Intercultural Babysteps at #UMCGC

Something that has been super interesting to see so far at General Conference has been the ways in which we navigate the “worldwide nature of the church.”

The convergence of different cultures manifests itself in big big ways: status of women in the global church, the global budget, education for clergy, and of course how we treat LGBTQ folks in our churches.

But it also affects the more logistical, smaller ways that we interact with each other.

I ate lunch today with a clergy delegate from Liberia. As we ate our chicken wraps, he mentioned that food isn’t served cold (like ice cold, too cold….;) in his culture. I also noticed that while a lot of the U.S. delegates ventured out for lunch, a large number of the people that stuck close to the convention center were from Central Conferences. So why are we eating something most of these people would not pick?

It was communicated before the Conference that all delegates would be wearing headphones to get the translation of the speakers. This is a different procedure than having only non-English speakers receive translations. But so many of the English speaking delegates didn’t even pick up their headphones let alone wear them.

When the food isn’t enjoyable and accessible to everyone, when the translation efforts don’t work, when delegates can’t understand you even if you do decide to speak, these can be framed as easy things to ‘get over.’ Lots of little things don’t seem like as big an issue (when it isn’t happening to you) in comparison to big big issues that haunt these spaces and conversations.

But on the other end, these small acts of gentle consideration are much simpler to do for others than the commentary we might have to offer on these big big issues.

What are the ways we can embrace the worldwide nature of the church personally even when we don’t have easy answers for other things we struggle with together?

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