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.)
[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.
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”:
Global Intercultural Services (GLINTS)
Peter Cha, LMFT
Peter T. Cha
Minhee Jin Cho
Ricky Y. Choi, MD, MPH
Virstan B.Y. Choy
Christie Heller de Leon
Young Lee Hertig
Rev. Jennifer Ikoma-Motzko
Russell Jeung, Ph.D.
Anne Joh, Ph.D.
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.
Andrew Lee, Ph.D.
Audrey S. Lee
Rev. Boyung Lee, Ph.D.
Rev. Christine Lee
Daniel D. Lee
Tat-Siong Benny Liew
Joseph S. Lee
Matthew Lee, Ph.D.
Bo H. Lim, Ph. D.
C. Jimmy Lin
Rev. Dr. Grace Y. May
Roy I. Sano, Ph. D.
Bob Shim, MD
Grace Shim, LPC
Pastor, United Presbyterian Church
Grace Kaori Suzuki, pastor
Collin T. Tomikawa
Jonathan Tran, Ph.D.
Sam Tsang, Ph.D.
Justin K.H. Tse
Tim Tseng, Ph.D.
Billy Q. Vo
Allen Mitsuo Wakabayashi
Sze-kar Wan, Ph.D.
Jon Ido Warden
Leedah Wong, M.Div
Russell Yee, Ph.D.
Allen Yeh, D.Phil.
Calvin Yim, DDS
***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:
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.
(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.]]>
In juxtaposition with the sections on this popular website called Huffington Post. What do you notice?
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]]]>
“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.]]>