Follow-up to the “Open Letter”

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Last fall, we released “An Open Letter to the Evangelical Church,” a letter that many chose to support and sign, for which we remain deeply grateful. The letter was a communal response to address repeated instances of racial stereotyping and insensitivity by key individuals and organizations in the church, and you were one of more than 1,000 individuals who supported the letter and helped get the word out about it. As a result of your efforts, the original letter hosted here received more than 2,300 Facebook “likes”. And we know many of you shared about the letter on your own social media networks, often bearing the brunt of the criticism that accompanied doing so. It can’t be said enough: THANK YOU.
We apologize it has taken this long to follow-up with you, to express our appreciation for your support, and to also update you on at least a few of the ripple effects of the letter of which we are aware. You probably already know that the letter garnered media attention from a wide swath of Christian and secular outlets and websites, including NPR, Religion News Service, Christianity Today, and Al Jazeera America, as well as Ed Stetzer’s, Rachel Held Evans‘, and Angry Asian Man’s blogs, to name just a few. We were able to see cultural understanding advanced in organizations such as Exponential. A representative of a key Christian leader reached out to us for further dialogue. And one of the unexpected aftereffects of the letter was to see Lifeway CEO Thom Rainer publicly apologize for the pain and hurt that the company’s “Rickshaw Rally” curriculum caused, nearly ten years ago.
In addition, we know there are other significant interactions occurring as a result of the letter:

  • Christianity Today is planning multi-city focus groups (in L.A., Chicago, and NYC) to interact with and learn from Asian-American Christian leaders. The magazine is also planning a feature story about Asian American Christianity for the fall.
  • Verge Network made justice and racial intelligence a major theme for its national gathering in March
  • Leaders of the Exponential conference are pursuing plans to grow in the area of cultural intelligence, especially with regards to their relationships with the Asian American community
  • Leaders of several Asian American Christian institutes and initiatives are following up within the Asian American community as well as with the broader church
  • At least one new website has emerged after the letter–AsianAmericanChristian.org–which features Tim Tseng’s helpful historical summary of events that ultimately led to the Open Letter as well as other voices in response

So although the waters have seemed quiet since the initial post-letter media splash, we are now pursuing long-term change, which often happens beneath the surface and out-of-sight. And as we all know, change takes time and patience. But we have no doubt that as these plans and conversations continue, change will in fact occur, in the church and beyond.

In the meantime, you can help by continuing to advocate for increased Asian American participation in Christian organizations and causes with which you are connected. For example, we have recently contacted both Christianity Today and the new IF: Gathering to encourage increased Asian American representation in their leadership structure, and we would appreciate your taking similar initiative as you feel so led in your own circles of influence. And if you have any of your own stories to share, positive or negative, about any aftereffects of the letter, please feel free to share in the comments below.

The letter was always intended as just a first step to increase awareness in the church of issues related to cultural and racial insensitivity. But as we move on to the post-letter stage, the harder work of pursuing racial reconciliation in the church will require all our collective efforts, both from those of us who signed the letter to those in our broader church family. We welcome your continued participation in these efforts, and we will continue to keep you informed of any major developments as they arise.

For the Unity of the Church,

Ken Fong / Greg Jao / Kathy Khang / Ken Kong / Christine Lee / Daniel D. Lee  /  Helen Lee / David Park / Soong-Chan Rah / Bruce Reyes-Chow / Daniel So  /  Nikki Toyama-Szeto / Sam Tsang / Justin Tse / Timothy Tseng

(P.S. If you will be at the “Lighting the Community” summit in D.C. this week, and you see either Ken Kong, Daniel Lee, Helen Lee, or Nikki Toyama, please introduce yourself. We’d love to meet you.)

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