Cross-cultural appointments can challenge big congregations

ORLANDO -- The United Methodist Church has about 1,200 churches with more than 1,000 members, but just 20 of them are served by a racial-ethnic pastor whose race or ethnicity differs from the majority of the members.

So a small group of racial-ethnic pastors who have cross-racial and cross-cultural appointments in large churches gathered in Orlando this month to grapple with the unique challenges they face.

The Rev. Jacob Williams, pastor of First UMC, Valparaiso, Ind., said the church in general does not readily understand the depth of emotions that goes into being a pastor of any church.

"However, it becomes even more complicated when the 'spiritual leader' is racially and culturally different from the majority of the parishioners. This event allowed me to share with others who are in a similar situation," Williams said.

"Having others to empathize and to offer words of wisdom was good for my mind and soul."

Bishop Warner H. Brown Jr. shared his own experiences with the group and talked about issues pertinent to a cross-racial, cross-cultural appointment in a large church. He said the event provided a chance for "excellent conversation among racial-ethnic pastors that have been called to serve predominantly white congregations."

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