Others who have since blogged about the letter: Angry Asian Man, Kathy Khang, Rachel Held Evans, Elder,J, rethinkxian, Dora, AsAm News, Evangelical Covenant Church, NPR Codeswitch and The Christian Post — Please let me know if you know of others and I’ll update this list. And if you are seeing this for the first time, be sure to check out, The Open Letter, How We Got Here and Where We Hope to Go by one of the lead organizers, Kathy Khang.
Church is a funny thing. An ever cyclical journey of division, reunion, amazement, disappointment, joy, despair, hope and love — it’s the place that I call home. To be most precise, my ecclesiasticall mailing address is the Presbyterian Church (USA), my denomination of birth and choice; but my home is also like a city, filled with neighborhoods of wonder and joy. Much like I saunter the neighborhoods of San Francisco, taking in the specific sites, sounds and fragrances that make up the history and energy of that set of blocks, I do the same when it comes to my church life.
The emergent church neighborhood.
The Red Letter Christians neighborhood.
The progressive Presbyterian neighborhood.
The old school ecumenical gatherings neighborhood.
The Seventh Avenue Presbyterian Church neighborhood.
The “once where young and now trying to figure out what’s next” church pastor neighborhood.
And . . . the Asian American Christian neighborhood.
Each of these church locations provides me with new insights into life and faith, relationships that stretch my understanding of living the gospel and circles of community where I see the best and worst of who we can be as people who claim to follow Christ in the world.
Over the past decades, I have been particularly touched by the ways in which I have connected with my Asian American colleagues in ministry. While we have disagreed over a great many things theological and social, we have been able to hold onto some common experiences and lenses through which we view the gospel. My life and faith have been richer because of these relationships.
So . . . last week, spurred on by an episode at the Exponential Church Planting Conference where a video was used that depicted White pastors using Asian sounding accents, doing martial arts with oriental music sounding in the background, I was invited into a conversation about writing an open letter to the evangelical church about Asian American Christians and the patterns of marginalization that must be confronted and stopped. Now I have developed relationships over the years with folks, so I was not surprised to be invited, but, because I do not consider myself an “evangelical Christian” as it is generally understood, it felt a little as if I was eavesdropping into another neighborhood’s closed door meeting.
Still, I signed . . . with the addition of one paragraph.
As a side note: while the most recent public examples mentioned above have been connected with evangelical institutions, events, and individuals, we also know both subtle and blatant forms of racist actions are prevalent through the entirety of the body of Christ regardless of theological or ecclesiastical tradition, and our list of signatories below reflects this desire of Asian Americans both within and outside of the evangelical tradition to strive for racial harmony in the church.
Because . . . while the evangelical church has had a few more public anti-Asian episodes as of late, that particular part of the larger Christian body is by no means the sole purveyor of racist actions that are both personal and institutional when it comes to Asian American Christians and the larger Asian American community in the United States.
So I, along with an initial 80+ people signed the initial letter and as of the writing of this post another 500+ have added their names and voices. As with many open letters, I am not sure where this effort will lead, but I do hope that it will send a message to many that Asian Americans, perceived as invisible and silent by so many for so long, are lifting up our collective voices to say, no more.
Again you are invited to read the letter and add your name to the list of signers [here].
Thanks to the letter organizing crew — Ken Fong, Greg Jao, Kathy Khang, Ken Kong, Christine Lee, Helen Lee, David Park, Nikki Toyama-Szeto, Sam Tsang, Justin Tse, Tim Tseng, and Daniel So. I am grateful for your voices.