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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We Asian Americans need to be more Asian

I’ve been thinking a lot lately (again!) about the context of my being Asian American and how that relates to any ministry I may involve myself in. In particular, this is in response to the blog series Why We Need Asian Americans to be Asian American by DJ Chuang. DJ makes some solid points in his blog series, but I still feel like so many Asian Americans have varied perspectives.

I am immediately drawn to the mindset of society during my youth when I heard things from Black Americans that called out those Black citizens that chose to speak fluently and work (and live) in a predominantly White society. They were deemed to be too White or not Black enough. At the time, the majority of White America was a huge majority, so unless one intentionally segregated themselves amongst only Blacks, there was no choice except to be in a mostly White America. Do Asian Americans feel a similar conflict?

As Asians in America, do we have a responsibility to uphold our heritage and cultural norms for the sake of other Asian Americans? If not, have we disappointed and shamed other Asian Americans? Should there be such a thing as Asian pride?

I guess my main question is aside from the exclusively Asian churches–such as Korean, Chinese, Vietnamese, etc. where English is in reality a second language–should there be a distinction between those Asian Americans that minister to mostly Asian Americans versus those that minister in diverse or predominantly White contexts? Must we choose?

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book review – Many Colors by Dr. Soong-Chan Rah

[Review by Dr. Jack Lumanog]

Many Colors: Cultural Intelligence for a Changing Church is the new book by Dr. Soong-Chan Rah.  This is a follow up to The Next Evangelicalism: Freeing the Church from Western Cultural Captivity.  His latest book both sounds the alarm for the need for the Church gaining cultural intelligence as well as some practical steps on how to get started.

The book is divided into three parts: Understanding Culture, A Constructive Cultural Paradigm and Cultural Intelligence in Action.  There were some parts of the book that were hard to get through – and probably because it was necessary groundwork to get through to the payoff of how do we see more multicultural involvement in our churches.

The book was an uncomfortable read in parts simply because I resonated with certain portions where Dr. Rah addressed Asian-American assumptions in a group dynamic. And, on the topic of uncomfortable parts, was where he shared some stories as it relates to minority culture and their food. He remarked how some caucasian students at his seminary reacted uncharitably when some Korean students shared some of their traditional food. I had that reaction from my neighborhood friends all growing up because of the very foreign look, feel, taste and smell of my very Filipino food that our family had to offer for dinner.

One of the most practical steps offered in the book is how our food and sharing meals and life together around a dinner table can help bridge the cultural gap that exists between us. He masterfully weaves in how Jesus did this with the Communion meal of bread and wine. Dr. Rah’s explanation of the life shared at the Communion table to the dinner table is well worth your time and attention.

For me, Dr. Rah’s The Next Evangelicalism is an important work as it gave me some resources to draw on in explaining the current problem in the Church as it relates to race relations. For his follow up work in Many Colors, essentially the same case is stated as he did in his first book but the presentation comes across more winsome – but just as compelling at the same time.

As an Asian-American pastor, I am thankful for Dr. Soong-Chan Rah for being a practical prophet for our times.  Not only speaking the uncomfortable truth, but for giving us in Many Colors some practical resources on how to get where we need to be as the Church in the 21st century.

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Never Going Back to the (Asian) Church?

Korean Americans (cropped from the original)

Image via Wikipedia

[Guest post by Wayne Park]

Since this is not my personal blog, maybe I’ll use this space to bitch a bit.

Having just finished a really tough MDiv in record time and with good marks I find that I am becoming a casualty of the pastoral unemployment dilemna. Is it because I’m unmarketable? Maybe I can’t “gather people” as I’ve been told. Maybe I’m “inexperienced” or not ordained yet. Bullshit.

And what tickles me is that these criticisms have come from churches / search committees / boards / people from my own ethnic background. Can’t you give a brother a break 😉 I have noticed as a Korean-American the strong propensity towards a certain kind of ecclesiology with almost no backing for it. For example. When I search KAMR it astounds me how many Korean churches want to hire pastors who are “Reformed”. I’ll bet many of these have no clue that Calvin was a closeted Arminian. Nope just made that up. Made you flinch. But really, Korean-Americans tend to be completely clueless as to why the vast majority of us must lean one way theologically. It drives me nucking futs.

Will I give up on the Korean church?

I’m not so sure about that yet. As exasperated as I have become after a year of job searching, I still know that there is a strategic role for the Korean immigrant church to play. And I’ve watched other ethnicities closely on this. I mean it. But us Koreans? I just don’t know yet. As for now I reverting back to my desire to find a pastoral call to a multiethnic church. Or maybe even a totally white one. But go back to the Korean church? I think I’ve had enough.

Am I wrong? Should I keep my heart and mind open to the abuse? Or should I keep my heart and mind open to love my people?

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reflections of a Filipino-American Priest

[Review by Dr. Jack Lumanog]

I have been wrestling with what to post here for a few weeks since being invited to be a contributor to yellowfaith blog.  Being an Asian-American is not as cut and dried as you might think.  It’s a vast territory and there is not one particular experience to speak of.  When you add being a Christian in there too, it gets very, very complicated.  Perhaps the safest thing to do is just talk about my experience instead of attempting to unpack what it is to be an Asian-American Christian – as if it’s possible to do that in one blog post!

My experience first as an Asian-American, particularly as a first generation American with parents from the Philippines, can best be summed up as it is very much an honor/shame way of being brought up.  And, a win/loss is not just individual, it’s for the whole family.  In the Philippines, the word for shame is hiya. As one author put it:

a universal social sanction, creating a deep emotional realization of having failed to live up to the standards of society”. Of course, HIYA is to be avoided at all costs by Filipinos. The greatest insult is to say that someone is WALANG HIYA (WITHOUT SHAME).
-Alfredo Roces and Grace Roces, Culture Shock! – Philippines, 1992

Again, I can’t speak for all Asian-Americans, but I do know the honor/shame part to be very real.  My grades in school reflect not only on me, but on my family.  My behavior in public not only reflected on me, but my whole family.  My decision to leave the church I was raised in and decide to go elsewhere was not only a reflection on me, but my whole family.

My experience of growing up Asian-American was that in order to obtain honor and avoid shame, it involves a lot of DOING.  So, “be the best” in order to obtain honor.  If you don’t do your best, then comes the shame and it is not just your burden to bear – it’s upon us all.

Now, when one such as myself comes to a saving faith in Jesus Christ as Lord and Redeemer … what now?  I prayed to receive Christ into my heart when I was 16 years old.  When I confessed Jesus as Savior and Lord, I know that I received His love, His forgiveness and His grace.  I’ve never been the same since that day, June 14, 1992, and I have been mission obsessed with bringing this message of the Gospel to as many people and places as possible.

In the midst of all this spiritual transformation, something that seems to be firmly embedded in me and something that I war against in the flesh is still this cultural honor/shame.  Because there is always a temptation to always be DOING.  When instead, there is a rest that comes in fully receiving Jesus’ work on the cross.  The cross covers my shame and my faith in Him brings me honor – in this life and in the life to come.  My laboring for the Kingdom of God cannot add to the cross or take away from the cross.  The cross is a reminder that everything has already been DONE by Jesus Christ and His sacrifice.

Simply put, the Christian life calls me  —  this child of immigrants who is constantly entrepreneurial, working for honor and avoiding shame at all costs  —  to lay down this war in the flesh at the foot of the cross.  Our Lord took upon Himself our shame (our sinful nature and even parts of our cultural identity that don’t create new life in Christ) and He raises us to new life in Him.  Thanks be to God.  Alleluia!  Alleluia!

—-


Dr. Jack Lumanog is Priest and Senior Pastor of Christ the King Anglican Church in Lansing , MI.  He serves in the Anglican Mission in the Americas as the Clergy Formation Advisor overseeing candidates in the process of ordination for the Heart of North America Region.  His website is here:  http://www.jacklumanog.com.

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Asian American faith survey results

I just stumbled across asian-nation.org and saw they had posted results from a 2008 study on Asian American faith. I was very surprised to see that only 10% of us Asian Americans are considered to be Protestant Christians!

Would you agree? Do you feel the survey accurately reflects the Asian American faith community? If it is accurate, what reflection does this have upon the church?

Here’s a link to the entire results of the 2008 American Religious Identification Survey: http://www.asian-nation.org/docs/aris-2008.pdf

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The tension of being Asian American in church

By: Dave Ingland

Saw a very open post from Dan Ra at the nextgenerasianchurch.com website this morning that really resonates with me. In it, he mentions:

I feel pretty lonely, ecclesially speaking, but I feel guilty for it. And it might be the Asian conscience within me telling me to “put up or shut up” but I just don’t know where to turn to. Although I would feel more of a theological connection to a mainline church, I honestly feel no ethnic, emotional, and social connection to what is usually a mostly white American congregation. Although I would feel an ethnic, emotional, and social connection to an Asian American church, I don’t find much theological affinity with them.

He then questions whether or not living in Atlanta is a stumbling block for him finding a church community that would be a good fit for him. Unfortunately, I believe that Asian Americans all over the United States feel exactly as Dan does. If such a church existed, I think we’d all have heard about and would then have some active model to follow and discuss.

Ra continues with:

I want to be a part of an Asian American community that asks hard questions about faith, that wrestles with God like Jacob did. I want to affirm the wonderful traditions of my ancestors and the ancestors of my ancestors’ neighboring countries. I want to know how a God-incarnated poor Jewish man relates to my hyphenated-American identity. I want to collectively extend the arm of humble love and hopeful peace with our Black American siblings as there’s so much pain and mystery between our two peoples. I want to be a part of a community that embraces doubt, loss of faith, and emotional struggle as a part of the collective spirituality. I want my pastors to struggle with their faith before my eyes so I know that I can pastor them, and them me when I struggle. And so on and so forth goes the dream.

As a former church planter in Sacramento, CA my experience was different than I had expected. I tried to start a community very similar to the one that Dan Ra describes seeking. However, my intent was never to attract Asian Americans. We ended up being exclusively Asian American. It did not work. What started as a dream and vision to reach people far away from God through our openness and transparency soon became something mainly about Sunday worship and how we could build critical mass so that their Asian American friends would want to come visit and eventually connect. They wanted something different and had hoped I would bring it to the 2nd & 3rd gen Asian American community. I gave in and tried, but my heart just wasn’t in it.

Through my experience I left feeling like not only was my dream for a community of real people seeking conversations about God and faith, and how to love God and love others more practically, but that Asian Americans don’t seek this. They had to be distinctly separate. As my journey has placed me in a similar path as Ra’s I find my tension being in that I want to see–and be a part of–a community much like he describes, yet at the same feeling like celebrating culture and ethnic identity must play a role in this. My dream has become convoluted and even more difficult to see realized. Yet, for some reason, I have hope that somehow like minds will verge and something will begin drawing us together. Where, when and how are questions I cannot answer at this time though.

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