On the morning of Friday, February 19, 2021, Pastor Tony Durante watched as his Zoom screen filled with the faces of the newly-formed Multicultural and Ethnic Diversity Task Force (MEDTF). Present were church leaders—men and women—from multiple racial, ethnic, and professional backgrounds and from various points within the Florida-Georgia (FLGA) District of the Lutheran Church—Missouri Synod (LCMS). Dr. Greg Walton, FLGA District President, had created the group to explore how LCMS congregations in Florida and Georgia might engage the ethnically and racially diverse communities to which they belong.
“Nationwide, the membership in LCMS churches is 90% White,” said Walton. He feels this is unreflective of a US population that is 40% people of color. He hopes that the task force can identify obstacles ministries might have in connecting with other people groups in the neighborhoods surrounding Lutheran churches in this District and provide some insights into what can be done.
The current members of the MEDTF are Dr. Victor Belton, Rev. Tony Durante. Rev. Frank and Rebecca Marshall, Deaconess Ligia Morales and Rhoda Reilly. Last fall, President Walton asked Pastor Durante to chair the task force.
President Walton’s goals in establishing MEDTF are as follows:
• Raise awareness in the District
• Understand the scope of issues
• Provide positive stories for website and District publications
• Discover ways to make congregations sensitive to issues without legalism/judgment
• Discover ways to encourage congregations to consider diversity when building teams
• Provide worship resources for a potential day of repentance
• Provide a list of resources for congregations to consider
Members of the task force have developed resources to be used by congregations in efforts to create awareness about multicultural relations and for personal reflection about attitudes toward other races. These include a recorded theatrical drama and a confession and absolution liturgy specific to racism.
Last summer the MEDTF conceived, “The Multicultural Church Award” as a centerpiece of its efforts. It is meant to be a “fun” approach to realizing some of the task force’s goals by inviting congregations to compete for the designation as a multicultural church. The inspiration for the idea is the All-American Cities Award, where municipalities across the country vie annually for recognition by the National Civic League as a city that successfully addresses local issues. Similarly, the MEDTF seeks to present the Multicultural Church Award to a district congregation that demonstrates a multicultural approach to mission and ministry in the following aspects in in-reach and outreach:
The winner will receive a trophy, a $500 cash prize, mention in District-wide publications and distinction as a model, inspiration, and resource to other congregations aspiring to be multicultural ministries. The winner will be announced at the Pastors and Educators conference this September. Congregations will be able to enter the contest this spring at a date to be announced on the FLGA District website.
The MEDTF will conclude its term with recommendations to the District President’s office toward ongoing efforts to encourage LCMS congregations in Florida and Georgia to engage a more diverse community.
As Jesus said, “Therefore go and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit, and teaching them to obey everything I have commanded you. And surely I am with you always, to the very end of the age” (Matthew 28:19-20)
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