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Multicultural Church Network formed to reach America's cities
--By James Dotson
ATLANTA, June 14--The Multicultural Church Network was launched June 14 to advocate and facilitate the development of multicultural churches as a critical strategy for reaching America's cities.
     Old models of churches with a dominant ethnic makeup no longer are as effective, according to leaders of the new organization. Today's cities are increasingly populated by second-and third-generation Americans who are not comfortable in traditional Anglo congregations or the language churches of their parents.
     "It's a new phenomenon," Charles Lyons, pastor of the multicultural Armitage Baptist Church, Chicago, said.
     "Because urban America is increasingly multicultural, to reach these cities multicultural churches are necessary. As we have listened to each other's stories we have discovered that God has been raising up multicultural churches, and we see the need to help that happen in order to effectively reach our cities."
     Lyons serves as co-chairman of the network with Paul Kim, pastor of Berkland Baptist Church, Cambridge, Mass. The network emerged from the "Multiethnic Church Pastors Think Tank" April 24 in Chicago.
     The launch came on the eve of the June 15-16 Southern Baptist Convention annual meeting in which President Paige Patterson has called for an increased emphasis on reaching the cities.
Organizers said the Multicultural Church Network exists to strengthen existing multicultural churches, facilitate planting of new multicultural congregations and assist existing churches in the transition to a multicultural model. They hope to raise the awareness of the need for multicultural congregations, raise up new leadership for congregations and sponsor training conferences.
     "The multicultural pastor has been kind of isolated and has primarily grown the church by testing different methodologies and by struggling with different issues and problems," Russell Begaye, national multiethnic specialist in church planting for the North American Mission Board, said.
     "We want the network to be such that it will resource and empower pastors wanting [their churches] to become multicultural, because they may be in a dying church in a transitional neighborhood and they don't know what to do," he said.
Kim noted immigrants tend to stay in the cities because they lack the money to live in the suburbs. When Anglos leave the cities, the existing churches often are ineffective at reaching the new residents of their communities.
     "Then you have a big church building and a small congregation, and they don't know what to do with this," Kim said. Predicting that some suburban churches will be faced with the same problem, he said, "So, we've got to have a focus of planting multicultural churches."
The group plans its first national conference April 2-4, 2000, at Armitage Baptist Church.

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