About nine months into its work discerning what translation services for the Presbyterian Church (U.S.A.) will look like, the Translation Task Force, part of the A Corporation, held a Big Tent listening session Thursday attended by about 35 people including Presbyterians with ties to Thailand, Indonesia, Puerto Rico, Korea and Japan, among other nations.
“We ought to give up thanks to God for the diversity in this room,” said Bridget-Anne Hampden, the A Corp Board co-moderator. “This is what the church has to be about if we are to carry on the mission of God.”
“We are not experts in translation,” said JoAnne Sharp, a member of both the task force and the A Corp Board, “but we have learned a lot in the last nine months.”
After reaching out to ecumenical partners, the task force learned “that every denomination does (translation services) differently,” Sharp said. Some contract for services, while others, the PC(USA) included, have translators on staff.
“There is no perfect project we can copy,” Sharp said. “If we could find one denomination doing it correctly, we would borrow their information.”
Via videoconference, the task force met with the co-moderator of the 223rd General Assembly, Ruling Elder Vilmarie Cintrón-Olivieri, who discussed her translation experience during a previous assembly. The A Corp Board has also engaged a consultant, Prof. Lluís Baixauli-Olmos, who teaches in the Classical and Modern Languages Department at the University of Louisville. “He’s opened up a world we didn’t realize,” Sharp said.
The A Corp Board is searching for what it’s calling the manager of global languages. “We realize we need a multiple language individual with project management experience to run the group,” Hampden said. “It’s a unique position, but we trust God that there is somebody out there for us.”
Ruth Gardner, manager of human resources for the A Corp, said the new manager must be able to put together and lead a team and perform both contract and project management. The person must “put in place an infrastructure that will meet multiple demands we are still learning about,” she said.
Hampden and Sharp turned the microphone over to people who had questions about services that may be forthcoming or input on the translation services the PC(USA) currently offers, Korean and Spanish.
One person said she provided translation services for 25 years in the legal field, “but I didn’t dare translate in the medical field.”
“I don’t think there is a religious translator specialist,” she added, “but we do have a church lingo.”
The Rev. Deb Avery, an A Corp Board member, said she’s a little like a woman she knows who says she may be fluent in Spanish — but she’s no translator.
“What I do is listen, grab a sense of it, and then interpret it back out,” Avery said. “We can make this work, but we shouldn’t be making it work on the backs of our people of color.”
The Rev. Dr. Paul Huh, the PC(USA)’s Korean language translator, said he appreciates people’s interest in the future of translation services, “and I’m greatly encouraged by that.”
He said he came to the PC(USA) 30 years ago, “and it was translation that helped me grow in the church. Working word by word, I learned what the PC(USA) stands for. How did that happen? By studying the Book of Order and the Book of Confessions, word by word.”
Opening up languages not currently being translated — suggestions include French, Arabic, Thai, Indonesian, Vietnamese and others — “is an important dynamic in this endeavor,” Huh said, calling adding additional languages “a justice issue.”
Hampden tossed out the idea of forming an advisory board, “a cadre of individuals to bring solutions” for the A Corp to move translation services forward.
“The nuances here are critical to our success,” she said. “We want to be deliberate and it may slow the process down, but the engagement process is extremely important. I’m thinking we need to form an advisory council to help us with some of these nuances.”
Several people in the room agreed to participate.
“Thank you for helping us be a more inclusive denomination,” Hampden said at the conclusion of the hour-long listening session.