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Presbyterian Intercultural Network to host first regional conference

Event to focus on building equitable relationships and connections

by Gail Strange | Presbyterian News Service

Presbyterian Intercultural Network president, Sharon Mook encourages individuals at the network’s luncheon at GA 222 (2016) to attend the organization’s upcoming conference at Columbia Theological Seminary. Photo by Tony Sibely

Presbyterian Intercultural Network president, Sharon Mook encourages individuals at the network’s luncheon at GA 222 (2016) to attend the organization’s upcoming conference at Columbia Theological Seminary. Photo by Tony Sibely

LOUISVILLE – The Presbyterian Intercultural Network, a grassroots network of the Presbyterian Church (U.S.A.), will host its 2016 Intercultural Regional Conference August 22–24 at Columbia Theological Seminary in Decatur, Georgia.

The keynote speaker is Stacey Abrams, the House minority leader for the state of Georgia. Abrams is the first woman to lead either party in the Georgia General Assembly and the first African American to lead the House of Representatives. First elected to the Georgia House of Representatives in 2006, Abrams quickly became known for her expertise in and ability to explain complicated tax and legal questions. She also earned a reputation for working across party lines to pass legislation. In 2010 she became House minority leader and has led the House to promote and pass legislation to increase educational opportunity, promote economic security, and improve the quality of life for all Georgians.

“This is our first regional conference,” said the Rev. Sharon L. Mook, moderator of the Presbyterian Intercultural Network. “We’re moving away from larger national conferences so that we can make the conference accessible and affordable for everyone who wants to attend. We’re trying to start Presbyterian Intercultural Network chapters across the country, starting in Atlanta.” The organization hopes to inspire and equip a critical mass of participants to build chapters of the network, and be a resource to churches, presbyteries, and synods striving to be welcoming and understanding of all cultures.

The network connects and nurtures intercultural, multicultural, and cross-cultural ministries throughout the United States. “Our one focus is to provide a safe place where there can be serious discussions where people feel they can express their own culture, worship God, understand God, and celebrate their culture,” said Mook. The network invites participants to enter into sacred space in which transformation may emerge through honest, open, difficult conversations about “whiteness,” institutional racism, power imbalance, and power sharing.

Mook noted that in order for relationships to work, groups must be aware of the power dynamics involved. She said the network strives to make sure that power is shared. The network endeavors to ensure that people who often do not have voice are at the table and that they do have power. In addition, the network is attentive to who is on the board and in other leadership positions of the network. Mook cited the upcoming conference as an example of how the network hopes to share power. “If we have whites leading workshops, we make sure we have persons of color leading workshops. If we have a white preacher, we make sure that we have a preacher of color as well. It is important that all voices are heard.”

The Rev. Sterling Morse, coordinator for African American intercultural congregational support for the Racial Ethnic & Women’s Ministries area of the Presbyterian Mission Agency, will serve as guest preacher for the conference.

“The conference theme ‘All In: Incarnation in an Intercultural World’ is timely,” Morse said. “In an increasingly globalized church and society there is a need to be intentional about moving past surface interaction toward more sustainable and compassionate relationships.”

For more information about the conference, visit the Presbyterian Intercultural Network website.

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