A Report from the Office of the Multicultural and Advocacy Ministries Developer

January 05, 2023

A Report from the Office of the Multicultural and Advocacy Ministries Developer

Dear friends of the Mountain Sky Conference (MSC). 

As we begin 2023, I wanted to share with you how we have journeyed together during 2022. I am humbled by the opportunity to serve as the Multicultural and Advocacy Ministries Developer of the MSC. I have so much to learn and there is plenty to do. I confess that I have never been great at reporting, but I am learning that this work is important. Reporting is one way of capturing what has been accomplished so that we can give thanks and celebrate. It also helps us recognize gaps, where we have fallen short, and where we require accountability.

Below is a glimpse of the ways we have journeyed together this past year. I am so grateful for clergy and laity across our connection; for your care, dedication, and guidance, for believing that God continues calling us to this work, and for the transformation of our lives and community. May we never lose sight of that holy imagination. We are not alone in this work. Together and with God’s Spirit we go. 

As you navigate through the information below, if you have any clarifying questions, desire to participate, or see areas that I and/or the MSC needs to be held accountable for, please reach out to me at bnguyen@mtnskyumc.org

Peace, 

Rev. Bich Thy (Betty) Nguyen

 

Racial Justice Movement and Ministry Taskforce

During the Annual Conference of 2020, Bishop Karen Oliveto created the Racial Justice Movement and Ministry Taskforce. This is an open invitation taskforce, and we have clergy and laity engaged in various capacities. 

Book Group – This team has been leading a book study for anyone to participate in. In 2022, we read the following books, focusing on diverse voices and wisdoms, then ending with authors offering tangible action.

  • They Called Us Enemy by George Takei
  • Braiding Sweetgrass: Indigenous Wisdom, Scientific Knowledge and the Teachings of Plants by Robin Wall Kimmerer
  • Retablos: Stories From a Life Lived Along the Border by Octavio Solis  
  • How to Be an Antiracist by Ibram X. Kendi  
  • Microaggression in Ministry by Cody J. Sanders and Angela Yarber

Spiritual and Physical Inventory – “A House of Prayer for All People” – A team of clergy and laity worked on producing a resource for congregations that includes a devotional and inventory for reflection. The inventory walks through various aspects of church life, such as worship, education, budget, etc., and provides questions and reflections that will support churches to consider expanding their inclusion, diversity, equity, and antiracism. The resource is completed and has gone through a phase of piloting. “A House of Prayer for All People” will be made available soon and a special invitation will be made for congregations to engage in this work as part of their Lenten practice. 

History – This team has and will continue to encourage individuals within the church and beyond to research and share the local history that is tied to the MSC. We believe that this task of learning about our history and gaining awareness is one of the first steps of antiracism. If you would like to engage in this work, additional information can be found HERE. 

Engagement with the Conference & Conference Leadership – This team has been several sub-teams, working on different pieces that specifically impact our Conference work at large and our systems. 

  • Nurturing Beloved Community is a workshop designed as continual education for clergy (we hope to partner with laity as well), focusing on implicit bias, deep listening across differences, allyship (aspiring allies, co-conspirators), and resources for the local church/ministry.
  • Traveling Safety and Accessibility in Mountain Sky Conference is a newer team, learning what concerns and challenges that friends with historically and currently marginalized identities have while traveling and gathering across our geography. In addition, this team is committed to working on solutions.

Traveling: Spiritual Pilgrimages – Plans are underway to offer opportunities, in 2023, for engagement and learning in the form of visiting specific locations.

  • Sand Creek Massacre National Historic Site and Amache National Historic Site
  • Heart Mountain WWII Japanese American Confinement Site
  • Tucson, Arizona – Learning about Immigration 
  • Montgomery, Alabama – Learning about the history of slavery in America
  • History Colorado Exhibit - The Sand Creek Massacre: The Betrayal that Changed Cheyenne and Arapaho People Forever

There are two additional areas of focus that we have discussed but would like to formally organize: Immigration and Reparations

Clergy of Color

We give thanks for the many clergy and laity who continue to say ‘yes’ to the ways God calls them into ministry, in whatever capacity and space. We are grateful for the growing number of clergies of color who have called the MSC home. We give thanks for clergy serving in Ethnic ministries and those in Cross Racial/Cross Cultural (CR/CC) ministries. For almost two years, there has been a group of clergy of color, meeting with the Cabinet on a regular basis to discuss and discern changes in our systems and how we are in community. 

Some of the conversation and work has been, but not limited to:

  • What do care and support look like and who determines it?
  • Providing care packages to clergy serving in communities that do not have access to ethnic foods, community, etc. 
  • One of the largest gatherings of clergy of color at Annual Conference
  • Appointment Making
  • A support network that includes the financial investment of coaches, mentors, and access to physical, mental, and spiritual care. 

Ethnic Churches

We give thanks for spaces that offer opportunities for individuals and families to worship in the culture and language that is closest to their hearts. In the MSC, we are blessed to have ethnic churches serving Tongan, Vietnamese, Korean, Japanese, Hispanic, Samoan, Native American, and Black/African American siblings. This year we were able to share some finances with ethnic churches for the Advent Season. 

Cross Racial/Cross Cultural Appointments

We continue to learn and implement ways that we hope will prepare congregations to enter a CR/CC ministry and support the clergy person (along with their loved ones, if/as appropriate). As humans, even with the best of intentions, we still have growing edges and find that our impact can cause harm. The trainings, workshops, and engagements are designed for all of us to continue the journey of being aware of our implicit biases, to dismantle racism, and to live into our callings as followers of Jesus Christ. CR/CC appointments are a unique and beautiful witness to the Kindom of God. 

Grants

We are grateful that we have received grants through Global Ministries and the General Commission on Religion and Race. 

  • Native American Ministry - $20,000
    • This grant is for local ministries and community partnerships.
       
  • Wholeness and Healing - $10,000
    • This grant is for ethnic churches that are engaged in areas of healing and wholeness (i.e.. mental health).
       
  • Hispanic Ministries of Today and Tomorrow - $10,000
    • This grant is for the partnership with current Hispanic ministries and the preparation/development of new Hispanic ministries. 
  • General Commission on Religion and Race - $10,000
    • This grant will help cover some of the cost for clergy to attend the ‘Nurturing Beloved Community’ Workshop/Retreat.
 

Intercultural Developmental Inventory (IDI)

The IDI is an assessment and resource to help individuals and organizations grow in our intercultural competency; the capacity to navigate through commonalities and differences, to be able to bridge across differences. This type of work is foundational to any type of advocacy and justice work. This resource is widely used across the United Methodist Church and has helped us find a common language in our ministry together. Here at the MSC, we have engaged it with several groups and beyond, such as:

  • The Cabinet
  • Congregational Resource Ministers
  • The Leadership Development Committee
 

Translation/Interpretation 

Communication is important. It can draw us closer together as a community. We are striving to have better language accessibility and equity. This year, we have had American Sign Language at a few sessions of Annual Conference. We hope to grow in our capacity to provide ASL and make the captioning function on virtual gatherings the norm. 

Part of language accessibility and equity is providing translation (written word) and interpretation (spoken word) in our meetings and on our documents. This year, we started the work of translating or interpreting:

  • Annual Conference
  • Charge Conference Forms
  • District Committee On Ministry (DCOM) Forms
  • A Table for All materials

Intern from the Iliff School of Theology

We are so grateful that for the 2022-2023 school year, we are partnering with an Intern. From this partnership, we expect to have a resource that will help our Cabinet in making CR/CC appointments, equip and support clergy and laity in CR/CC ministries, and assess readiness for CR/CC ministries. In addition, we hope to have data that will help us look at salary equity among the clergy of the MSC. 

Based on the Work in 2021 with the General Commission on Religion and Race – Diversity Audit

The Diversity Audit looked at representation in our conference leadership (Cabinet, Staff, Committees). This work continues to help us recognize who is at the table and who is missing, learning from diverse wisdom, and how we can engage authentically and not participate in tokenism. 

Workshops – Online Offerings

Since 2020 we have had various virtual offerings that help us learn more about racism and what dismantling racism requires of us. These offerings provide open opportunities to participate in deep listening, stretch our compassion and curiosity muscles, and learn the lived experiences of friends whose life and identity may be different than ours. Some online offerings included (not an exhaustive list): the Spiritual Pilgrimage to the Land of Love and This is My Story, This is My Song. 

During 2022, we had the following online offerings (not an exhaustive list):

National Hispanic Plan

In the Fall of 2022, we were grateful to welcome the Rev. Dr. Lydia Munoz, Director of the National Plan of Hispanic Latino Ministries, to the MSC. She met with the Hispanic clergy and laity of the conference to learn about the ministries here and how the National Plan can accompany us moving forward. The work will be focused on partnering with current ministries and empowering new leadership/ministries.

Next Year

  • Movie Nights
    • Watch historical and/or films that address racism. There will be virtual debriefing opportunities. 
  • Travel Learning Opportunities
    • Please refer to “Traveling: Spiritual Pilgrimages” above.
    • Every Wednesday, from Noon to 12:30 pm, on Zoom for a time of mutual learning. We will be using a resource series from the General Commission on Religion and Race entitled "What Is." "In this "What Is?" series, the General Commission on Religion and Race offers this compilation of concise definitions, examples, and Biblical/theological foundations to create a common vocabulary for Christians as we engage in anti-racism work."