God is still speaking—with an accent
Written by Rev. Joe A. Malayang
This is the 10th anniversary of the UCC formally committing itself to becoming a multiracial, multicultural church (M&M). We are to become "a radically inclusive, extravagantly welcoming church." This declaration builds on the commitment of the UCC—and its courageous, prophetic churches—to be open and affirming, accessible to all. The diversity of cultures, ethnicity, language, abilities and orientations shall characterize this bold denomination in becoming a "Church of the Pentecost" for all people. Created by the Spirit of Christ, we welcome to Christ's table the folks that too often are marginalized or otherwise uninvited. But, of course, being open and hospitable makes us vulnerable.
The General Synod's call states boldly and clearly: "A multiracial and multicultural church confesses and acts out its faith in the one sovereign God who through Jesus Christ binds in covenant faithful people of all races, ethnicities and cultures. A multiracial and multicultural church embodies these diversities as gifts to the human family and rejoices in the variety of God's grace."
General Synod calls the church to acknowledge and confess the sins of racism; to commit to affirmative action; to affirm equal employment opportunities; to develop materials, resources and programs that will empower disenfranchised communities and to promote this commitment. We are called to live out the apostolic call to be a faith community where there "are no longer strangers and aliens, but all are citizens with the saints and also members of the household of God" (Ephesians 2:19).
Those who choose to "walk this walk" take these bold steps not because we want to be controversial, but because we want to be faithful; not because we want to be popular, but because this is what it takes to be a prophetic church; not because it's an option, but because it's the only option for God's people to be part of the Realm of God.
We are becoming a M&M church. Do you not perceive it? Of the current new and renewing UCC church projects (70 or more since 2001), 32 percent are Pacific Islander/Asian American, 29 percent are European American, 24 percent are African American, 9 percent are Hispanic, and another 7 percent are envisioned as multiracial/multicultural. Twentynine percent are open and affirming, and each and every one of these is accessible to all. In the UCC, on any given Sunday morning, some 30 languages are used to welcome God's people.
God not only is speaking "in accents clear and still," God is always acting in new ways. The struggle for justice and peace continues.
Charles Shelby Rooks once said, "The struggle for justice is never won. Racial, sexual, cultural, economic and political oppression plagues us in many insidious forms. In the name of Christ, the UCC has never been reluctant or afraid to take risks. We have put ourselves and our resources on the line ... because we have believed the Gospel demands it ..."
In this church, we are to journey in keeping with Rooks' vision so that we might be "unequivocally committed to exploring that frontier further in this generation" and beyond. We must seek to live together in ways that reflect the prayerful words of hymn-writer Miriam Therese Winter:
"O for a world where everyone respects each other's ways, Where love is lived and all is done with justice and with praise."
The Rev. Joe A. Malayang is executive minister of the UCC's Local Church Ministries and a member of the UCC's five-person Collegium of Officers.