Intercultural Leadership Institute’s year-long program addressing cultural competency ends with special training session

VALLEY FORGE, PA (11/18/2022)— The second cohort of American Baptist Home Mission Societies’ (ABHMS) Intercultural Leadership Institute (ILI) recently concluded its 13-month curriculum with a three-day residency at ABHMS’ Leadership and Mission Building in King of Prussia, Pa. The in-person event featured guest trainer the Rev. Kathryn (“Katie”) Choy-Wong, a respected elder in the Asian American Baptist community and thought leader who recently co-authored “Building Lasting Bridges: An Updated Handbook for Intercultural Ministries” (Judson Press 2022).

The Rev. Dr. Marie Onwubuariri, director of Intercultural Ministries at ABHMS, described Choy-Wong’s day-long session as “a fitting culmination of the cohort’s work over the past year.” The author “was able to synthesize key concepts of the program and then enable her learners to view them through a lens of practical self-awareness,” said Onwubuariri. “She helped us to understand the stories of ourselves and of others.”

An accomplished American Baptist consultant on race and intercultural ministry, Choy-Wong employed a variety of tools and exercises to guide her learners in self-examination on matters of cultural identity, cultural reinforcement, and cross-cultural interactions. She cautioned them specifically about the dangers of stereotyping and highlighted efforts of both white communities and those of color to move toward multicultural and intercultural expressions of Jesus-following.

The ILI program is designed around building a robust network of culturally competent leaders across the United States and Puerto Rico on a stout biblical and theological foundation. The latest cohort, approximately 50 strong, first convened in November 2021 for a three-day residency, where keynote speaker the Rev. Dr. Miguel De La Torre, professor of Social Ethics and Latinx Studies at the Iliff School of Theology, Denver, Colo., encouraged participants to diverge from longstanding Eurocentric Christianity and “decolonize their minds.”

Following the initial in-person event, the cohort convened three additional times. Participants gathered online in February 2022 to engage in reflection and networking and again online in June for a learning session led by filmmaker Avril Speaks, who delved into the connections between character storylines and self-identify. The cohort assembled formally for the final time this month for a three-day residency that included reflection and facilitated discussions in addition to Choy-Wong’s training session.

Considering the full learning experience, the Rev. Alicia Dixon-Garrard, lead pastor and planter of Community of Grace of the Southern Tier in New York said, “I enjoyed the deep sense of community and solidarity formed in this cohort. The safe space to grow in self-awareness and gain tools to do this intercultural work was a gift that isn’t easily found elsewhere for clergy.”

The Intercultural Leadership Institute has completed two cohort cycles since 2019. Looking ahead, Onwubuariri said, “The coming year will be an opportune time to reconnect with the participants of our two cohorts to discuss the next level of training needed for the ongoing leadership journey. Cultivating intercultural leaders who are self-aware, competent, and transformational is a long and complex process, and the needs are as diverse as God’s people.”

To learn more about Intercultural Ministries at ABHMS, visit abhms.org.

American Baptist Home Mission Societies partners with American Baptists to promote Christian faith, cultivate Christ-centered leaders and disciples, and bring healing and transformation to communities across the United States and Puerto Rico.

 American Baptist Churches USA is one of the most diverse Christian denominations today, with approximately 5,000 congregations comprised of 1.3 million members, across the United States and Puerto Rico, all engaged in God’s mission around the world.