Diocesan leaders and commission members gathered together at St. Paul’s Episcopal Church in Salinas on January 20 for an interactive Leadership Summit that focused on diversity, equity, recognizing and embracing cultural differences, and building a roadmap for multicultural change.

In her opening remarks, Bishop Mary Gray-Reeves showed photos of weavers and looms from her recent trip to Morocco. “The kingdom of God is like a loom,” she noted. “It’s messy and chaotic, but in the end it’s a beautiful work of art.”

The day’s events was led by Sarah Stearns, PhD, a licensed clinical psychologist and senior consultant with Visions, Inc., who specializes in race and gender, leadership development, and change strategies to create healthy and sustainable relationships and organizations.

Stearns examined the formation of “modern racism, where even people with best of intentions and kindest and warmest hearts, can continue to perpetuate patterns of inequality,” and shared guidelines for effective dialogue, “trying on” new ideas and behaviors, and balancing both process and content to accommodate diversity in leadership.

Of the latter, she related: “In many churches where I’ve worked, there is a real intention about bringing greater diversity to their committees and to leadership structures. When we do entice people to come, we still hold the same old meetings … what we may not notice is that the person whose presence we said we want and value has rarely spoken… has not had an opportunity to build relationships with anyone else, because we’ve been so agenda-focused, and leaves the meeting wondering why they were ever wanted.”

Another point of transforming leadership is that it’s OK to disagree. “We will disagree because we’ve had different life experiences,” she added, “because we see the world differently. It’s important in building authentic relationships to create spaces where disagreement can happen, without using blame, shame or attack.”

Stearns urged leaders to practice “both/and” thinking, rather than the growing use of “either/or” conversations that spark divides in society, such as viewing others as “red” or “blue,” being a “patriot or a traitor,” or speaking “truth or fake.”

“These ‘either-or’ places have robbed us of something essential, which is our capacity to remain engaged and the reality of multiple truths and multiple realities,” she explained. “When people speak, they’re speaking from something that means something to them.” The rise in “either-or” thinking is the result of people dismissing others’ words because their individual reality is the only truth they consider.

Resources for the summit included the book God’s Tapestry: Understanding and Celebrating Differences and the video “Silent Beats.”