In the early 1990s, during my first years of ministry with InterVarsity Christian Fellowship, I worked with a thoroughly multiethnic campus ministry team in New York City. We had two to three members from each of several major American racial and ethnic groups—black, Latino, Asian, and white. Our team believed that God loves people of every ethnicity and culture. Frankly, if we hadn’t, we wouldn’t have had much of a student ministry in New York City. And during our city-wide conferences, when students gathered in worship, we looked like that picture of the new creation in Revelation 7: every nation, tribe, people, and language gathered in praise.
As a Chinese American who grew up in Hawaii, I deeply appreciated InterVarsity’s commitment to multiethnicity and racial reconciliation. In InterVarsity, my ethnic background felt like an asset, not a path to being a somewhat abnormal would-be white person. InterVarsity, some said, was the most multiethnic campus ministry in the country, and we were the most multiethnic team in InterVarsity.
One of the ways our ministry embraced a multiethnic vision was sponsoring ethnic student conferences—opportunities for black, Latino, Asian, and white students to work through issues of ethnic identity, community, and faith in a safe environment. The first year we ran all the conferences at the same time in the fall, the students at my predominantly Asian American Columbia University fellowship promptly delved so deeply into their ethnic journey, especially what I call the “angry stage,” that they forgot to welcome new students. Obviously, this didn’t help the growth of our fellowship.
I spoke with my colleagues of color who ran the other ethnic conferences ...1