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People are the same; we have the same needs, interests, and goals in life.”
“If only other cultures were more like ours, the world would be a better place.”
“Many times I have noticed cultural differences in how direct or indirect people are in conversation.”[i]
How much do you agree or disagree with these statements?
These are a few sample statements from the Intercultural Development Inventory (IDI), which is an instrument measuring people’s basic orientations toward cultural differences.
Many of us tend to value cultural commonality more highly than cultural differences.
So, we often exclaim in excitement, “We have so many things in common!”
However, this statement can have different connotations, similar to Janus who has two heads or faces.
Yes, it is great that you and I are much alike.
But, how about she or he who is different than you and I?
We tend to exclude those who are different from us in the name of “commonality.”
We say we accept everyone, but as long as “they” share our values.
So, we say, “You are welcome here, but…” “You can be a leader, but…”
Here, the “but” may very well imply different forms of “exclusion.”
It is to say, “You cannot be a leader because you are a woman. You cannot be a chairperson of the committee because you are a person of color. Or because of your sexual orientation. Or because you are too young or too old.”
Indeed, many organizations strive to be diverse and inclusive.
We work hard to achieve diversity.
But, diversity doesn’t automatically lead to inclusion.
Someone wisely distinguished inclusion from diversity this way.
Diversity is the mix of cultural differences (as defined by IDI).
Some examples of cultural differences include men and women, young and old, black, Mexican, Korean, Chinese, German, gays and lesbians and transgendered persons.
Inclusion is “making the mix work.”
It is about including culturally different groups of people in the life of the organization or in a society.
Inclusion takes not only “talk” but “action.” As Representative John Lewis said, “Talk is fine. Discussion is fine.
But, we must respond. We must act.”
HOW do we achieve both diversity and Inclusion goals?
How do we then welcome and include diverse groups of people into local churches, presbytery’s council leadership, Methodist church committees and larger organizations?
One way to achieve inclusion is by helping individual members and organizations increase their inter-cultural competency.
Intercultural competency is the ability to effectively communicate and appropriately relate with people in cross-cultural contexts.
When we increase Intercultural competence, we develop:
1) Deep cultural self-awareness
2) Deep understanding of the experiences of people from different cultural communities; especially their perceptions, values, beliefs, behaviors and practices
3) Ability to adapt or bridge across cultural differences. [ii]
Intercultural competency is a learned practice.
It is a process.
For me, inclusion is a movement for human dignity for all.
Human dignity has been a fundamental core value sought in all inclusion movements, including the women’s movement, civil rights movement, voting rights, LGBTQI rights, and Black Lives Matter.
As a Korean American clergywoman, I have learned the hard way that God’s table must be open to everyone.
I have also learned that it takes an intentional effort to build bridges for cultural gaps and differences among those at the table.
An intentional effort to increase diversity and Inclusion brings the best out of us.
When we are interculturally competent, we understand ourselves better.
And it helps us understand others better.
It helps us respect others as they are.
So that people lead, teach, counsel and live with integrity and dignity.
Richard Rhor says, “Let us find our capacity to see, to love, to accept, to forgive, and to delight in those who share our values as well as those who are different from us. If we can’t delight in one lizard or one leaf, we are not going to delight in God.” [iii]
How do you delight in others as God delights in them?
My invitation is for you to delight in one lizard and one leaf, and invite one person, who is different than you, to dance with you.
Rev. Dr. Youngsook Charlene Kang is an ordained United Methodist minister who served congregations in Colorado and worked as an executive for the United Methodist global mission agency in New York and a regional judicatory leader in the Rocky Mountain region. She brings over a decade of experience as a leadership coach and trainer. As a Professional Certified Coach (PCC) she works with congregational leaders, pastors and denominational leaders. She is an instructor at the Columbia Theological Seminary coaching program. She is dedicated to intercultural coaching and is a qualified administrator of the Intercultural Development Inventory (IDI).
[i] Intercultural Development Inventory V3 Organization
[iii] Richard Rohr’s Daily Meditation From the Center for Action and Contemplation, November 1, 2021