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Faith, ‘cultural fusion’ explored at GGBTS

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MILL VALLEY, Calif. (BP)–With dozens of brightly colored and patterned tapestries from all over the world draped behind him, Mark Tichenor explained the meaning of “Faith and the Cultural Fusion,” the theme of Golden Gate Baptist Theological Seminary’s 2007 Intersect conference.

“What gives value to weaving is color and pattern,” said Tichenor, Golden Gate’s vice president for enrollment and student services at a chapel service as part of the conference. “The person and Gospel of Jesus impart color and geometry into the people of a culture. In Christ, culture is enlivened and made rich from the inside out. This is what faith does to cultural fusion.”

The third annual Intersect conference, sponsored by the David & Faith Kim School of Global Missions at the seminary, is a weeklong emphasis on the concept of encouraging, teaching about and creating conversations for people to experience God in the “intersection of cultures.” It was held Nov. 5-9 at the seminary’s Northern California campus in Mill Valley.

“What might it mean to experience God in the intersection of cultures?” Tichenor asked. “It could mean hearing God speak in a different accent, rhythm, tone, language. It could mean letting God touch us with a hand that’s a different color, age or shape than yours.”

Gary Frost, former executive director of the Metropolitan New York Baptist Association and now pastor of Evergreen Baptist Church in Brooklyn, was the guest speaker for the week. Frost also has served as vice president of the North American Mission Board’s strategic partnership group and second vice president of the Southern Baptist Convention.

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“Cultural fusion allows a Holy Ghost synergy in which God can move,” Frost said in the Nov. 8 chapel. “As we converge in friendship and relationship, God opens up doors for evangelism that would otherwise not be opened. But we must come together for the sole purpose of glorifying God -– not just to say we get along and work together.”

Frost also spoke to a class on ministry leadership. Paul Davis, a diploma in theology student from San Diego, said he appreciated Frost’s heart for ministry to young black men, a passion he shares.

The Intersect conference included:

— two brown bag lunch dialogues. One lunch incorporated seminars led by students in Golden Gate’s global studies program on the topics of “Diffusing the Threat of Terrorism” and “Bridging our Stories.” The other was a discussion of how culture affects conversions from other faiths, with a testimony from a Muslim-background believer.

— three chapel services, incorporating other languages and music styles into the worship.

— an interactive art room where students and staff could express what they were learning and experiencing throughout the week using chalks and paper.

Following the Nov. 8 chapel, a special lunch reflected the three basic foods of most world cultures -– potato, bread and rice -– with a variety of sauces and vegetables, but no meat, to supplement each staple. Students were encouraged to partake of one staple at a time, and then participate at each table in an informal guided discussion of their home culture, its foods, how being a follower of Christ made them different even within their home culture and implications for ministry and missions across cultures.

The combination of faith and cultural fusion was summed up well in one of Frost’s messages: “I thank God that I can be who I am and you can be who you are and we can be in unity without being uniform,” he said. “When we come together with one purpose and in the name of Jesus, God does a supernatural glue job!”
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Amanda Phifer is a writer for Golden Gate Baptist Theological Seminary