion and Migration Group. She also blogs at Huffington Post, Sojourners and TIME.

Jann Aldredge-Clanton, is a feminist theologian, author, chaplain, and teacher who leads workshops and conferences nationally and internationally. She serves as cochair of the national, intercultural Equity for Women in the Church Community, adjunct professor at Perkins School of Theology and Richland Community College, council member of Christian Feminism Today, cofounder and coleader of New Wineskins Feminist Ritual Community, and on the Dallas Workers’ Rights Board. She is the author of numerous books, including She Lives! Sophia Wisdom Works in the WorldEarth Transformed with Music! Inclusive Songs for WorshipIn Whose Image? God and Gender, Changing Church: Stories of Liberating Ministers, and Seeking Wisdom: Inclusive Blessings and Prayers for Public Occasions.

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