Annual Council Diary 2015—Exploring Culture

Cross cultural communication got practiced extensively at “God’s Mosaic of Culture,” the 2015 Leadership Education and Development (LEAD) Conference that opened the General Conference Executive Committee’s annual meetings.

If you want to work well with people across all the different cultures in our church, you have to get out of your comfortable seat, mingle and talk and get to know those who are different from you the delegates were told. To mix the crowd, attendees were instructed to find someone from another country and introduce themselves, and that two were then to find another two to form a group of four. These small groups became the corps of the activities that took place over the two-day conference where small group discussions were the key. The conversation moved through consideration of the layers of culture, to how one acquires culture, different types of communication and communicators, logic systems, and on to conflict resolution.

In the consideration of logic systems, delegates were given generalizations that were acknowledged as over-simplifications, but were said to reflect certain cultures: English was characterized as being linear, German was called dialetical—valuing a strong back and forth discussion of opposite opinions, French—digressionary with lengthy discussion of many related topics. Japanese was called circular-- having discussions around an issue without directly mentioning it. Bantu—illustrative--using proverbs, stories, metaphors, and other illustrative techniques to discuss the issue at hand. Mediterranean languages were described as pictorial with flowery images being used to paint a picture of the issue.

Even hidden dimensions of culture were explored in a conversation about worldviews—the pattern of assumptions a people holds about reality that determines what they think.

In the final section on conflict management sixteen different methods were explored in Biblical stories and texts showing that the Bible has more to say about conflict management than just the verses in Matthew 18 which prescribe going directly to the person with whom one is in conflict and discussing the issue.

Scriptural guidelines for building Christian Community were also shared, texts pointing to humility, acceptance, forgiveness, love, non-judgmental attitudes, unity, and a servant God.

The hymn “In Christ There is No East or West” served as the theme song for the conference. It was sung on Friday with the audience holding hands and raising them high in a sign of comradery.

President Ted N.C. Wilson closed the session with a few brief remarks. He noted that, “We have differences of opinion, including when we vote sometimes, but by God’s grace we come together afterward.”

One could wish that such a wonderful cross-cultural session would have been held long before the divisive vote in San Antonio on whether or not to allow divisions to make the decision on ordaining women. So many times our discussion of cross-cultural issues gets isolated to missions, with only token mention of the vast differences of culture within the church. We tend to have “Japanese” conversations that circle around the issue without ever mentioning it. Perhaps if we acknowledged the issues that are created by our multiple cultures, we could apply the principles of acceptance and non-judgmental attitudes to those inside as well as outside of the church.

Bonnie Dwyer is Editor of Spectrum Magazine.

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This is a companion discussion topic for the original entry at http://spectrummagazine.org/node/7120
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Thank you, Bonnie, for this very interesting report. I certainly agree with your conclusion:

At the same time it seems that some wise people at the GC are beginning to realize what is happening in and to our church. And I noticed something else that strikes me as odd:

All this may come too late, indeed may be another ploy to create uniformity under the guise of cross-cultural unity. I am too tired to speculate. However - if there should be a chance for healing, how else could it possibly start?

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just moving from California to Georgia was a cultural shock. yes we has Watts. but our University was right in the middle of the predominate Black neighborhood, We went through two major riots. MLK, and the death of a teenager in jail over night. In the midst of all that we ernrolled the first black students under the threat of having our houses fire bombed by the power elite of the Geirgia Dental Association. We now have black members of the Board of Dental Examiners.

So maybe the is hope even within 5 years. Tom Z

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Politics as usual. Having gotten what he wants, he now wants people to stop discussing the issue.

What did he get? The Unions to not visibly oppose the GC’s power grab. The UC’s agreed to let the GC stop them from doing what their members want them to do.

I have been watching the SDA train wreck since I resigned my membership circa 2001.

I’m not sure I will continue watching. The denomination has clearly become irrelevant.

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As we know, Ted is lover of authority.

A true coming together under the banner of God’s community demands a simple embrace of diversity in all forms. Diversity is something to foster, embrace, and love. This is a core tenant of Jesus’ reflection of God. By God’s grace we come together in our diversity of opinion and belief. Adventism has chosen to rewrite this ministry to be about orthodoxy which is why I join you now to reject it outright. The irrelevance is evident and sad.

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Before I reached the last paragraph in this article I audibly stated “why didn’t they do this BEFORE July 8 2015 in SA!?!”

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I wish I was there to experience the process.

Yes, rather late, but better late than never.

I hope more and more of connection and understanding take place instead of mono cultural top down control.

Perhaps there is hope. Perhaps it is too late.
Leno knows.

I hope Ted got it. I doubt this was his mode and plan.

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Annual Council Diary 2015—Exploring Culture 9 October 2015 Bonnie Dwyer, said:
“–Cross cultural communication got practiced extensively at “God’s Mosaic of Culture,” the 2015 Leadership Education and Development (LEAD) Conference that opened the General Conference Executive Committee’s annual meetings…
–President Ted N.C. Wilson closed the session with a few brief remarks. He noted that, “We have differences of opinion, including when we vote sometimes, but by God’s grace we come together afterward.”—“
(BOLD EMPHASIS MINE)

In order to have both statements be truly accurate, in light of the “BIG elephant in the room”- Women’s Ordination—this fantasy would have taken place at this meeting.

CAUTION: This is a fantasy.
At the end of the meeting we admitted that as a church we still don’t understand, let alone appreciate, the role of women. We admitted that we all have biases, even prejudices, toward specific groups. We reported on workshops that were held prior to our meeting where we asked people to gather in pairs and think about their hopes and fears in eliminating gender discrimination in our ministerial work. We spoke openly about our fears, that include being judged, miscommunication, and patronizing or hurting others unintentionally. We prayed together and shared our hopes for the possibility of dialogue, learning something new, developing friendships, and understanding different points of view.

We realized how our culture influences how we approach problems, and how we participate in groups and in communities. When we participate in groups we are often surprised at how differently people approach their work together. It was emphasized that culture is a complex concept, with many different definitions. But, simply put, “culture” refers to a group or community with which we share common experiences that shape the way we understand the world. It includes groups that we are born into, such as gender, race, or national origin. It also includes groups we join or become part of. For example, we can acquire a new culture by moving to a new region, by a change in our economic status, or by becoming disabled. When we think of culture this broadly, we realize we all belong to many cultures at once.

We recognized how our individual hopes and histories in coping with gender discrimination in ministry, are a critical piece of our culture. Historical experiences, as painful as they are, shape who we are. Knowledge of our shared history can help us understand ourselves and one another better. Exploring the ways in which various groups within our society have related to each other is key to opening channels for cross-cultural communication.

At the end of our meetings, we agreed that as men and women, respecting each other, we must work together in any task that God assigns to us. In doing this cultural values can sometimes conflict. We can misunderstand each other, and react in ways that can hinder what are otherwise promising partnerships. There are many times when we aren’t aware that culture is acting upon us. Sometimes, because of our gender differences, we are not even aware that we have cultural values or assumptions that are different. In a world as complex as ours, each of us is shaped by many factors, and culture is one of the powerful forces that acts on us. By God’s grace we promised our best efforts to work together.
In other words, culture is central to what we are as persons and what we do , how we make sense of what we see, and how we express ourselves as God’s servants.

Remember, Ms. Dwyer’s opening words about “practicing” and Brother Wilson’s words about how he views us “coming together”. Perhaps we can all go on the Disneyland FANTASY ride singing “It’s a small world after all” .

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[quote]But Jesus called them to him and said, “You know that the rulers of the Gentiles lord it over them, and their great ones exercise authority over them. It shall not be so among you. But whoever would be great among you must be your servant" Matthew 20:25-26

shepherd the flock of God that is among you, exercising oversight, not under compulsion, but willingly, as God would have you; not for shameful gain, but eagerly; not domineering over those in your charge, but being examples to the flock. 1 Peter 5:2-3[/quote]

Trust BEing!

EDIT:

Trust The Process.