Diversity and Unity
June 7, 2021
by Greg Henson, President, Sioux Falls Seminary
Today we are finishing our series on the practices of the Kairos community by looking at diversity and unity. If you have been following along for the past year, you have noticed several references to the global and diverse nature of Kairos. There are students and mentors spread out around the world representing over 70 different denominations. Participants in Kairos are following Jesus in vocations ranging from congregational ministry to church planting to real estate development to entrepreneurship and much more.
Last week, we talked about the practice of localized global engagement, and we ended that article by mentioning that it creates new opportunities for thinking about the concept of diversity. As we look across the history of higher education in North America, we often see a deep desire for diversity. Accreditation standards require schools to pay attention to it and entire departments are often birthed with the goal of enhancing diversity. It is safe to say that diversity has been a stated goal of the "western" academy for many years.
At a recent Kairos board meeting, one of the newest board members (who leads the health and productivity group at a large energy company) stated that it can be helpful for organizations to think more in terms of 'inclusion" rather than simply diversity. She remarked, "diversity is like being invited to the party while inclusion is being asked to dance." As a new voice in the community, she gracefully put into (better) words our practice of unity and diversity. I believe her words help us better understand the goal we have in mind.
In our push toward diversity within the academy, we have tended to define diversity in terms of gender, race, and ethnicity. While those are indeed worthy of significant attention, they do not automatically lead to a culture that leverages the blessing of diversity. Without intentionally including diverse voices in the process of forming, shaping, and leading a movement, we will have a "multi-faceted" community but still a "mono-cultural" one. Within Kairos, there is a desire to cultivate a fellowship of differents wherein diverse voices join together to discern the leading of the Spirit and to celebrate the fact that the Spirit is moving in southern Brazil in ways it may not be moving in the Pacific Northwest. This is only possible when we move past diversity and, instead, toward inclusion.
The challenge with inclusion as a goal is that it requires a continual release of power, prestige, and our general sense of "rightness" or "certitude." It is this epistemic humility that fosters unity. We are unified around the person and work of Jesus Christ but humble enough to embrace the fact that our voice is not a privileged one. Each of us is one among many, one part of a mosaic, one member of the body.
Unity in the context of diversity is not sameness. We are not striving to develop a "diverse" community that thinks or acts the same way. Rather, we are welcoming the mosaic beauty of the body of Christ. We practice inclusion because it raises voices that have long been diminished and recognizes that unity is found in the bond of Christ, rather than in our abstracted theology or policies. Theology is important. Following Jesus is important. The unshakeable truth of God's Word is unavoidable. The Gospel is to be proclaimed in Jerusalem, Judea, and the ends of the earth. We practice inclusion because the Spirit uses it to open our eyes, hearts, and minds to what God is doing in our midst and through the body of Christ around the world - and in our neighborhoods.