Intercultural Development and Growth
Dear CPA Community,
Last fall I had the privilege of sitting and talking with Anthony Ray Hinton prior to his addressing our community as the latest Perspectives speaker at CPA. His book, The Sun Does Shine, was the required summer reading for our US student body and faculty as a part of our “Woven” initiative (an interdisciplinary learning initiative to create conversations around important cultural issues). Mr. Hinton was at CPA to share his personal story of a wrongful conviction that sent him to Death Row for the vast majority of his adult life - his only “crime” was being black in Alabama. While we were backstage talking and getting to know each other, I asked him a question that had been burning in me since reading the book. “Mr. Hinton, if you don't mind me asking, how do you not just hate and resent people who look like me?” His response (paraphrased), “The same God who made me made you, and to hate you would be to think he messed up in making either one of us.” Tears welled up - never have I been so humbled in the face of such beautiful and undeserved grace.
I have watched a week that has revealed continued injustice and violence as we bore witness to the murder of an American citizen of color, George Floyd, at the hands of law enforcement officials in Minneapolis, Minnesota. And I have reflected on the countless other victims losing their lives due to the color of their skin because of racism. This response from Mr. Hinton is amplified by the advice of another Perspectives speaker, Dr. John Perkins, who reminded me that Christ’s blood was shed for all to cover all - including those who experience the greatest injustice, those who know not what to do and remain silent and those who commit the greatest crimes. These two men and what I learned from them have also framed my dinner table conversations. As a multi-ethnic family, my own children have experienced these last few weeks very differently and in very painful ways. Our CPA faculty and families of color have experienced this week in ways I can never fully comprehend, and we need to stand united with them in their pain.
I am, at best, a work in progress. This insecurity has sometimes softened my words, never wanting to speak from ignorance or a lack of certainty. However, this letter is not about blindspots nor certainty but from conviction. A conviction that is ultimately from God’s Truth and how it manifests in our CPA community.
I want to begin with a blanket statement: if you are a part of the majority culture like I am, in this case due to the complexion of your skin or family heritage, it is impossible to fully comprehend the pain and fear that minority communities have and still are experiencing by generational racism and the broken systems within American society. I love the articulation in a statement released by the “And Campaign.”
“A spirit of racial hatred and violence has engulfed the United States of America for too long; in fact, it’s our nation’s original sin. This reality presents Christians with the difficult task of rising to a biblical standard of love and truth while enduring extreme evil. This task is the sine qua non of Christian discipleship, but it can’t be accomplished by our own strength. While some flee, dismiss or exploit the tragedy, we must uphold the compassion and conviction of Jesus Christ through the Spirit’s power. We must acknowledge the gravity of the moment without being carried away by the moment. We must seek justice and hold the perpetrators accountable without reciprocating their cruelty or refusing to pray for their spiritual redemption. In the words of Martin Luther King Jr., we must have the “strength to love” our enemies as Jesus commands us.”
CPA is committed to an education built on God’s Truth. This Truth cannot minimize, patronize, or overlook systematic injustice if we desire to be about the Lord’s work of restoration. I say this from deep conviction as the leader charged with upholding our mission. Regardless of our past shortcomings, blindspots and missteps throughout our 35 years as a school, CPA is committed to following God’s word in all situations including this one. Our Senior Pastor and Board of Trustee Scott Sauls has had a clear and steady voice for truth and grace throughout his tenure that as a ministry of this church we affirm and follow, and he has specifically spoken to the protests and riots in our country and city.
In 2017, we launched the CPA Strategic Plan. This plan included two strategic initiatives on this topic: “Grow Our Us” and “Mature Our Mission,” If you would like to see the tangible steps we are taking as action items to fulfill these priorities, click here. The last few weeks have generated a number of questions regarding CPA’s role, response, and responsibility. The above links share some of the progress we have made in the areas of diversity, accessibility, and intercultural development in relation to the missional growth for CPA, as they are integral to Christian education. I am honored to be a part of the important work we have pursued, as well as encouraged by the results, but we still have a long way to go and much to learn.
Finally, this is at its core a spiritual battle. And while there are many great ways to engage and learn (a resource list) let us not overlook the power of prayer. It is our prayer that as a community we can look to the truths of Scripture as we work through the sanctifying practice of racial reconciliation. It is our prayer for our community that we take up the holy work of self-reflection on these matters, examining the dark corners of prejudice hard-wired into our sinful nature, then press forward to love mercy and to walk humbly. Let grace and equity be the aroma of everything we do. It is our prayer for our faculty and families that together, we learn the posture of mourning; mourning with those who mourn, setting aside personal pride, politics, and convenience to obey what Christ has commanded: “The most important one,” answered Jesus, “is this: ‘Hear, O Israel: The Lord our God, the Lord is one. Love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind and with all your strength.’ The second is this: ‘Love your neighbor as yourself.’ There is no commandment greater than these.” (Mark 12:29-31)
I believe empathy and humility is the key to growth and maturation. It’s about learning our blindspots and learning to help one another out of our blindspots. We each need each other to help see, and if we can trust each other in relationship, we all develop a richer and more beautiful picture of God’s creation. As always if you have any questions or would like to dialogue deeper, I am available.
CPA Head of School
In 2017, CPA launched the CPA Strategic Plan. This plan included two strategic initiatives: “Grow Our Us” and “Mature Our Mission.” Though the progress has cultivated considerable growth and awareness, it has only just begun!
"All education begins with these two principles. We teach who we are and we cannot take anyone where we have not been. Therefore, the first work within CPA needed to be with us, the faculty." -Head of School Nate Morrow
- In 2019, CPA partnered with the Institute of Cross-Cultural Mission (ICCM of Grace D.C. Network) to perform an intercultural development inventory (measurement tool for intercultural awareness). Led by ICCM Executive Director Pastor Irwyn Ince (also moderator of the Presbyterian Church in America), the Academy was able to identify areas of growth and strategic initiatives to increase diversity and intercultural awareness both in curriculum and programming.
- In 2019, CPA continued this program with PCA Mission North America African American Ministries coordinator Wy Plummer to complete individual Intercultural Development Inventories (IDI) with every member of Academy faculty and staff. Wy’s mission is the process of gospel-centered sanctification among organizations supported through data-backed research and interpersonal assessments. Wy ran campus-wide diagnostics through detailed surveys and monthly coaching meetings in both individual and small-group settings to discuss where we fall on the intercultural continuum (denial, polarization, minimization, acceptance, adaptation) to take us from a monocultural mindset to an intercultural mindset. Wy’s implementation of individual action steps, resources, and growth plans are in continual work at CPA, both school-wide and campus-wide.
- In 2019, our Board of Trustees went through the IDI (Intercultural Development Inventory process) along with individual assessment meetings.
- In 2019, CPA developed an intercultural task force representative within our faculty to help review and recommend policy, develop strategies for growth and problem solve existing challenges within our community on diversity.
- In 2019, lower school leadership in partnership with community members of color reevaluated our lower school field trips that align with our intercultural goals.
- In 2019, CPA Upper School launched the Institute for Cultural Engagement, offering students the opportunity to discover the intersection of their passion and purpose in order to make a meaningful contribution to the public good- culture shapers. A four-year program containing four components of programming (curriculum, collaboration, internship, Telos project), Centers include schools of Mercy and Justice, Arts and Entertainment,
Business and Entrepreneurship, Media and Publication, and Inquiry and Design. Click here to learn more about these centers and how they will address and inform discussions on intercultural initiative.
- In 2020, two within this task force began a three-year cohort program with Institute of Cross-Cultural Mission (ICCM of Grace D.C. Network) to help us ensure we are caring well for the families of color within CPA and are attractive to new ones.
The Academy's Perspectives speaker series has been an open forum for topics of faith in all areas of culture. CPA has been honored to host several renowned speakers on diversity, sharing stories from their experiences in the civil rights movement. All events are free and open to the public so as to encourage community conversation and engagement.
In 2018, the Academy hosted Dr. John M. Perkins, a leading voice on civil rights, racial injustice, and social activism. Key takeaways from Dr. Perkins included the importance of open conversation on topics of racial inequity and a call for reconciliation between racial divides in the Church.
In 2018, the Academy welcomed professional baseball player Darryl Strawberry to hear his stories on life and faith in his arenas, including the MLB, the Church, and his work of ministry to incarcerated people of color.
In 2019, the Academy embarked on a campus-wide study of author, speaker, and civil rights spokesperson Anthony Ray Hinton. Hinton's book The Sun Does Shine is an account of his incredible testimony in the face of racism and extreme injustice at the hands of the American legal system. All CPA upper school students, faculty, and staff explored The Sun Does Shine as required reading, attended multi-disciplinary lectures on the book, and attended Hinton's Perspectives talk as well. More collective studies and exercises of this nature are in the works for the 2020-21 school year.