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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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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[emailpetition id="1" class = "alignright"] Postscript:

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.

Sincerely,
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
Pediatrician
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
Dentist
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:

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Saved by My Refugee Neighbors

Oak Park Santas 2-1

Here’s my essay recently posted on Christianity Today’s “This Is our City” series.  It offers snippets of our twenty years of urban ministry in Oakland, about which I’m writing a spiritual memoir. You can read the story here.

This is an excerpt about my Mien neighbor:

Faithfulness over Effectivenesss

While it is tempting to romanticize the kids and our communal life, the city’s violence born of inequality and structural racism has worn on me.  Over 2,000 individuals have been murdered during my time in Oakland and I have witnessed my share of shootings.  Even when we organized our neighbors and won a housing lawsuit that rebuilt Oak Park, the new apartment layout unintentionally eroded our sense of community. I had to move because of federal rental guidelines, and the families preferred to remain inside their enlarged units.

When the issues of our city appear too daunting, I likewise retreat and focus on my own personal life, where I have some semblance of control. After leaving Oak Park, my wife and I purchased a home two blocks away, and we built gates to keep out the city’s dangers. But, fortunately, our refugee neighbors continue to knock at our door to teach us kingdom values.

When we got our house, I borrowed a rototiller and cleared weeds in our huge yard. After an afternoon of hard toil, I gave up; all I had readied was a small plot 5’ by 10’.   The next day, I was surprised by a small, turbaned lady sitting up in our apricot tree, like Zaccheus.  Yien Saelee, a grandmother who is Iu Mien, was hacking branches.  She had seen that the lot was empty and came to start a garden with my permission. I agreed, but doubted her strength to do the work.

To my surprise, though, she returned with two other grandmothers, each armed with only a small machete, and cleared the entire yard.  They planted the Native American Three Sisters– corn, squash, and beans—and soon, my family received locally grown, organic vegetables to meet our daily required vitamins.

Yien later joined our church’s “Young Family” cell, which paradoxically came to include five grandmothers.  As we shared and prayed together, I learned more of her story.  During the Laotian Civil War, she had lost three sons—child soldiers fighting with the CIA—and her husband was assassinated.  Moving to our Oakland neighborhood as a refugee did not make her life much easier; she remained poor and constantly felt fatigued.  Her step-parents’ spirits tormented her such that they made searing burns on her arms.

After being resettled in Oakland, Yien became a Christian when God revealed himself in a dream to her.  Since then, she claims, “My heart is light now because I no longer have to bear the burden of the spiritual world; it was too heavy.”  Not only did she pray for us and support her own local Mien church, but also she regularly taped gospel songs to be sent to Laos.

In spite of their advanced years, Yien and her fellow grandmas collect aluminum cans and hawk their produce to supplement their scant disability benefits that were almost cut by welfare reform. Her sense of social justice isn’t about asserting her rights, but taking responsibility for others.  Always chipping in for our water bill, she states simply, “I’m happy for the opportunity not to starve.”

When my father passed away, Yien, her back bent from osteoporosis, took the time to stand with my family in our grief.  Despite our communication and cultural barriers, her unceasing prayers  and faithful presence comforted me.  Growing up with privilege, I came to expect to make my mark and to effect social change in Oakland.  Unfortunately, our neighborhood has not been transformed despite our church’s best efforts.  If anything, its persistent poverty reflects the growing inequality in our nation.

Yien models for me another way to make one’s mark.  The servant who is faithful is the one who enters the joy of the master. The persistent widow who prays boldly is the one who receives justice.

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Top 15 blog posts over the last quarter

Top Asian Americans on YouTube
Jeremy Lin & Asian American Male Sexuality
Is Francis Chan a sell-out?
popular Asian American musicians on YouTube
The model minority myth is a lie.
List of Asian American Christian Bloggers
Beauty Is The Beast?
The Search for Asian-American Worship
Article: The Korean Pentecost: The Great Revival of 1907
Why Churches Split: A Family Systems Explanation
Why Asian American Obsession with Jeremy Lin is well, Weak
West Coast vs. East Coast Asian America
Jeremy Lin, The Civil Rights Movement, & The Empowerment of Voice
“A Silent Exodus” Leads to Freedom
The Ties That Bind Must Break

 

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Imported Entries to Join Our Voices

We’ve imported a dozen or so blog entries from another blog called “yellowfaith” – Ministry and faith from an Asian American perspective. Posted & imported with permission. Browse those blog entries here, they’re tagged “imported“. Below is the introduction from that blog (which ended in 2011.)

yellowfaith: welcome

(Posted June 19 2009 by Dave Ingland)

yellowfaith was created in response to the ongoing conversation of Asian American Christians and how they connect within the church. Should Asian Americans succumb to a Caucasian American worship experience on Sundays? If Asian Americans gather in a community of faith with other Asian Americans, should this be viewed as a form of racism? Is there an identity crisis amongst Asian American Christians, confused as to who they are in Christ–too Asian to fit in with Caucasians, yet not Asian enough to worship with other Asian Americans? When Asian Americans connect in a white church that seeks to be multi-cultural, is their culture truly recognized or are they asked to confirm to a white rather than yellow gospel? Should there even be a yellow gospel?

Here at yellowfaith we hope to engage in some hard questions in the interest of gaining some understanding to the state of faith in Asian American culture today.

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List of Asian American Christian Bloggers

Perhaps the largest list of bloggers who are Asian American and Christians compiled to date, with 50 blogs listed at the time of this post.

notapastor

The blogs listed are not necessarily Christian blogs nor Asian American blogs, they’re blogs of bloggers who happen to be Asian American and Christian as a baseline. The AsAmChristian Blogroll is compiled by Huan-Zung Hsu aka notapastor, and the criteria is stated as:

“… the bloggers are Asian American or have some connection to/interest in Asian Americans; and the bloggers are Christian or have some connection to/interest in Christianity. Doesn’t matter if they’re famous or well-credentialed or how long their blogs have been around. Doesn’t matter if I agree or disagree with their politics or theology.”

[update: this Blogroll is now hosted on the SANACS (Society of Asian North American Christian Studies) blog]

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Article: Orange County exports Asian American churches to the world

DJ_ChuangA recent article was released in the Orange County Register featuring DJ Chuang.  Here’s an excerpt from the article, written by Jim Hinch:

“I’m an experimenter,” Chuang said. “My heart is in the church, the Asian American church. But church is not known for being a place of research and development.”

Chuang left formal ministry and became a consultant, working for churches, parachurch organizations and Christian nonprofits, always aiming to help Asian American Christians become more digitally savvy and culturally responsive.

He’s helping Brea’s Ambassador Church expand its network of sister churches and advising La Mirada’s Talbot Seminary as it develops one of America’s first doctoral programs in Asian American ministry.

Chuang is a manic presence, especially online. He was, he says, the first person in Orange County to sign up for Twitter seven years ago (a distinction confirmed by the rankings website Twitaholic). He tweets throughout each day, blogs, produces a weekly podcast and talks by phone, Skype and Google Chat with a nationwide roster of church leaders. Callers make appointments via an interactive scheduler on Chuang’s website.

Last year, Chuang traveled 35,839 miles in 74 days on 16 trips to conferences and meetings. This information comes from the Chuang family Christmas card, which also details the number of followers (7,000) Chuang has on Twitter and the number of reward points he earned last year at Starbucks (50).

Since 2005, Chuang has edited two books on Asian American ministry, produced a report on current trends in Asian American churches, written 23 magazine articles and made 28 presentations at church conferences and seminars – achievements tabulated, in chronological order, on Chuang’s website.

Chuang has bipolar disorder. He has been successfully treated for the condition since 2001. But he attributes his numerous career changes and intellectual restlessness, in part, to manic episodes.

His periods of depression, he said, brought him near suicide. And they convinced him that helping Asian American churches become more culturally inclusive is tantamount to a life-or-death calling.

“It’s very hard for Asians to talk about their weaknesses,” Chuang said, explaining why he waited years before publicly acknowledging his condition and seeking treatment.

Chuang said traditional Asian American churches are especially inhospitable to painful personal problems because many Asian cultures prize a veneer of stoic hard work and moral respectability.

“I want to bring churches into a place to deal more honestly with the real person,” Chuang said.

“I would like to see Asian Americans become more healthy and whole as people.”

To read the full article on the Orange County Register website, visit here.

Also, DJ gave an inspiring talk at Urbana 12’s PANA lounge, called: “Step Up, Speak Up, Live It Up,” which you can find in transcript and audio format on his website, or in video format on Intervarsity Asian American Ministries’ website.

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