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ISAAC and our audience

Now that ISAAC has been around for slightly more than two years, it is a good time to remind ourselves and our supporters who we are and what we hope to do. Basically, we are a non-profit organization that equips people and organizations working with Asian North American Christians. Asian North American Christian communities are vibrant and growing, but are barely a blip on the American and Canadian radar. Though an emerging force within the Christian movement and society, Asian North American Christians face many challenges.

This is where ISAAC enters the picture. We help our “clients”
1. become familiar with the Asian experience in North America,
2. strengthen Asian North American organizations and congregations, and
3. understand how to become Christian disciples and leaders who have a healthy integration of their faith with Asian North American identities and issues

The three aspects of our equipping work are:
1. Teaching and equipping opportunities
2. Research and resources
3. Consultation and coaching

So far, so good – easy stuff, I think. But, when we talk about who we are serving, it’s not so easy. That’s because we have two target audiences: the Church and Academe. Working with both communities is the most complex and misunderstood aspect of what we do. All of us who started ISAAC are deeply grounded in theological education and ministry. We’ve all served as local church pastors or para-church staff. We’ve had many years of teaching experience in ATS-accredited seminaries. We are convinced, for the sake of God’s kingdom and the common good, that religious and academic institutions need to collaborate and communicate with each other. Unfortunately, Asian North American religious communities (Christianity, in particular) are low research priorities for most universities and seminaries. This doesn’t mean that research in these communities are non-existent. Several new studies – mostly sociological – have been published in the past ten years. However, there are few venues for scholars of Asian North American Christianity to meet, debate, and critique each others’ works. Nor are there funds to advance future research. ISAAC is attempting to fill the gap by organizing the Society of Asian North American Christian Studies (SANACS), a community of advocates for advancing scholarship in this area. Some of our publications are designed to be teaching tools for college and seminary professors to use in their classes. We believe that these efforts will help colleges and seminaries to better equip their students for a world that is becoming increasingly diverse. In the long run, strengthening the study of Asian North American Christianity will benefit the churches as well.

ISAAC’s other audience is the Church. Many have already written about the rising tide of Asian American Evangelicals on North American campuses. But this is just an indication of the strength of Christianity among Asian North Americans. The recent Pew Forum survey on religion in America found that 45% of Asian Americans identified themselves as Christians. Effective resources are necessary to address this population’s unique needs and issues. So whether on campus, in an ethnic-specific church, in a pan-Asian or multi-ethnic church, or even in a predominantly white setting – wherever Asian North American Christians are – ISAAC provides resources to help them lay claim on and live out the faith for themselves. As many African and Hispanic American people have demonstrated, Christianity is not simply the religion of Euro-American white colonizers. Nor are should all evangelicals be identified with the uneducated or the Religious Right, as noted by many recent scholars, including D. Michael Lindsey, who describes the growth of evangelicalism in elite colleges [see his article in the Chronicle of Higher Education at http://chronicle.com/free/v54/i35/35b01201.htm]. Christianity is far too complex and diverse today to be assigned such a limited role. ISAAC believes that Asian North American Christians understand this and want to help them live out their faith without imitating Euro-American Christianity (or its stereotypes). That is why, beginning in the Spring of 2009, ISAAC will start equiping ministry and lay leaders as well as continuing our efforts in the scholarly community.

Equipping and bridging the Church and Academy hasn’t been easy. Most pastors and professors are over worked and have little time to connect with each other. Institutional suspicion abounds as charges of “ivory tower” and “anti-intellectualism” are levied agains each other (both are fairly accurate, in my opinion). Asian North Americans, while over-represented in both institutions, continue to be marginalized in the curriculum or programs and key decision-making roles. It may be a hopeless cause, but ISAAC will continue to try to work with two audiences simultaneously because we envision a time when Asian North American Christians will play a pivotal postivie role in the Church, institutions of higher education, and the broader society.

So when you think about what ISAAC is about – think equipping equippers. When you think about who ISAAC serves, think Church AND THE Academy!

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Southeast Asian Leadership Summit – ISAAC’s report

March 20, 2008 Leave a comment

The re:new Southeast Asian Leadership Summit was held last week from March 11-13, in the greater DC area.  Attendees numbering around 130 attended from around the country, enjoying the modern facilities of Open Door Presbyterian Church (a 17-year old, fast-growing bilingual Korean church, www.opendoorpc.org).  Many of the attendees were young adults with a few older faces sprinkled in the crowd.

This is the second nationwide conference led by the South East Asian Committee (SEAC, www.seacleaders.com); the first was in 2006 in Long Beach, CA.  The seed for this movement germinated at the 2004 Asian American Leadership Conference in Los Angeles.  That event was organized and led mostly by Asian Americans of Chinese, Japanese, and Korean ancestry, but included a forum for South East Asian American leaders to gather and catch the vision that became SEAC.  (As it happens, the followup 2008 Asian American Leadership Conference is also taking place this month, http://aalc2008.org.)

Keynote speakers were Southeast Asian leaders Arounsavath Sacdyphoud (IL), Men Mua (MN) and Ken Kong (CA), and Australian scientist John Ridgway who has worked in Asia for 27 years.

There were also many workshops during the breakout sessions.  ISAAC was represented by Andrew Lee and Russell Yee who led sessions on Reading the Bible as an Asian American and Asian American worship (SEAing Worship) respectively as part of the Re:Source track.  Other seminar tracks were in Leadership Development, Evangelism and Re:Conciliation.

The highlight of the conference occurred on Friday night during the celebration banquet.  One of the leaders from the 1st generation church got up and shared this through a translator.

“We sacrificed so much to come here.  Perhaps that is why we wanted so much to protect you (1.5+ 2nd generation). But now I see we held on too tightly.  Please forgive us. We need to release you, to let you go. We bless you. We want the future to be one of mutual forgiveness, mutual respect, and mutual full support.”

It was an absolutely electrifying moment. There was hardly a dry eye in the house.

This reconciliation may well have been the fruit, in part, of the SEAC leaders including an honoring-of-elders lunch and presentation at the 2006 conference in Long Beach, with each 1st-generation pastor seated in a place of honor and recognized.  But it was also the result of the SEAC leaders having it together in organizing events that are attractive, well-networked, and effective in equipping next generation leaders.

The South East Asian American church is far younger than the East Asian American churches that make up the largest and oldest segments of the Asian American church.  Yet this impressive new generation of leaders–emerging from the backdrop of full wartime catastrophe, immigration hardships, and scattered settlement into American cities–has managed to forge, in just five years or so, a nationwide movement among their churches.  At this pace, they will not only continue learning from both the achievements and mistakes of older Asian American churches and movements, but indeed will have (and indeed, already do have) much to teach others as well.

New Report on Religion in America

February 25, 2008 Leave a comment

Pew Forum on Religion and Public Life has just published an important report of their U.S. Religious Landscape Survey. Its findings reveal tremendous religious restlessness among Americans who change religious affiliation frequently. It also demonstrated the growth of an unaffiliated population (atheist, agnostic, secular unaffiliated, and religious unaffiliated), particularly among people under 40 years of age. It also reveals that Protestantism has diminished to 51% of the population share (though evangelicals continue to gain an increasing share of the Protestant population). Catholicism also has not grown, due to the decline of its white population. However, immigration from Mexico, South America, and Asia have drastically reshaped its ethnic composition. Immigration has also impacted evangelicals more than mainline Protestant churches.

What about Asian Americans? The survey confirmed the anecdotal evidence that Asian Americans have a higher affiliation with Christianity than other religions. 45% of the Asians surveyed identified themselves as Christians (17% evangelicals, 17% Catholics, and 9% mainline Protestant). 14% identify as Hindu, 9% Buddhists, 4% Muslim, 3% other world religions or faiths. Among Buddhists, whites out number Asians 53% to 32%. 23% of the Asians surveyed were unaffiliated, the highest percentage of all racial groups.

Among East Asian immigrants, 57% are Christians (27% Catholic, 18% evangelical, 11% mainline Protestant), 14% Buddhist, and 27% unaffiliated. 55% of immigrants from South-Central Asia are Hindu, 16% Christian (9% evangelical, 3% Catholic, 2% mainline Protestant), 12% Muslim, and 11% unaffiliated.

The implications of the survey findings about Asian American religions are clear. Research about Asian American Hindus and Muslims is needed; but so is research in Asian American Christianity. Tim Tseng

Links to:

2007 – highlights of an exciting inaugural year!

December 20, 2007 1 comment

What an exciting year for ISAAC!

2007 was a year for testing ideas and learning how ISAAC can best strengthen the work of individuals and organizations that serve Asian American Christians. We are grateful for all who have given time and resources to ISAAC!

Here are highlights of ten activities from 2007:

1. Appointment of Eastern and Southern California Regional Directors, Andrew Lee and Young Lee Hertig. We are going national!

2. Asian American Christianity Reader (co-sponsored by PAACCE). We are creating a resource for Asian American Christianity courses. Click here for more information. We anticipate publication by early 2008. PAACCE has also contracted ISAAC resource team members Young Lee Hertig and Russell Yee to write resources on Asian American Christian women’s legacy and Asian American worship.

3. Asian American Program Directors Summit at Fuller Seminary, Feb. 17th (co-sponsored with the Korean Institute for Advanced Theological Studies) a gathering of seminary-based Asian American Center directors at Fuller Seminary – see list of participants and purpose of the gathering. It was an important first step towards making theological education more relevant to Asian and Pacific North American Christian communities. This event was covered by Connie Kang of the Los Angeles Times.

4. Summer Immersion Program, Los Angeles, July 25-28: “Wow, wow, wow!! That’s all I can say! I can’t stop talking to everyone about the experience we had last week. It’s like I’ve been reintroduced to the REAL Good News!!” “I really think it was a fantastic experience and would recommend this to any Asian American who wants to grow and is open to learning about our communities…It stimulated my faith!” Find out more! Click here.

5. Bay Area Chinese Churches Project: On Jan. 13, over 40 leaders from Chinese churches in San Francisco’s Chinatown participated in the Bay Area Chinese Churches Project consultation at the First Chinese Baptist Church of San Francisco. This event was co-sponsored with the Chinese Christian Union. Oct. 27, over 35 persons participated in the consultation at Sunset Church in San Francisco. These are part of on an on-going follow-up study of Dr. James Chuck’s 1996 study of the Chinese Churches in the Bay Area. The next consultation will be held on Saturday, Jan. 12, 2008 at the Bay Area Chinese Bible Church’s Alameda campus. Find out more at http://bapcc.wordpress.com/

6. Asian American Women on Leadership (AAWOL): 30 sisters attended AAWOL’s writers feedback meeting on Oct. 26th. AAWOL will produce a resource tool called “The Ying and Yang of Leadership: Biblical Characters According to Asian American Women” AAWOL is now planning a leadership retreat that will utilize the $2,000 grant from Yong Nak Presbyterian Church’s Community Service program. Visit the AAWOL blogsite at http://aawol.wordpress.com

7. ISAAC-Nagel reception at the American Academy of Religion/Socity of Biblical Literature Annual meetings in San Diego, Nov. 17-20. More than 100 joined us! Find out more – click here.

8. Society of Asian North American Christian Studies (SANACS): More than 50 charter members have joined SANACS since it was launched at the AAR/SBL meetings. Help support better and quality research about Christianity among Asian North American communities! Go to http://sanacs.wordpress.com/

9. Association of Theological Schools Asian and Asian North American Faculty Consultation in Dallas, TX, Dec. 7-9: Fifty faculty gathered to develop a report on effective theological education for Asian and Asian North American seminarians. Find out more! Click here.

10. Growing use of ISAAC’s Bulletin Board and Opportunities blog: Go to ISAAC Opportunities or ISAAC Bulletin Board

We look forward to a new year of exciting possibilities – for ISAAC 2008 activities, go to https://isaacblog.wordpress.com/isaac-events/

Categories: report Tags: ,

ATS Asian/Asian North American seminary faculty consultation (Dec. 7-9, 2007)

December 15, 2007 1 comment

Fifty Asian and Asian North American (AANA) seminary faculty gathered in Dallas, Texas on Dec. 7-9, 2007 to discuss how to make Theological Education more effective for AANA seminarians. The findings will be summarized in a report for the Association of Theological Schools (ATS) early in 2008. The ATS credentials seminaries in the United States and Canada, approves their degree programs, and sponsored this consultation. The Institute for the Study of Asian American Christianity (ISAAC) facilitated the planning of the consultation and will draft the report. Russell Moy chaired the planning committee, which included Ekron Chen (Logos Evangelical Seminary), Oliver McMahon (Church of God Seminary), Seung Ai Yang (Chicago Theological Semnary), and Timothy Tseng (ISAAC). Daniel Aleshire (Executive Director), Janice Edwards-Armstrong (Director, Leadership Education), and Karen Kuder of the Association of Theological Schools also staffed the consultation. This was the second consultation for AANA faculty organized by the ATS. The first was held in Redondo Beach, California, in 2005.

On Friday, Dan Aleshire started the consultation by providing statistical information about the current status of Asian and Asian North American (AANA) seminarians in ATS seminaries. In 2006, AANAs made up 7.5% of the total ATS student body – which is a higher percentage than their overall population and slightly higher than their percentages in other graduate level programs (6.5%). This is equivalent to the percentage of Visa (or international) students, of whom a large number come from Asian nations. 13% of the total student body are African Americans/Canadians (which is equivalent to their population in North America) and only 3% are Hispanics (compared to their general population of 13%).

Among the AANA seminarians, only 35% are enrolled in M.Div. programs – an indicator that the traditional church ministry route is not as popular as it once was or that churches and ministry organizations are more open to hiring AANA graduates without M.Div. degrees. Approximately 4,000 AANA students attend evangelical seminaries (9% of the student body), 750 attend mainline Protestant seminaries (3.5%), and less than 500 attend Roman Catholic seminaries (6.7%). Interestingly, 6% of the faculty in evangelical seminaries are AANA, 4.7% in mainline Protestant seminaries, and 3% in Roman Catholic seminaries.

Download complete Asian & Asian American Seminarians powerpoint presentation

On Saturday, four seminary educators made brief presentations and facilitated break out groups discussions. Peter Cha (Trinity Evangelical Divinity School) gave an overview of the emerging landscape of ministry among Asian Americans. Mai Anh Tran (Pacific School of Religion) engaged the question of inter-generational factors in AANA communities, congregations, and seminarians. Seung Ai Yang (Chicago Theological Seminary) had the group interrogate the complexity of gender and race issues in classroom settings. Tim Tseng (ISAAC) facilitated a conversation around educational assets and stereotypical deficits that AANA students bring to seminaries and encouraged participants to suggest ways that seminaries can more effectively work with these students. On Sunday, the four gave summaries of the break out group discussions. The notes of the discussions will be summarized into a report by ISAAC on behalf of the consultation.

In addition to the opportunities to work together, network and fellowship, the contextualized worship service led by Debbie Gin (Haggard School of Theology at Azusa Pacific University) was another highlight of the consultation. Frank Yamada (Seabury-Western Theological Seminary) accompanied Debbie’s piano with guitar and Diane Chen (Palmer Theological Seminary) gave a thought-provoking homily. A video of the service can be viewed and downloaded at: http://www.4shared.com/file/31926798/dbf0f6a8/ATS_AANA_worship.html?dirPwdVerified=2d3679f6

ISAAC looks forward to developing the consultation report and partnering with ATS and its member schools in the future!

* * *
The Association of Theological Schools in the United States and Canada (ATS) is a membership organization of more than 250 graduate schools that conduct post-baccalaureate professional and academic degree programs to educate persons for the practice of ministry and for teaching and research in the theological disciplines.

The Institute for the Study of Asian American Christianity (ISAAC) is a 501(c)3 non-profit that seeks to advance research in Asian American Christianity and strengthen organizations that serve and minister to Asian American communities.

Report: ISAAC-Nagel Reception at the AAR/SBL Annual Meeting

December 1, 2007 Leave a comment

Over a hundred guests celebrated the work of the Institute for the Study of Asian American Christianity and the Nagel Institute for the Study of World Christianity at Calvin College on Nov. 17th at the American Academy of Religion/Society of Biblical Literature annual meetings. Prof. Diane Obenchain shared about Nagels’ current projects. Dr. Joel Carpenter is the Director of the Nagel Institute.

In addition to sharing about ISAAC’s programs, it also encouraged the scholars of religion, theology, and biblical scholars who attend the AAR/SBL meetings to join the newly formed Society of Asian North American Christian Studies (SANACS). The new society will promote greatest scholarly attention to Asian Christianity in North America and will publish an Annual journal. Charter membership dues are $45. Contact Dr. Russell Yee for more information.

ISAAC is grateful for this partnership with the Nagel Institute and looks forward to future opportunities to collaborate.

* * *

About the Nagel Institute
http://www.calvin.edu/nagel/

Nagel logo The Nagel Institute was founded in 2006 as a service of Calvin College to those who study the rise of Christianity in the global south and east, and to others who are eager to see Christian thought and cultural engagement flourish in those regions.

The mission of the Nagel Institute for the Study of World Christianity is to accomplish significant work in the following three areas. We intend to:

  • Promote a deeper understanding of world Christianity,
  • Partner with study centers to strengthen Christian intellectual movements in the global south and east, and
  • Provoke a reorientation of Christian thought in the North Atlantic region toward the concerns arising from world Christianity.

ISAAC thanks Aug-Sept 2007 donors!

October 1, 2007 Leave a comment

We appreciate our donors and institutional partners! ISAAC’s efforts to strengthen Asian American Christianity cannot be done without you. The following have given to ISAAC in August and September 2007:

100% of ISAAC’s Board of Directors and Staff give to ISAAC generously and sacrificially. A report of their donations will be provided in the October-November 2007 update.

For a list of donors from the previous year up to July 2007 go to:
http://isaacweb.org/a/support_donors.htm

If you would like to make a pledge or a donation, go to:
http://isaacweb.org/a/support.htm

Categories: report

Summer Immersion Project 2007 Wows Participants

August 19, 2007 2 comments

August 19, 2007

“Wow, wow, wow!! That’s all I can say! I can’t stop talking to everyone about the experience we had last week. It’s like I’ve been reintroduced to the REAL Good News!!” That’s how Debbie Gin, Director of Diversity Studies at Azusa Pacific University, described ISAAC’s Summer Immersion Project that took place in Los Angeles this past July 25-28.

Margaret Yu of Epic Movement, the Asian American focused ministry of Campus Crusade for Christ concurred, “I really think it was a fantastic experience and would recommend this to any Asian American who wants to grow and is open to learning about our communities…It stimulated my faith!”

DJ Chuang, Executive Director of L2 Foundation said that SIP is “an excellent program to provide meaningful site visits to a wide range of Asian American communities.”

Okay, not everything went so well – so let’s get real here. We probably visited too many sites and did not have adequate time for reflection. But for the 15 invited participants, SIP was a very satisfying exposure to the diversity of Asian American organizations in Southern California. Our visits to Little Tokyo, Chinatown, and San Gabriel Valley provided a glimpse of the past and present issues facing Japanese and Chinese Christian communities. In our Mid-Wilshire visit, we learned about the work of Koreatown Immigrants Workers Association, Asian American health service programs, and grassroots Filipino organizations. We then visited the emerging Vietnamese community in Orange County and were blessed with an afternoon with David Gibbons of NewSong Church in Irvine. On Saturday, SIP concluded with a debriefing meeting and experimental contextualized worship service at the Japanese Evangelical Missionary Society’s office in Little Tokyo (a more detailed overview will be posted on-line shortly).

In some church circles, “Asian American” means English speaking or second generation. In other circles, it is used subconsciously to generalize one ethnic group’s experiences. For example, a Chinese American may talk about being Asian American without ever meeting or learning about the Cambodian American experience. If anything, SIP demonstrated that the complexity and diversity of Asian America deserves much deeper engagement than is currently available in churches, seminaries, and other organizations.

The deeper engagement that SIP provided was based, in part, on the way Jesus built up leaders. Motivational speakers, insightful lectures and seminars, and inspirational sermons are not enough. Jesus knew this and brought his disciples along with him to walk among people, to eat with them, and to learn about their circumstances. SIP’s experience-based inter-generational and cross-cultural approach to understanding Asian American communities does not merely inform the mind, it also captures the heart. It confronts our prejudices and explodes our stereotypes. It forces us to recognize how truly human Asian Americans are and how much they, too, rely on God’s grace and love.

By providing breadth and depth, SIP adds value to any organization’s leadership development program. Indeed, after this experience, I am more fully convinced that the path to effective leadership in the Global Church will require a walk through Asian America!

Our local planning team, our hosts, and our co-sponsors (Logos Evangelical Seminary, Japanese Evangelical Missionary Society, and Tozer Theological Seminary) made SIP a powerful experience. I am grateful for all of them!

Planning for SIP 2008 will begin soon. Please feel free to contact me if you have any questions, comments, suggestions – or if you are interested in being a co-sponsor next year! – Tim Tseng

Categories: report