Negotiating Boundaries

This was circulated at the UUA this week:

Negotiating Boundaries


Congregations today face the challenge–and opportunity–of negotiating a host of boundaries. How can leaders help congregations negotiate racial, cultural, generational, class, gender-related, and other boundaries?

Alban recently sponsored gatherings of a conversation group on negotiating cultural boundaries. The members of that group identified a set of characteristics that "leaders on the border" need:

The ability to bring critical analysis, faith tradition, and learned articulation to bear on the situations we see.

  1. Humility.

  2. The willingness to be wrong.

  3. The courage to speak the truth and to know when to be quiet and listen.

  4. The courage to deal with conflict, including the cognitive dissonance between what we think God and humanity should be and reality.

  5. To communicate when there is conflict and to create community in the midst of it.

  6. To know where the border is. Borders shift contextually, and leaders have to discern where those borders are.

  7. To be self-reflexive, to be open, and to take in information.

  8. To have bold, visionary, prophetic spiritual willingness to act when action is not popular, knowing that deliverance is coming.

  9. To be able to live on the border in the midst of tension and death.

  10. Allies.

Additional Resources

In the Alban book Embracing Diversity: Leadership in Multicultural Congregations, Charles R. Foster points to several leadership tasks that seem to be consistently present in the multicultural congregations he has studied. Click here for his list.

The 2003 summer issue of Congregations magazine focuses on the theme Crossing Cultural Boundaries. In both biblical and personal contexts, Alban seminar leader Jacqueline J. Lewis shows that our relationship to cultural boundaries can be an essential part of our "storied selves" in her article Living on the Border.


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