Grace Ji-Sun Kim – God, Women, and the Church

What began as  a personal blogging hiatus, there has been such a positive response to the  to the Guest Blogging Crew, I am making this a regular feature on my blog. It is my intention to expose new/different voices to a larger audience so if you are interested in submitting an idea, please feel fill out this form. This week I am glad to share a post from Rev. Dr. Grace Ji-Sun Kim about Korean American women in the church. Grace received her M.Div. from Knox College and her Ph.D. from the University of Toronto. She is an Associate Professor of Doctrinal Theology and the Director of the Master of Arts in Theological Studies program at Moravian Theological Seminary and the is the author of two books, The Grace of Sophia: A Korean North American Women’s Christology and The Holy Spirit, Chi, and the Other: A Model of Global and Intercultural Pneumatology. Grace was recently ordained as a Teaching Elder in the Presbyterian Church (USA).

Hawaii!!

This land which surpasses beauty, elegance, harmony, and splendor is an attractive vacation destination for many people around the world. Hawaii, a place of warm beaches, palm trees, breathtaking cliffs, and majestic mountains is not a likely spot for a church meeting. But Hawaii is where twenty-one of us gathered for a “Korean Pastor Theologian Consultation PC (USA)” from April 9-13, 2012.

The consultation gathered people engaged in different types of ministries, of different generations, and from different walks of life. We met to discuss, visit, listen to each other’s stories and deepen our own understanding of Koreans and other Asians who traveled to Hawaii to work in the plantations. Through Rev. Mary Paik’s and Dwight Morita’s efforts and hospitality, we were able to visit several Asian (or Asian pastored) churches in Hawaii and hear the stories of the struggles, difficulties and joys of building up and maintaining Hawaiian churches. Listening to their stories, many of us realized how their deep history and rich stories have implications for the Korean immigrant churches on the mainland. The consultation also provided time to share our own personal theological reflections and our struggles of being a member of/ or pastoring in a Korean North American church today.
Some discussions brought out the multi-layered dilemmas, complexities and struggles the Korean immigrant churches are presently experiencing. Issues such as language barriers, intergenerational expectations, gender dynamics, and various forms of ministry engagement came to the forefront.

Among the many topics discussed, it was sexism in all congregations as well as internalized sexism even in each of us, that really caught my attention. Nine participants were women and all of us, except one, are engaged in ministry outside the Korean American church. There are various reasons for women not to engaged in ministry within the Korean American Church but the option to work in the Korean American church should be more readily accessible and available. My personal worry is that there are many female Korean students who enter seminary with hopes of serving the Korean American church but never get the opportunity to do so. There appears to be a lack of interest and desire in the Korean American churches to call women pastors. There is also a lack of retention in keeping women as their pastors.

Sexism is present in our churches as well as in our society. However, it may be even more prominent in our Korean American churches due to Korea’s cultural history, religious background and societal values. As a result, churches will give every excuse not to call a woman as their pastor.  Rev. Unzu Lee states that “churches have to stop blaming culture” for how the Korean American Churches treat their women.  Churches continue to blame Korean cultural, historical and religious heritages as excuses and reasons for how women are treated in the church.  However, Korean American churches need to stop blaming culture and more correctly name this systematic subordination and subjugation of women as sexism.

Korean American churches tend to be conservative.  Their perception of God is that God is masculine and some congregants will publically treat their pastor as “god.” In this manner, we have not come that far from Mary Daly’s reality that “if God is male, than male is God.” If Korean American churches continue to uphold this paradigm and fail to recognize its own sexism, there will be no room for women’s leadership within the church.

Korean American churches cannot continue to blame their history, their Confucian roots and their cultural practices for the way they perceive and treat women. Korean American churches need to reimagine the way we speak, preach and teach about who God is. Korean American churches need to embrace the feminine imagery and language about God which is biblically sound and already incorporated into some dominant mainline churches. We need to reimagine the role of the pastor which can allow room for women’s leadership which is so desperately needed within the Korean American church. If we fail to reinvent our perceptions of women and women’s leadership in the church, we will not only have failed our generation but the next generation of Korean Americans.

This fight against sexism within our Korean American churches is an urgent matter. It does not take just one person, but the entire church to work against sexism. It does not just take the first generation of Korean immigrants, but the second and third generations to work against this as well. It does not just take the leaders but the entire body of Christ to fight against sexism. This fight against eliminating sexism will move toward healing, embracing, and welcoming Korean American women who are doubly marginalized in our society. It is a difficult battle to fight, but an urgent one which requires the entire body of Christ to work toward the “reign of God” which receives all people as equal regardless of class, age, ethnicity, or gender.

Re-posted from www.reyes-chow.com.

Be the Change: Shannon Day, Elizabeth Rosas and Juana’s Voice

Shannon and Elizabeth get ready to hit the road!

Not really sure when I met Shannon and Elizabeth, but over the years via the lens of my children’s choral activities and wonders of the interwebs, I have grown to really appreciate her and Elizabeth’s creativity. Not only does Shannon bring the tunes and Elizabeth create amazing jewelry, but they are committed to making their art and voices make a difference A few months back, I noticed that they were embarking on a very cool adventure in order to capture the stories of women. The project is called Juana’s Voice.

Inspired by the life of Sor Juana Inez de la Cruz, Elizabeth Rosas and Shannon Day are traveling to find and share stories of women who are doing extraordinary things. This project will be told through digital storytelling using film, photos and original music.

When I read more, I immediately asked if they wanted to be interviewed. So very grateful that they took me up on this. I can’t wait to hear the stories. First, a little link love:  website, TwitterFacebook and email and next, my brief interview with Shannon and Elizabeth about Juana’s Voice that they sent in from the road.

Tell me a little about yourself . . . who are Shannon and Elizabeth?

Shannon - I am a performer, composer and teacher. When I teach my job is to help the student become willing to risk everything for one hour of self-expression. In my composing I untangle the notes and the progressions and the rhythms that refuse to leave my thoughts. And in my performing I want to come out to play, I want to show all sides of me. It frees me a little bit; it allows me to be angry, silly, sad, afraid and in the end it’s all ok. It brings me into balance. I am also a traveler. I want to define my life, not have it defined for me and that definition is ever-changing.

Elizabeth - When I was a kid, my mom told me that I was always asking “why?” As an adult, I lived many years not questioning anything. In my mid thirties things started to change, I started asking those same questions; I started searching for my own answers. I am inquisitive about the world and the human experience.

Tell me a little about JUANA’S VOICE and how did you get involved in it?

Juana’s voice is a dream that we have had for a while now; one that combines our love of travel with our desire to uncover and document the lives of women who are living life on their own terms.

We want to document the search for these women through photos, video and music because we understand that the process and the journey are paramount. We want to use these images to provide a beautiful form from which people can see, hear and hopefully be inspired to live a life of their own choosing.

In 10 years, what do you hope people will be saying about JUANA’S VOICE?

We hope we will still be traveling the world from Romania to Easter Island in search of captivating women. We would like to build a mainstream archive from which people can continually draw for the classroom or simply for an unlimited amount of personal inspiration.

In 10 years it would be great for the archive to be interactive, a bit like Wikipedia where people can add to the database of women. I would love to have a Juana’s voice curriculum to help teachers educate about inspirational women, past and present, famous and not. It would be neat to have a Juana’s Voice endowment that recognizes and supports these types of women. I would also like a community-based project (multi-media, performance or otherwise) that celebrates these women that exist in each community. La dia de la voz de Juana!

How can people get connected to and support JUANA’S VOICE?

  1. Do you know someone who you think we should interview? Let us know!!!
  2. Like our FACEBOOK PAGE and visit www.shannondayonline.com. We love and greatly appreciate words of encouragement! 3. Shop for jewelry inspired by this project at Elizabeth’s Etsy shop.
  3. You can book Shannon for master classes or to perform concerts (house concerts, church concerts, etc.)
  4. Perhaps you need a house sitter or pet sitter? Shannon and Elizabeth have LOTS of experience in these areas!
  5. Do you have a place we could park our 11ft trailer for a couple of days? A shower we could use?
  6. If you like what we are doing, we have a ‘no fuss, no muss’ donate button on our website. No donation is too small, we promise!

Pay it forward a bit . . . what are 2-3 projects, companies or people who you think are doing some good work in the world these days?

There are so many people who are doing amazing things who I follow through twitter and blogs.

  1. The 50 Women Project
  2. Full Potential Living
  3. Women Arts SWAN Day
  4. Mariposas San Miguel

Please be sure to follow the adventure via:  WebsiteTwitterFacebook and/or email and in the meantime, check out their video. Did you know who Sor Juana Inez de la Cruz was?

This Be the Change post is part of an ongoing commitment to lift-up  fascinating who people I meet during my travels. These are folks who are doing the hard work of changing the world for the better by living out their passions and sharing their gifts. Subjects are chosen by me, so if you know of a person or project that you think is doing something that is making the world a more just, compassionate and peaceful place, please let me know.


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