Knowing Your Intercultural Competence

by | Jul 5, 2021

I have become all things to all people, so that I might by any means save some. I do it all for the sake of the gospel, so that I may share in its blessings.

1 Corinthians 9:22b-23

Last week I wrote about the new groups we are launching this summer. The first groups, Processing the Pandemic, are drop-in but facilitated times for church members and friends, or clergy and pastors, to support each other as they reflect on these last 16 months. The organizing meetings were a good start, and the folks decided to keep the times as listed below, and to meet by Zoom. You are welcome to join—no need to pre-register—just click:

There are three other groups that offer Presbytery members to focus on different aspects of anti-racism which are described below. But even if you don’t like working in groups, there is another resource we are offering this summer, and that is the Intercultural Development Inventory, or IDI.

The IDI uses a survey that is designed to assess an individual’s level of intercultural competence. The analysis places participants in one of five general categories:

  • Denial of cultural differences; folks in this group do not recognize cultural differences
  • Polarization sees differences and judges them either negatively, or judges their own culture negatively in favor of another culture
  • Minimization deemphasizes difference and tries to focus on commonalities
  • Acceptance deeply comprehends difference
  • Adaptation bridges across difference; people in this group can move smoothly between

As a Presbytery, we will receive a report giving totals of all respondents (anonymously). This group report, which will be presented at the September 18 Presbytery meeting, will give a snapshot of our presbytery, which will guide the leaders in considering how we might approach intercultural activities. This approach allows us to see the diversity of perspectives in the Presbytery, rather than assuming we are all in the same place.

After the group report is presented, respondents will be invited to schedule a meeting with a trained administrator who can interpret your personal responses in full confidentiality. It is optional for you to go over your personal profile, and the only person who will see your profile is yourself and the administrator you meet with. In this meeting, you will go over your individual survey results, and discuss ideas to increase your cultural awareness.

Several of us have taken this survey, and we believe that it offers insights to reflect on and discuss, and a common language with which we can talk about cultural differences. By the way, culture is not limited to ethnicity or race; IDI considers “culture” to mean a system of “shared expectations [that] structure how individuals in the community act toward one another and how they likely may act toward people who do not share the same patterns of interpretation and behavior.” This can mean ethnic heritage, or social class, gender, age, etc.

One insight from the IDI approach outlines the difference between “diversity” and “inclusion.” Many of us—including San Gabriel Presbytery— can boast of the diversity in our membership. But if we are not interculturally competent to honor the different cultures among our members, this diversity can be a hindrance rather than a gift.

Here’s a graphic that explains the concept.

The strength that comes from diversity is revealed only as we invite everyone to participate from their varied perspectives.

One analogy might be an orchestra. We can either allow all the musicians to play their instruments

as they were taught, but committed to work together, or we can bring in all the different musicians but expect them all to play like violins. In subtle ways, our practices and assumptions are rooted in one particular culture, so we don’t always allow for gifts of other cultures to contribute all that they can.

Interested? I hope so! Those of us who have taken the survey have already had deep and insightful conversations about how we swim in these waters of mixed cultures, even within our own identities. For myself, the survey challenged me out of my own complacency. Since the individual reports are given confidentially, you can use it as a tool however works best for you, and you create a development plan for yourself. This survey will not be used to evaluate you, but it helps your own self-reflection.

If you’re not interested in that much self-reflection, you can join one or more groups that are starting this summer to look at different topics related to God’s call to work for justice for all people.

A couple of churches have inquired about having a group report done for their congregation. If you would like to do that, please contact Ally Lee at If you want to take the IDI or join a group, we ask that you let us know by clicking here by July 12 so that the group leaders can contact you directly to start the group. In addition to the support groups mentioned above, we are starting three different groups related to race, justice and inclusion:

  • Dialogues on Race: The group will meet weekly for seven weeks using the Dialogues on Race curriculum by Augsburg Press, starting in late The group will practice dialogue techniques and learn about the history of racism in the American church.
  • Conversations on Reparations with African Americans: This group will start with study and self-reflection on one accessible situation that calls out for reparations. We will resist our desire to jump to a “quick fix” but practice the many steps towards reconciliation, including reparations that come out of relationship with the community.
  • Reforming Presbytery Practices: This group will review Presbytery practices and values that exclude potential leaders, and propose changes to the way we “do business” that invite broader participation and more faith-focused discernment in our decision-making.

There is a flyer about all of the groups that you can distribute to your church and friends. Sign up today

to join a group or two; group descriptions are on the registration form.

I’m excited about the opportunities to connect with each other in reflection and reconciliation. All the work will be done in the spirit of Christ, with respect for the person God made in each of us. Join us!