Follow-up to the “Open Letter”

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––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.)

An Open Letter from the Asian American Community to the Evangelical Church

First, read the letter...(click here or on the image below for PDF) and then scroll down if you would like to sign, too.


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While this letter was being circulated for signatures, Exponential released an apology. We are grateful the apology (a) acknowledged the harm caused by the video, (b) unreservedly accepted responsibility for the video’s content, (c) explained the organization’s intention (without excusing the offense), and (d) invited intentional discussion and relationship-building. One of Exponential’s leaders, Dave Ferguson, has personally contacted several of the letter’s signatories to begin those relationships. Exponential’s response to the Asian American community’s concerns has been refreshingly different from the other incidents described in “Asian American Christians United” letter above.

We decided to post the letter even though Exponential offered a sincere apology because we desire to draw attention to the broader pattern of orientalizing Asian American believers by the evangelical church (the video being only the latest iteration of this problem). When (largely dominant culture) organizations ignore, belittle, or misappropriate Asian/Asian American cultures in ways which likely would not happen to other cultures, it reflects an exercise of dominant culture privilege. Dominant culture organizations can pick-and-choose which cultures to be “sensitive” to. This letter asks the dominant culture to begin to pay attention to our communities’ history and experiences.

This letter also invites dominant culture organizations to listen to and learn from the Asian American community. Please also note that we have more to offer than just cross-cultural skills and ethnic sensitivity training. We too are engaged in worship, mission, discipleship, theological reflection, and vibrant worship. Authentically reconciled communities avoid the tokenism of engaging with minority peoples only when race, ethnicity or culture are under consideration.

The Organizing Committee
(Ken Fong, Greg Jao, Kathy Khang, Ken Kong, Christine Lee, Helen Lee, David Park, Bruce Reyes-Chow, Nikki Toyama-Szeto, Sam Tsang, Justin Tse, Tim Tseng, and Daniel So)

Here is a list of the signatories for the “Open Letter”:

A.C. Acosta
Global Intercultural Services (GLINTS)
Keystone College

Jay Catanus
Lead Pastor, Northwest Filipino Baptist Church

Peter Cha, LMFT
Clinical Director
Redeemer Counseling Services

Peter T. Cha
Associate Professor of Pastoral Theology
Trinity International University

Sabrina Chan
InterVarsity Christian Fellowship

Calvin Chinn
Honorably Retired
Former Co-Pastor of the Presbyterian Church
Chinatown, San Francisco

Eugene Cho
Lead Pastor, Quest Church
Founder, One Day’s Wages

Minhee Jin Cho
Family & Marriage Therapist
Co-Founder, One Day’s Wages

Ricky Y. Choi, MD, MPH
Elder, Mission Bay Community Church

Virstan B.Y. Choy
Director, Advanced Pastoral Studies Program
Associate Professor of Ministry
San Francisco Theological Seminary

Jason Chu
Hip-Hop Artist

Richard Chuman
JEMS Executive Director

Christie Heller de Leon
InterVarsity Christian Fellowship

Ken Fong
Senior Pastor, Evergreen Baptist Church of LA
Executive Director, Asian American Initiative,
Fuller Seminary

Justin Fung
Associate Pastor, The District Church

Tracey Gee
InterVarsity Christian Fellowship

Sam George
Executive Director, Parivar International

Young Lee Hertig
Executive Director, ISAAC
(Institute for the Study of Asian American Christianity)
Organizing Pastor of Shalom Cafe

Jennifer Hollingsworth
Area Director, InterVarsity Christian Fellowship

Wendy Hu-Au
InterVarsity Christian Fellowship

Rev. Jennifer Ikoma-Motzko
Senior Pastor, Japanese Baptist Church (Seattle, WA)

Youwan Kang
English Pastor, Mountain View Chinese Christian Church

Erin Kawaye
OMF International

Kathy Khang
InterVarsity Christian Fellowship

Rebecca Kim
Perspectives Study Program NE Regional Director

Ken Kong
Director of The Southeast Asian Catalyst

Greg Jao
InterVarsity Christian Fellowship

Russell Jeung, Ph.D.
Professor, San Francisco State University,
Asian American Studies

Anne Joh, Ph.D.
Associate Professor of Systematic Theology
Director, Center for Asian/Asian American Ministries
Garrett-Evangelical Theological Seminary

Helen Jin Kim
Committee on the Study of Religion
Ph.D. Candidate, Harvard Graduate School
of Arts and Sciences

Kah-Jin Jeffrey Kuan, Ph.D.
President and Professor of Hebrew Bible
Claremont School of Theology

Andrew Lee, Ph.D.
Senior Pastor, Chinese Christian Union Church

Audrey S. Lee
Author, Leadership Coach and Multicultural Strategist

Rev. Boyung Lee, Ph.D.
Associate Professor of Practical Theology
Director, API Program Initiative
Pacific School of Religion &
Graduate Theological Union

Rev. Christine Lee
All Angels’ Church

Daniel D. Lee
Associate Director of Asian American Initiative
Fuller Theological Seminary

Helen Lee
Author and Speaker

Tat-Siong Benny Liew
Class of 1956 Professor in New Testament Studies
College of the Holy Cross

Henry Lucey-Lee
InterVarsity Christian Fellowship

Joseph S. Lee
Executive Presbyter, Presbytery of San Jose

Louis Lee
Pastor, Chinese Community Church, Sacramento, CA
Founder/General Director of MESA
(Ministries for English Speaking Asians)

Matthew Lee, Ph.D.
Lead Church Planter, Grace Life L.A.

Bo H. Lim, Ph. D.
Associate Professor of Old Testament
Seattle Pacific University

C. Jimmy Lin
President/Founder, Rare Genomics Institute

Jeff Liou
Ph.D. Candidate, Theology & Culture
Fuller Theological Seminary

K.C. Liu
Director of Passion for the Nations

Rev. Dr. Grace Y. May
Executive Director of Women of Wonder, Inc.
Pastor of Emmanuel Presbyterian Church

David Park
Pastor, Open Table Community Church (Atlanta, GA)

Victor Quon
Asian American Christian Fellowship

Soong-Chan Rah
Associate Professor, North Park Theological Seminary

Bruce Reyes-Chow
Author, Speaker and Former Moderator of the Presbyterian Church (USA)

Angela Ryo
English Ministry Pastor
Chicago Covenant Presbyterian Church (CCPC)

Roy I. Sano, Ph. D.
Bishop, The United Methodist Church

Glennis Shih
NYC Area Director
Epic Movement

Bob Shim, MD
Missionary, Covenant World Mission
The Evangelical Covenant Church

Grace Shim, LPC
Missionary, Covenant World Mission
Counselor, Cornerstone Counseling Foundation

Daniel So
Pastor, United Presbyterian Church

Ram Sridharan
Area Director, Central Ohio
InterVarsity Christian Fellowship

Grace Kaori Suzuki, pastor
Christ United Presbyterian Church

Mark Tao
Pastor, Immanuel Evangelical Covenant Church
Chicago, IL

Jason Thomas
Regional Director, Red River (TX, OK & AR)
National South Asian American Coordinator
InterVarsity Christian Fellowship

Collin T. Tomikawa
Regional Director, Pacific (Northern California,
Northern Nevada & Hawaii)
InterVarsity Christian Fellowship

Nikki Toyama-Szeto
Author and Speaker

Jonathan Tran, Ph.D.
Associate Professor of Religion
Baylor University

Joseph Tsang
Senior Pastor, Vision Church of Overseas
Chinese Mission

Sam Tsang, Ph.D.
Associate Professor, Hong Kong Baptist Theological Seminary; Author and Conference Speaker

Justin K.H. Tse
Ph.D. Candidate, University of British
Columbia at Vancouver
Chair, Geography of Religion and Belief Systems
Specialty Group, Association of American Geographers

Tim Tseng, Ph.D.
Pastor at Canaan Taiwanese Christian Church
Former Executive Director of ISAAC, Professor

Mienda Uriarte
PCUSA Minister of Word and Sacrament.

Billy Q. Vo
Director, Asian American Ministry Program
Seattle Pacific Seminary and University

Allen Mitsuo Wakabayashi
Pastor at Twin City Bible Church
InterVarsity Christian Fellowship

Sze-kar Wan, Ph.D.
Professor of New Testament,
Perkins School of Theology

Jon Ido Warden
Author and Speaker

Andy Wong
InterVarsity Christian Fellowship

Brad Wong
Lead Pastor, The River Church Community

Brenda Wong
Hawai’i Area Director
InterVarsity Christian Fellowship

Leedah Wong, M.Div
Youth and Young Adult Pastor
South Bay Community Church
Fremont, CA

Russell Yee, Ph.D.
Author and Professor

Allen Yeh, D.Phil.
Associate Professor, Intercultural Studies & Missiology
Biola University’s Cook School of Intercultural Studies

Jeanette Yep
Pastor of Global & Regional Outreach
Grace Chapel, Lexington, MA

Calvin Yim, DDS
Associate Pastor, Christian Layman Church

Phil Yu
Blogger, Angry Asian Man

***If the widget for signing the letter doesn’t work, feel free to leave a comment below. Please note, new signatures do not load automatically but should appear in a few minutes. Thanks for your patience and understanding! 

Thanks to the additional supporters of this letter:

Latest Signatures
959Cliff WilliamsDeerfield, IllinoisDepartment of Philosophy, Wheaton College (Illinois)May 13, 2016
958Albert ChoiHarrington Park, NJJan 15, 2016
957Christine LeeParamus, NJJan 15, 2016
956Shamun AyubKarachi, sindhRevdJul 14, 2015
955John Divakar.Edatam., Andhrapradesh.Pray for Us.Jun 16, 2015
954michael kwameaccra, accrapastorMay 17, 2015
953Where is Francis Chan? Where is Francis Chan?InterestingI'm Asian and I disagree with this letter. This hurts the church.Mar 25, 2015
952Lucifer SatanHot Flames, HellUsing victim complexes to create more dividesMar 25, 2015
951Angie HongDurham, NC - North CarolinaDec 05, 2014
950Taipan YuSACRAMENTO, CaliforniaFollower of Jesus ChristNov 30, 2014
949Rick Beard, PhDGarden City, MissouriSenior Pastor, Sycamore Grove Mennonite ChurchOct 13, 2014
948Edward LaarmanIowa City, IowaDirector, Geneva Campus MinistryOct 06, 2014
947Peter SztoOmaha, NEAssociate Professor of Social WorkJul 02, 2014
946Rev. Dr. Bob AquinoGurnee, ILSenior PastorJun 29, 2014
945pastor John kChallakere, karnatakapastorJun 28, 2014
944David FloresDallas, TexasFeb 23, 2014
943Samuel ChengHonolulu, HIFeb 23, 2014
942Bishop Dominic LuongSanta Ana, CAAuxiliary Bishop, Roman Catholic Diocese of OrangeFeb 18, 2014
941Jonathan TanCincinnati, OhioTheologian and authorFeb 12, 2014
940David RappMedford, OregonPastorJan 28, 2014
939Rebecca KimMalibu, CAProfessor of Sociology, Pepperdine UniversityJan 25, 2014
938Amy DeakinLondon Charity workerJan 19, 2014
937Yang ChenAuburn Hills, MIYouth PastorJan 13, 2014
936Solomon (Chae Pung) KimLa Habra, CaliforniaE.M/ Education PastorJan 09, 2014
935EDRAS MEUSPort-au-princePastor I would like working together with your ministries Hope you will visit Haiti for preaching some revivals day who God blessing you all Good news year 2014 Meus Edras Pastor Phon 509 33 31 15 37Dec 31, 2013
934Shu ChanNew York, New YorkDec 18, 2013
933Josephine WangChicago, IllinoisStudentDec 17, 2013
932George Hancock-StefanAtlantic Highlands, NJAssociate Professor of Church History, Palmer Theological SeminaryDec 09, 2013
931Brenda TapleyCaliforniaWorship PastorDec 03, 2013
930Joyce Kimnew york city, nyNov 22, 2013
929Shannon MarionBlanchardville, WINov 20, 2013
928Kelly VaughnBelmont, CAAssociate Professor, School of Education and LeadershipNov 20, 2013
927Gerald Liu Louisville, KentuckyVisiting Professor of Worship & Consultant for Diversity in Worship, Louisville Presbyterian Theological SeminaryNov 17, 2013
926Kelly LeeEnglewood, NJNov 16, 2013
925Jennia Francoorlando, FloridaStudentNov 15, 2013
924Brian ChangRochester, NYStudent, University of RochesterNov 14, 2013
923Katherine YuFairfax Station, VAUndergraduate Student, University of VirginiaNov 13, 2013
922Francois AugustinBoston, MANov 13, 2013
921Michael KarimMonrovia, CaliforniaAssistant Area Director, InterVarsity Christian FellowshipNov 11, 2013
920Shaina DavidsonNov 11, 2013
919Fr. Dave BottomsAnglican Priest, Army ChaplainNov 08, 2013
918Scot GillanNaperville, IllinoisSr. Pastor, Naperville Evangelical Covenant ChurchNov 08, 2013
917Grace HooverBear, DECampus Staff, InterVarsity Christian FellowshipNov 08, 2013
916Tom Poehneltworcester, madoctoral studentNov 08, 2013
915Kevin HuangAzusa, CAAssociate ProfessorNov 07, 2013
914Emily YangIrvine, CANov 07, 2013
913Clara ChanPasadena, CAInternational Staff, Epicentre ChurchNov 07, 2013
912Christy PreslerFargo, NDDesignerNov 06, 2013
911Min Hyeok (Thomas) LeeNew York, NYTeacher, Pyeong Ahn Presbyterian Church / Law StudentNov 06, 2013
910Amy RozzelleCru - Ethnic Field Ministry Director-Greater NorthwestNov 06, 2013

Did Muhammed Ali Sway You To Be Muslim?

I’m going to put it out there that Muhammed Ali probably did NOT make you investigate Islam or look at it differently or even gain any affection for it.

Here’s why. He’s a boxing legend. Maybe the G.O.A.T. and you aren’t already Muslim and/or Black. He is “other” to you and remains an objectively “other.” And he was objectively a great boxer. And the general public could enjoy him for that and ignore his religious beliefs. If anything, his beliefs seemed like a huge distraction for the pugilistic fanatic. You had to care about who Ali was, not just what he did and what he projected, to be compelled to investigate what he believed.

It’s not simply an aside to say that Ali was a Muslim. He was a deeply spiritual and devout person. And he may not have had influenced you at all, but for a generation of young Black men, I think Muhammed Ali’s conversion to Islam in 1965 and his subsequent legacy made quite an impression. Why? Because to young Black men in the 1960’s, Muhammed Ali was not “other” to them; they could not be objective about this physically gifted, articulate, and charismatic figure who taunted his opponents in the ring and even the US government when they sought to draft him. Muhammed Ali’s faith spoke to them and made an enormous impression on a generation of African Americans in this country.

So when we talk about Jeremy Lin and how he has gained a platform for representing Jesus Christ, just recognize that my caution for him is that he stewards his Christian witness well, not for the masses and the adoring basketball fanatics, but for the young Asian American. Because the rest of the public will give him kudos for saying all the right things about giving credit to God and thanking his Lord and Savior, he is another Christian athlete who gets the stage, joining the ranks of Tebow, Kurt Warner, Tony Dungy, etc. But not to me. As an Asian American Christian male, I cannot be objective about Jeremy Lin, he  is not “other” to me.

And this is why I don’t want him to be the typical hat-tipping Christian celebrity athlete, because Asian Americans need a self-aware, community-conscious person who understands that his witness could sway Asian Americans who come from a different strain of faith ranging from ancestor worship to Zen; that he could speak to depression and suicide that goes on in our communities; that he could rally Asian American churches to get over their infighting and greed; that he could speak to the immigration issue and Asians might listen. And he might sway a generation of Asian Americans that would never darken the doors of a church. But in order for that to happen, Lin’s Christian witness must not be cliche, nor must he subscribe to being “a nice guy”. That would be an opportunity wasted. And from what I can tell about Jeremy Lin, he doesn’t waste opportunities.

Love and Basketball (My Ode and Caution to Jeremy Lin)

I love basketball. I love it. I get all giggly inside when I get the chance to run with the guys, talk smack, point fingers, and “oooh” and “ahhh” with the rest of them. I love that the game can grow with however many people are there and people of various skill/effort levels can participate. It’s just one of those games/sports you can invite people to join in, even right in the middle of the game. It’s a great game.

But I have to admit, I’m terrible at it. Don’t have a reliable jumper. Turn it over like pancakes. Can’t dribble.  I just sweat a lot. Basically, I’m the equivalent of a human folding chair that players use to dribble around in practice. But what can I say, I love the game.

And now, though I’ve been watching him with hope and anticipation for some time now,  Jeremy Lin has struck the NBA like lightning. And suddenly this game  I love is now featuring this guy that could have been one of my youth kids, it could be one of my college friends, and in some fantasy world, it could have been me. Continue reading “Love and Basketball (My Ode and Caution to Jeremy Lin)”