Board of Trustees: What Do We Mean by Multicultural?

What do we mean by “Multicultural”…? What would it mean to be a multicultural congregation? While our current racial justice work is vitally important, the process of becoming multicultural goes beyond that of becoming more inclusive of members of racially and ethnically diverse groups.

A multicultural organization acts on a commitment to “eradicate social oppression in all forms within the organization” and seeks to constantly ask, “who is not at the table”. It “reflects the contributions and interests of diverse cultural and social groups and asks whether those who are represented feel included and empowered” (Jackson & Holvino)

Moving from mono-cultural to multicultural, organizations go through five stages of development starting with the exclusionary or club stage, and progressing to the fifth and sixth stages, the redefining and multicultural organization. The first stage is characterized by the maintenance of norms and procedures seen as the “right way” by a dominant group who have traditionally held social power. In comparison, the final stages are characterized by members who are not satisfied with being solely “anti-racist” or “anti-sexist”; they’re committed to examining all processes and activities for their impact on members’ ability to participate in and contribute fully to the growth and success of the organization. Go to http://www.peoplepoweredmovement.org/site/images/uploads/MCODUpdate.pdf if you are interested in learning more about this model of organizational change.

Participating in FUSN’s racial justice efforts has deepened my appreciation for the complexity of this work. Creating inclusive environments requires we be honest about where we are personally and as an institution.

Learning to recognize and appreciate our differences (theist/atheist, personal style, politics, level of engagement, family structure etc.) is tough. Diversity work can get messy and uncomfortable. An essential ingredient is getting comfortable with the idea that it’s “OK to disagree” and believing we can have differences and stay connected and do great work. Shifting from an “either/or” way of thinking to seeing multiple truths is also helpful and one of the guidelines practiced in FUSN’s multicultural ministry groups, and introduced to the Board of Trustees. Following this year’s election, some of us are examining our propensity to discount rather than “try on” ideas and perspectives different from our own.

What does it mean for a faith community to be welcoming and inclusive? Where do you think FUSN is on the journey from mono-cultural to multicultural and what if any role might you play? Whatever your calling, know your efforts and voices are welcome and appreciated as we engage in this worthwhile and challenging work!                                                                                            Josie Greene, Board of Trustees