During the last year I have been mentored by Nikki Lerner our race and culture coach for the Missouri Annual Conference. People have asked me numerous times what I have learned in my conversations with Nikki. Frankly, I have had to stop and reflect on my answer. What have I learned in these monthly conversations?
First, the conversation has become a good cadence of accountability and encouragement around our work in the area of race and culture. It has forced me to keep this ministry initiative on the front burner rather than letting it get lost in the chaos of the daily tasks of episcopal leadership.
Secondly, Nikki continues to open an awareness of my own blind spots, my own biases and racism, my own privilege and my own comfort with the status quo.
Third, she has provided me with guidance in appropriate language, approach and processes that can make a difference in our system of United Methodism. She continually reminds me that culture always trumps ideas and strategies. Culture is the dominate force in all our lives and the church. As pastors we become culture curators creating a new culture that looks more like the Kingdom of God than the secular world. Because we are all swimming in a secular American culture, it takes patience and determination.
Fourth, we are constantly to look at our procedures and structures to make sure that those procedures and structures are serving us rather than we serving them. We need to keep asking, ‘how clear is the process, how transparent?’ Without transparency, there is no diversity.
Lastly, Nikki encourages me to consider how I can personally take action. I’ve learned a lot from my coaching sessions with her and look forward to our continual engagement. Friends, we are creating a new culture in the Missouri Annual Conference; a culture that is bolder and safer for a more diverse and younger people so that we can become a church for all of God’s people, not just some of God’s people.