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from 63 percent in 1960. But congregations there tend to

remain ethnically segmented, said Michael Rinehart, synod bishop. “Frankly, I don’t know that we

[have a] multicultural congregation,” he said. “A multicultural congregation is one where multiple ethnicities wor- ship in their space. It’s one where we have opened our minds, and decisions are based on who’s already there and who’s not there yet. It’s engaging your surrounding community—even if it feels a little uncomfortable.” Gulf Coast churches tend to have

predominantly white membership and adhere to traditionally European cultures, Rinehart said. Congrega- tions sometimes draw members from

other ethnic groups. In addition, some predominantly white congrega- tions share space with those of other cultures but refrain from worshiping together. “If I have an African-American

family visiting my congregation, that doesn’t make me African-American and it doesn’t necessarily make me multicultural,” said Rinehart, who is white. “If I have a white theology, white style of worship [and] white organizational structure, it’s very hard for me to think my way out of that.” Such homogeneity extends to the

synod’s ethnic-specifi c ministries, Rinehart said. “One of the biggest challenges is

‘A multicultural congregation is one

where we have opened our minds, and decisions are based on who’s already

there and who’s not there yet. It’s engaging your

surrounding community— even if it feels a little uncomfortable.’

that Lutheran—primarily European— congregations were organized using northern European ways of organiz- ing,” he said. “T eology tends toward the northern European Christendom mentality, so worship, architecture of buildings, spaces and so on are of a


Truly inclusive membership requires intention, support Although a predominantly white congregation

n 1990 people of color comprised 2 percent of the ELCA’s total membership. Since then a perennial goal has been to increase members of color to at least 10

percent. In 2016 the ELCA has yet to reach the goal’s halfway mark. To determine why and develop a strategy will require

“hard analysis,” said Albert Starr, ELCA director for eth- nic specifi c ministries and program director for African descent ministries. “In a lot of ways we’ve been wrestling with a notion

of multicultural as defi ned by the dominant culture,” he said. “T e concept of

‘multicultural’ breaks down

when it does not take a look at the depth of relationship and call for real equity—when it becomes a question of power and authority and who has it.” One strategy has been to start congregations. In

2001, Patricia Tunches Muran was called to develop a congregation to serve the Hispanic population in Santa Maria, Calif. Unsure of which segment of the large, diverse popu-

lation to target, the pastor prayed for guidance. Two families from southern Mexico reached out. T ey were of Mayan-Indian descent from Oaxaca, and their native language is Mextico. Some also speak Spanish, espe- cially the men, and the children typically speak English too.

More than 200 people now belong to Iglesia Luterana Santa Cruz. 20

provides space for the Spanish-language congregation, Muran said Santa Cruz members appreciate the sepa- ration. T e congregations join for some activities and fellowship, including vacation Bible school and youth programs. “[Santa Cruz members] can relate to each other

because they know the common challenges here [in the U.S.],” Muran said. “T ey know their mother language and that this is a place where they are accepted and welcomed.” Unlike many ethnic specifi c congregations, Santa

Cruz benefi ts from donations from local ELCA congre- gations, the Southwest California Synod, the church- wide organization and individuals, Muran said. “In many cases, the ethnic congregations are in poor

communities,” she said. “T ey get money to keep the mission going for the fi rst few years. T ey can get the mission church started, but the money goes away too soon.” Santa Cruz wouldn’t survive without fi nancial assis-

tance—Muran did the math. Members are agricultural workers and make as much as $25,000 in good years. If all tithed 10 percent, it wouldn’t fund basic expenses. “T e reality is that it doesn’t matter that you’re

expecting these congregations to support themselves aſt er a few years,” Muran said. “Yet they need Jesus just as much as you or I need Jesus.”


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