on cultural respect & critique

To: Multiple recipients of list cac
From: Russell & Lisa Yee
Subject: Reply to TST
Date: Fri, 27 Dec 1996 23:43:06 +0000

Responding to Tim Tseng’s missive of 12/18/96:

Bravo on your passionate and articulate description of cultures
and their need to be both honored and redeemed. But what to do
insofar as Chinese/AsAm culture is *not* (yet) a known, expressed
entity? Not expressed let alone redeemed? We can hardly expect
others to recognize our cultural uniqueness and identity when we
haven’t even figured it out for ourselves.

I think my reference to refraining from “beating up” on _CT_ and
instead devoting our own blood sweat and tears was misunderstood.
“Beating up” referred not to anything AsAm’s might do to _CT_ itself
(“I’m canceling my subscription bec. there were not enough AsAms in
your recent issue”) but to the exercise of beating it up in our
conversations with each other. “Blood, sweat and tears” referred
not to the (indeed great) efforts of AsAms at church & kingdom
building, but to the much more limited realm of effort at Xn journalism.

What I find curious is that we call for much-needed, far-too-
neglected critique of “white, evangelical culture” and then turn
right around and covet exposure in a parade product of that culture,
namely _CT_. As if _CT_ and the way it publishes lists of Up And
Coming Evangelicals is not a culturally bound exercise.

In general it seems to me that there is too much a posture of
grievance and not enough a posture of gratitude towards the efforts
of others from which we all benefit. (Isn’t gratitude more befitting
of Xns?) If mostly-white mostly-male evangelicals had not cranked
out _CT_ lo these past 40 years, it simply wouldn’t be there,
imperfections and all. Can I hear some gratitude for _CT_ to go
along with well-taken critique?

Let’s try it this way. Three generations ago most of my ancestors
were living grimly in southern China, illiterate, and without
hearing a word about the good news of Jesus. Now all my family
are Xns, and here I am with the luxury of sitting at my computer,
with too many diplomas hanging behind me, pondering the meaning of
life with all of you. What do I lose in exchange? My primary
langague is not my ancestral language (but I could have worked a
lot harder at learning Chinese in college than I did). I live with
the tension of being bicultural, of looking different than most folks
on TV, of being cuturally misunderstood now & then (a caucasian
member of our church recently felt I was dissing him bec. I did
not look him straight in the eye when saying certain things). All
in all, it’s a deal I’m happy to strike.

My wife & I recently adopted a newborn daugther from 1st gen.
Chinese birthparents. Perhaps someday I will be hurt if/when Julia
gets old enough for her birthparents to loom larger and larger in her
Serach for Identity–these people who bore her but did not change her
diapers and put her through college and write her into their will.
I will want her to honor them but not at the expense of being able
to receive the life we are able to give her, which they could/would

In many ways, America and American Evangelicalism is an adoptive
home for us. It has given most of us a better life than we would have
had if our families had never come here. It is flawed and fallen,
but remarkably open to critique, even equipping us with the tools
we use to critique it. And it is open to the possibility of a
multi-cultural future in a way that few other places are (ask Turks
in Germany, Kurds in Iraq, anybody but Japanese in Japan). Here
we have the freedom to worry about who we are and what being
bicultural means. To express and let God redeem something called
AsAm culture. To have a shot at enjoying the Best of Both Cultures.
For that I am grateful.


Now for some limited but HARD DATA on % of Chinese Xns: James Chuck
reports 21,435 total attendees in 158 Protestant Chinese churches in
five Bay Area counties (Alameda, SF, San Mateo, Contra Costa, Santa
Clara) as of mid-1996. My perusal of the 1990 census figures
(www.census.gov) yields 321,498 Chinese in those five counties.
Do the math and (drumroll please) we have 6.7% of self-identified
Chinese in those counties going to a Protestant church often enough to
be reported as “members.” SO, the oft-reported “5%” figure wasn’t so
bad. (Ooops, I just noticed that James already did the looking up and
got 6.8%–his census figures are fractionally different for some reason.)
(BTW, no slight intended of those Chinese RC’s and maybe any Orthodox
out there, but you’ll have to come up with your own data.) Let’s all
keep praying for leaders and churches and people and AsAm expressions
of the gospel to reach the 93.3% in the Bay Area and whatever the %age
is elsewhere!

Russell Yee
Oakland, CA

— End —

To: Multiple recipients of list cac
Date: Thu, 26 Dec 1996 16:12:03 +0800 (EAT)
From: mooch
Subject: A question

What is “culture”?


Muchun (Mooch) Yin |
Tunghai University |
Box 373 |
Taichung, Taiwan |
E-mail: mooch@s867.thu.edu.tw |

— End —

To: Multiple recipients of list cac
Date: Thu, 19 Dec 1996 21:57:53 -0800
From: Ken Fong
Subject: Re: Asian American Congregational Conflict Management

Ahh, Timothy, I for one appreciate your extra-clarified thoughts! It’s
nice to hear again that you caught one of the essences of my summer
session in Seattle. I’m glad to have you in the classroom (well,
virtual classroom, at this point!).

Merry Christmas to all!
Ken Fong

— End —

To: Multiple recipients of list cac
Date: Thu, 19 Dec 1996 15:40:47 -0500
From: TSTseng@aol.com
Subject: Re: Asian American Congregational Conflict Management

Hi DJ:

Thanks for your response and bringing up H.R. Niebuhr (who along with his
brother Reinhold is one of my favorite neo-orthodox theologians). And please
dispense with the titles – “Tim” is fine.

Perhaps my later posting is more explicit about where I am on the Niebuhrian
continuum. I am definitely not in the “Christ above culture” or “Christ of
culture” boats. Nor am I in the “Christ and culture in contradiction” or
“Christ against culture” camps. In other words, I agree with you and Niebuhr
that Christ is a transformer of culture (which is why I spoke of redeeming
culture). There is much that is sinful and flawed in every culture and – for
me – the hope of the Gospel is in its ability to bring Good News to a broken
world of diverse cultures.

What I am agitating about are two things: 1) the notion that because Western
cultures has had a longer encounter with the Church, it is therefore more
“Christian” and 2) somehow, the church (or gospel) has been untainted by
history and culture. I think most would agree that point 1 is problematic,
given the history of Western imperialism, colonialism, racism, etc. and the
church’s complicity (I say this fully aware that there have been many in the
church who have stood firmly against these atrocities – but that legacy has
been forgotten by many evangelicals today).

But allow me to respond to Dr. Curtis’ editorial to better explain my second
“bone of contention”:

He writes:


No quibble here. But does this mean that we have to sing Wesleyan hymns,
preach strictly expository sermons, or have stained glass windows? What does
it mean to have a sense of “our” heritage? Who is “our”? Does Christian
History include the stories of the African and Asian churches from a
non-missionary perspective?


Aha! What is the contemporary cultural seduction? Is it to encourage people
to hear the many voices (both Christian and non-Christian) that have been
silenced in the past? Or is this too “politically correct”? If I want to
write a history of Chinese American Christians, would this be considered a
part of the contemporary seduction? In any case, for anyone who has gone to
seminary (it doesn’t matter whether the seminary is conservative or liberal),
has any seminary offered courses about Asian or African Christian history?
Somehow, blanket statements about the “contemporary” needs to be more
clearly explained, for the real “unthinking assenters” may be those who want
to repristinate an Euro-American-centric church history. That is why Ken
Fong’s seminar at the Asian American Baptist minister’s conference this past
summer was SO important – we need to understand history, but our
interpretation of history must be post-modern (as opposed to pre-modern or
modern) otherwise non-Euro-American voices will be ignored (the color-blind
argument) or suppressed (the West is Best argument).

Also, the statement about “the unfolding of God’s purposes” transcending “any
single generation, century, denomination, geography, or ideology” sounds like
the Christ above culture paradigm which Niebuhr rejected. If God’s purpose
transcends any earthly reality, then how do we understand it? The Bible, you
say. Yes, but how do we interpret the Bible in such a manner so that our
subjective experiences don’t get in the way of God’s transcendent purposes in
the text? Furthermore, if the original Hebrew and Greek are mere human
languages, how can they capture God’s transcendent purpose (unless one argues
that the original Greek and Hebrew are somehow more sacred than other

Don’t misunderstand me. I believe that Scripture infallibly (and even
inerrantly) reveals God’s will, but we are deceiving ourselves if we think we
can appropriate or articulate what that will is without taking into
consideration the historic/cultural embeddedness of our experiences when we
approach the Word.

All this is to say that there is no such thing as a pure gospel, untouched by
culture and history, on this side of eternity. As long as we humans are
flawed, we can never transmit a pure gospel to others. By faith, I believe
that God’s purposes transcends human limitations, but I cannot therefore say
exactly what that purpose is without tainting it merely by talking about it.
I can attempt to approximate it by my understanding of Scripture and by
taking into account my cultural background and ideological assumptions. And
by faith, I will present my understanding of the Good News to those outside
the Christian community with the “hope-filled certainty” that through it, God
transforms lives and cultures. The problem I have with Curtis and many
evangelicals is the inability to see how their expressions of Christian faith
is also influenced by their own culture(s) and ideologies. And then some of
them have the audacity to teach “pure” theology to non-Euro-Americans,
claiming that they have captured the essence of the Truth in their
unadulterated version of the Gospel. Forgive me, I stereotype (but only to
be provocative, mind you – I hope to hear others).

So while I agree with you that culture cannot “plainly and simply receive the
Gospel in whole” (which is not what I meant when I used the term
“incarnated”), neither can the Gospel – so long as it is entrusted to
fallible people like us – be untouched by culture.

Thanks for getting me to think more [clearly]. Have a wonderful Christmas!

Tim Tseng

— End —

To: Multiple recipients of list cac
Date: Wed, 18 Dec 1996 15:05:55 -0500
From: TSTseng@aol.com
Subject: Re: Critiquing Cultures

Russell [Yee]:

In a message dated 12/12/96 8:45:43 PM, you wrote:


Don’t know if I can supply anything provocative – but, based on my interviews
with Chinese Christians this past summer, 2d-4th generation evangelicals
rarely said anything critical about mainstream evangelicalism and rarely said
anything complimentary about immigrant generation Chinese. There was a
tendency to deny the significance of their racial or ethnic identities; yet
there was near unanimous agreement that one’s Christian identity is most
central – though little thought was given to how one’s Christian identity is
expressed in a multicultural reality. Hence, many (not all) Chinese ABC
evangelicals tend to uncritically adopt the cultural forms of mainstream
white evangelicalism in their worship services, discipleship curricula,
sermons, etc, etc. Personally, I’d like to know whether conscious efforts wil
l be made to borrow from African American traditions or even from Asian

In sum, based on my interviews, ABC evangelicals tend to relativize “culture”
while holding sacred a “culture-neutral or color-blind biblical culture.”
But the problem is that there is no such thing as a “culture-neutral or
color-blind biblical culture” in historical, sociological, or even biblical
reality (I grant that Paul’s attempt to envision the “new humanity” in Christ
where Jews/Gentiles, Men/Women, Slave/Free can come togetherunfettered by
their particularities may represent this culture-neutral hope; but I don’t
think it can ever be attained on our side of eternity). Since Paul’s days,
the church has been both attempting to root itself into new cultural contexts
by adapting or borrowing from these cultures AND/OR moving forward towards
the eschatological hope of a transformed existence where the limitations of
cultures will be transcended before the glory of Christ’s Kingdom. I believe
Andrew Walls’ book, _The Missionary Movement in Christian History_ makes the
“homing” and “pilgrimage” metaphors central to his understanding of the
transmission of Christian faith across cultures through history.

Therefore, my hope is that ABC evangelicals will more seriously recognize the
socio-historical contexts in which they find themselves and not “buy into”
the idea that Christianity can be lived out free of culture or race or gender
or class. It’s okay to critique our Chinese-ness, but we need to be just as
vigilent at critiquing the Euro-American-ness of mainstream evangelicalism.
2 Cor. 4:5-7 comes to mind when I think about this issue:

“For we do not proclaim ourselves; we proclaim Jesus Christ as Lord and
ourselves as your slaves for Jesus’ sake. For it is the God who said, “Let
light shine out of darkness,” who has shone in our hearts to give the light
of the knowledge of the glory of God in the face of Jesus Christ. But we
have this treasure in clay jars, so that it may be made clear that this
extraordinary power belongs to God and does not come from us.” (NRSV)

Our treasure, as believers, is the hope and expectation that our Lord Jesus
Christ will bring us into his light, which in one sense, can mean a heavenly
kingdom where our particularities will no longer divide us. Yet, on this
side of eternity, we are still “clay jars.” Thus, it is imperative for white
and Chinese Christians to recognize that much of the “cultural” expressions
of their faith are nothing more than “clay jars.” Otherwise, the wrong
message gets communicated (namely, that “this extraordinary power” does not
belong to God, but comes from us). The problem is that while it is easy for
us to recognize the limitations of our Chinese “clay jar,” it is difficult to
see that “white evangelicalism” is also a “clay jar.” This leads to your
second point….


Interesting how you interpreted my statements as a “mood to beat up on
something.” I find it difficult to imagine how minor bit-players like us
Asian Americans can actually “beat up” CT. But more disturbing in your
comments is the assumption that we’ve not added out “blood, sweat, and tears
to the effort.” By in large, we have worked very hard to build Chinese
evangelical churches – just speak to some of our battle-worn veterans (Hoover
Wong, Sam Ling, Jeanette Yep, Peter Yuen, Wayland Wong, etc, etc.). If we
identify ourselves as evangelicals and CT purports to be a evangelical voice,
then why are we not mentioned for our efforts? Did the efforts of these
Chinese leaders not count?

Imagine what it would have been like if the same arguments were used to
recognize Gentile believers as members of the New Testament Christian
community – actually, no imagination is needed. The records show that the
Judaizers refused to receive the Gentiles unless their “blood, sweat, and
tears” were acknowledged by the Jewish believers (i.e., circumcision). Is it
not true that in Paul’s idea community of believers, no stumbling blocks were
to be placed before another believer? So why should we have to prove our
worth to CT? Are we not worthy simply because we are advancing the kingdom
also? I didn’t realize that there was supposed to be a pecking order in the
Christian church in which one’s recognition is based on one’s performance (or
how much one brings to the table).


Well, if one plays simply by the numbers, this would then imply that coverage
of Asian American evangelicals in CT should limited to their numbers within
American Evangelical leadership in the future. Sounds like a quota system to
me 🙂 More seriously, unless CT makes a serious effort to give us exposure,
how many of us Asian Americans will really be recognized as leaders in
mainstream evangelicalism? We can certainly attempt to make a splash (or
shed our blood, sweat, and tears), but it remains to be seen how far our own
efforts to break into mainstream evangelicalism will get us (though in
mainline denominations, Asian Americans have made significant progress out of
proportion to their numbers – this is in part due to the fact that mainline
denominations have historically had to face the question of accountability to
be a truly “Christian” body where the marginalized are invited to sit [not
buy a place] at the welcome table. This does not mean that mainline
Christians are really that much better than evangelicals in race-relations.)


I agree that American evangelicalism is predominantly white. But I think
you’ve presented a set of false options. IMHO, it’s not a choice between
“fitting in” vs. “separating out.” I’d rather frame the question in this
way: “how do we encourage all our brothers and sisters to break free of their
conscious or unconscious cultural captivity and move towards a fuller vision
of the kingdom (which will redeem the best of our cultures)?” This means
that we should try to “partner” with white Christians, but only insofar as 1.
“white culture” is not viewed as normative; and 2. we are not forced to
emulate whites (i.e., we are allowed to be who God has made us insofar as we
are led by Word and Spirit). But this can also mean that we may be called to
challenge entrenched white Christians [or other ‘entrenched’ Christians] to
change. How can the prophetic word be spoken? How do we speak the truth in

This is where maintaining a visible ethnic/racial church becomes a witness to
the brokenness of Christ’s body, the Church. Strengthening Chinese or
pan-Asian congregations, developing liturgies/worship services and songs that
reflect our Asian American experiences, and thinking theologically about the
Bible and Christian tradition in a manner that does not erase our worthiness
are needed in order to hold accountable that part of the Church which seeks
to present itself as the touchstone of Christian faith. It is not merely a
pragmatic call to evangelize the 95% non-Christian Chinese (an oft-repeated
and largely un-substantiated figure, BTW). Until we all recognize the
brokenness of the church today (especially Christians from dominant cultures
or contexts – and this also means overseas born Chinese Christians who are
insensitive to ABCs) I don’t think it wise to talk too brashly about or walk
too quickly towards “reconciliation.” Repentance, restitution, and
reparation need to be worked out even as the broken Church bears witness to
the restored and resurrected Christ and awaits His return. (That enough R’s
for you?)

Ugh! I’ve written too much! But you have that effect on me, Russell.
Thanks! – Tim

— End —

To: Multiple recipients of list cac
From: “Dr Samuel Ling”
Date: Wed, 18 Dec 1996 17:55:05 CST6CDT
Subject: articles to share with you

Hi, everyone, Merry Christmas!

5 articles I wrote recently to share with anyone who cares to read.
The Lord’s blessings to you this season.

Samuel Ling

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To: Multiple recipients of list cac
From: “DJ Chuang”
Date: Wed, 18 Dec 1996 15:08:00 +0000
Subject: Christianity and Culture

[not only do Asian Americans wrestle with the question of culture and faith,
normative evangelical Americans also]

Christianity and Culture
Jerry Solomon

At the close of the twentieth century American evangelicals find themselves in
a diverse, pluralistic culture. Many ideas vie for attention and allegiance.
These ideas, philosophies, or world views are the products of philosophical
and cultural changes. Such changes have come to define our culture. For
example, pluralism can mean that all world views are correct and that it is
intolerable to state otherwise; secularism reigns; absolutes have ceased to
exist; facts can only be stated in the realm of science, not religion;
evangelical Christianity has become nothing more than a troublesome oddity
amidst diversity. It is clear, therefore, that western culture is suffering;
it is ill. Lesslie Newbigin, a scholar and former missionary to India, has
emphasized this by asking a provocative question: “Can the West be

Such a question leads us to another: How is a Christian supposed to respond to
such conditions? Or, how should we deal with the culture that surrounds us?

Since the term culture is central in this discussion, it deserves particular
attention and definition. Even though the concept behind the word is ancient,
and it is used frequently in many different contexts, its actual meaning is
elusive and often confusing. Culture does not refer to a particular level of
life. This level, sometimes referred to as “high culture,” is certainly an
integral part of the definition, but it is not the central focus. For example,
“the arts” are frequently identified with culture in the minds of many. More
often than not there is a qualitative difference between what is a part of
“high culture” and other segments of culture, but these distinctions are not
our concern at this time.

T. S. Eliot has written that culture “may . . . be described simply as that
which makes life worth living.”(2) Emil Brunner, a theologian, has stated
“that culture is materialisation of meaning.”(3) Donald Bloesch, another
theologian, says that culture “is the task appointed to humans to realize
their destiny in the world in service to the glory of God.”(4) An
anthropologist, E. Adamson Hoebel, believes that culture “is the integrated
system of learned behavior patterns which are characteristic of the members of
a society and which are not the result of biological inheritance.”(5) All of
these definitions can be combined to include the world views, actions, and
products of a given community of people.

Christians are to observe and analyze culture and make decisions regarding our
proper actions and reactions within it. A struggle is in progress and the
stakes are high. Harry Blamires writes: “No thoughtful Christian can
contemplate and analyze the tensions all about us in both public and private
life without sensing the eternal momentousness of the current struggle for the
human mind between Christian teaching and materialistic secularism.”(6)

Believers are called to join the struggle. But in order to struggle
meaningfully and with some hope of influencing our culture, we must be
informed and thoughtful Christians. There is no room for sloth or apathy. Rev.
3:15-16 states, “I know your deeds, that you are neither cold nor hot; I would
that you were cold or hot. So because you are lukewarm, and neither hot nor
cold, I spit you out of My mouth.”

God forbid that these words of condemnation should apply to us.

Transforming Culture

Church history demonstrates that one of the constant struggles of
Christianity, both individually and corporately, is with culture. Where should
we stand? Inside the culture? Outside? Ignore it? Isolate ourselves from it?
Should we try to transform it?

The theologian Richard Niebuhr provided a classic study concerning these
questions in his book Christ and Culture. Even though his theology is not
always evangelical, his paradigm is helpful. It includes five views.

First, he describes the “Christ Against Culture” view, which encourages
opposition, total separation, and hostility toward culture. Tertullian,
Tolstoy, Menno Simons, and, in our day, Jacques Ellul are exponents of this

Second, the “Christ of Culture” perspective is exactly the opposite of “Christ
Against Culture” because it attempts to bring culture and Christianity
together, regardless of their differences. Liberation, process, and feminist
theologies are current examples.

Third, the “Christ Above Culture” position attempts “to correlate the
fundamental questions of the culture with the answer of Christian
revelation.”(7) Thomas Aquinas is the most prominent teacher of this view.

Fourth, “Christ and Culture in Paradox” describes the “dualists” who stress
that the Christian belongs “to two realms (the spiritual and temporal) and
must live in the tension of fulfilling responsibilities to both.”(8) Luther
adopted this view.

Fifth, “Christ the Transformer of Culture” includes the “conversionists” who
attempt “to convert the values and goals of secular culture into the service
of the kingdom of God.”(9) Augustine, Calvin, John Wesley, and Jonathan
Edwards are the chief proponents of this last view.

With the understanding that we are utilizing a tool and not a perfected
system, I believe that the “Christ the Transformer of Culture” view aligns
most closely with Scripture. We are to be actively involved in the
transformation of culture without giving that culture undue prominence. As the
social critic Herbert Schlossberg says, “The ‘salt’ of people changed by the
gospel must change the world.”(10) Admittedly, such a perspective calls for an
alertness and sensitivity to subtle dangers. But the effort is needed to
follow the biblical pattern.

If we are to be transformers, we must also be “discerners,” a very important
word for contemporary Christians. We are to apply “the faculty of discerning;
discrimination; acuteness of judgment and understanding.”(11) Matthew 16:3
includes a penetrating question from Jesus to the Pharisees and Sadducees who
were testing Him by asking for a sign from heaven: “Do you know how to discern
the appearance of the sky, but cannot discern the signs of the times?” It is
obvious that Jesus was disheartened by their lack of discernment. If they were
alert, they could see that the Lord was demonstrating and would demonstrate
(in v. 4 He refers to impending resurrection) His claims. Jesus’ question is
still relevant. We too must be alert and able to discern our times.

In order to transform the culture, we must continually recognize what is in
need of transformation and what is not. This is a difficult assignment. We
cannot afford to approach the responsibility without the guidance of God’s
Spirit, Word, wisdom, and power. As the theologian John Baille has said, “In
proportion as a society relaxes its hold upon the eternal, it ensures the
corruption of the temporal.”(12) May we live in our temporal setting with a
firm grasp of God’s eternal claims while we transform the culture he has
entrusted to us!

Stewardship and Creativity

An important aspect of our discussion of Christians and culture is centered in
the early passages of the Bible.

The first two chapters of Genesis provide a foundation for God’s view of
culture and man’s responsibility in it. These chapters contain what is
generally called the “cultural mandate,” God’s instructions concerning the
care of His creation. Included in this are the concepts of “stewardship” and

The mandate of stewardship is specifically found within 1:27-28 and 2:15, even
though these two chapters as a whole also demonstrate it. Verse 28 of chapter
1 reads, “And God blessed them; and God said to them, “Be fruitful and
multiply, and fill the earth, and subdue it; and rule over the fish of the sea
and over the birds of the sky, and over every living thing that moves on the

This verse contains the word subdue, an expression that is helpful in
determining the mandate of stewardship. First, it should be observed that man
is created “in the image of God.” Volumes have been written about the meaning
of this phrase. Obviously, it is a very positive statement. If man is created
in God’s image, that image must contain God’s benevolent goodness, and not
maliciousness. Second, it is obvious that God’s created order includes
industriousness, work–a striving on the part of man. Thus we are to exercise
our minds and bodies in service to God by “subduing,” observing, touching, and
molding the “stuff” of creation. We are to form a culture.

Tragically, because of sin, man abused his stewardship. We are now in a
struggle that was not originally intended. But the redeemed person, the person
in Christ, is refashioned. He can now approach culture with a clearer
understanding of God’s mandate. He can now begin again to exercise proper

The mandate concerning creativity is broadly implied within the first two
chapters of Genesis. It is not an emphatic pronouncement, as is the mandate
concerning stewardship. In reality, the term is a misnomer, for we cannot
create anything. We can only redesign, rearrange, or refashion what God has
created. But in this discussion we will continue to use the word with this
understanding in mind.

A return to the opening chapter of Genesis leads us to an intriguing question.
Of what does the “image of God” consist? It is interesting to note, as did the
British writer Dorothy Sayers, that if one stops with the first chapter and
asks that question, the apparent answer is that God is creator.(13) Thus, some
element of that creativity is instilled in man. God created the cosmos. He
declared that what He had done was “very good.” He then put man within
creation. Man responded creatively. He was able to see things with aesthetic
judgment (2:9). His cultivation of the garden involved creativity, not
monotonous servitude (2:15). He creatively assigned names to the animals
(2:19-20). And he was able to respond with poetic expression upon seeing Eve,
his help-mate (2:23). Kenneth Myers writes: “Man was fit for the cultural
mandate. As the bearer of his Creator-God’s image, he could not be satisfied
apart from cultural activity. Here is the origin of human culture in untainted
glory and possibility. It is no wonder that those who see God’s redemption as
a transformation of human culture speak of it in terms of re-creation.”(14)

As we seek to transform culture we must understand this mandate and apply it.


Pluralism and secularism are two prominent words that describe contemporary
American culture. The Christian must live within a culture that emphasizes
these terms. What do they mean and how do we respond? We will look at
pluralism first.

The first sentence of professor Allan Bloom’s provocative and controversial
book, The Closing of the American Mind, reads: “There is one thing a professor
can be absolutely certain of: almost every student entering the university
believes, or says he believes, that truth is relative.”(15)

This statement is indicative of Bloom’s concern for the fact that many college
students do not believe in absolutes, but the concern goes beyond students to
the broader population. Relativism, openness, syncretism, and tolerance are
some of the more descriptive words for the ways people are increasingly
thinking in contemporary culture. These words are part of what I mean by
pluralism. Many ideas are proclaimed, as has always been the case, but the
type of pluralism to which I refer asserts that all these ideas are of equal
value, and that it is intolerant to think otherwise. Absurdity is the result.
This is especially apparent in the realm of religious thought.

In order for evangelicals to be transformers of culture they must understand
that their beliefs will be viewed by a significant portion of the culture as
intolerant, antiquated, uncompassionate, and destructive of the status quo. As
a result, they will often be persecuted through ridicule, prejudice, social
ostracism, academic intolerance, media bias, or a number of other attitudes.
Just as with Bloom’s statement, the evangelical’s emphasis on absolutes is
enough to draw a negative response. For example, Jesus said, “I am the way,
and the truth, and the life; no one comes to the Father, but through Me” (John
14:6). Such an exclusive, absolute claim does not fit current pluralism.
Therefore, the pluralist would contend that Jesus must have meant something
other than what is implied in such an egocentric statement.

It is unfortunate that Christians often have been absorbed by pluralism. As
Harry Blamires puts it, “We have stopped thinking christianly outside the
scope of personal morals and personal spirituality.”(16) We hold our beliefs
privately, which is perfectly legitimate within pluralism. But we have not
been the transformers we are to be. We have supported pluralism, because it
tolerates a form of Christianity that doesn’t make demands on the culture or
call it into question.

Christianity is not just personal opinion; it is objective truth. This must be
asserted, regardless of the responses to the contrary, in order to transform
culture. Christians must affirm this. We must enter our culture boldly with
the understanding that what we believe and practice privately is also
applicable to all of public life. Lesslie Newbigin writes: “We come here to
what is perhaps the most distinctive and crucial feature of the modern
worldview, namely the division of human affairs into two realms– the private
and the public, a private realm of values where pluralism reigns and a public
world of what our culture calls `facts.'”(17)

We must be cautious of incorrect distinctions between the public and private.
We must also influence culture with the “facts” of Christianity. This is our


Secularism permeates virtually every facet of life and thought. What does it
mean? We need to understand that the word secular is not the same as
secularism. All of us, whether Christian or non-Christian, live, work, and
play within the secular sphere. There is no threat here for the evangelical.
As Blamires says, “Engaging in secular activities . . . does not make anyone a
`secularist’, an exponent or adherent of `secularism’.”(18) Secularism as a
philosophy, a world view, is a different matter. Blamires continues: “While
`secular’ is a purely neutral term, `secularism’ represents a view of life
which challenges Christianity head on, for it excludes all considerations
drawn from a belief in God or in a future state.”(19)

Secularism elevates things that are not to be elevated to such a high status,
such as the autonomy of man. Donald Bloesch states that “a culture closed to
the transcendent will find the locus of the sacred in its own creations.”(20)
This should be a sobering thought for the evangelical.

We must understand that secularism is influential and can be found throughout
the culture. In addition, we must realize that the secularist’s belief in
independence makes Christianity appear useless and the Christian seem woefully
ignorant. As far as the secularist is concerned, Christianity is no longer
vital. As Emil Brunner says, “The roots of culture that lie in the
transcendent sphere are cut off; culture and civilisation must have their law
and meaning in themselves.”(21) As liberating as this may sound to a
secularist, it stimulates grave concern in the mind of an alert evangelical
whose view of culture is founded upon God’s precepts. There is a clear
dividing line.

How is this reflected in our culture? Wolfhart Pannenberg presents what he
believes are three aspects of the long-term effects of secularism. “First of
these is the loss of legitimation in the institutional ordering of
society.”(22) That is, without a belief in the divine origin of the world
there is no foundation for order. Political rule becomes “merely the
exercising of power, and citizens would then inevitably feel that they were
delivered over to the whim of those who had power.”(23)

“The collapse of the universal validity of traditional morality and
consciousness of law is the second aspect of the long-term effects of
secularization.”(24) Much of this can be attributed to the influence of
Immanuel Kant, the eighteenth-century German philosopher, who taught that
moral norms were binding even without religion.(25)

Third, “the individual in his or her struggle towards orientation and identity
is hardest hit by the loss of a meaningful focus of commitment.”(26) This
leads to a sense of “homelessness and alienation” and “neurotic deviations.”
The loss of the “sacred and ultimate” has left its mark. As Pannenberg writes:
“The increasingly evident long-term effects of the loss of a meaningful focus
of commitment have led to a state of fragile equilibrium in the system of
secular society.”(27)

Since evangelicals are a part of that society, we should realize this “fragile
equilibrium” is not just a problem reserved for the unbelieving secularist; it
is also our problem.

Whether the challenge is secularism, pluralism, or a myriad of other issues,
the Christian is called to practice discernment while actively transforming


1. Lesslie Newbigin, “Can the West be Converted?” Evangelical Review of
Theology 11 (October 1987).

2. T. S. Eliot, Christianity and Culture (New York: Harcourt, Brace & World,
1949), 100.

3. Emil Brunner, Christianity and Civilization (London: Nisbet, 1948), 62.

4. Donald G. Bloesch, Freedom for Obedience (San Francisco: Harper & Row,
1987), 54.

5. E. Adamson Hoebel, Anthropology: The Study of Man, 3d ed. (New York:
McGraw-Hill, 1966), 5.

6. Harry Blamires, Recovering the Christian Mind (Downers Grove, Ill.:
InterVarsity, 1988), 10.

7. Bloesch, Freedom, 227.

8. Ibid.

9. Ibid.

10. Herbert Schlossberg, Idols for Destruction (Nashville, Tenn.: Thomas
Nelson, 1983), 324.

11. The Random House Dictionary of the English Language, s.v. “discernment.”

12. John Baille, What is Christian Civilization? (London: Oxford, 1945), 59.

13. Dorothy L. Sayers, The Mind of the Maker (San Francisco: Harper & Row,
1941), 22.

14. Kenneth A. Myers, All God’s Children and Blue Suede Shoes (Westchester,
Ill.: Crossway, 1989), 38.

15. Allan Bloom, The Closing of the American Mind, (New York: Simon &
Schuster, 1987), 25.

16. Harry Blamires, The Christian Mind (Ann Arbor, Mich.: Servant, 1963),

17. Newbigin, “West,” 359.

18. Blamires, Christian Mind, 58.

19. Ibid.

20. Bloesch, Freedom, 228.

21. Brunner, Christianity, 2.

22. Wolfhart Pannenberg, Christianity in a Secularized World (New York:
Crossroad, 1989), 33.

23. Ibid.

24. Ibid., 35.

25. Ibid.

26. Ibid., 37.

27. Ibid., 38.

Copyright 1992 Jerry Solomon

About the Author

Jerry Solomon is the field ministries manager and “Mind Games” College Prep
coordinator of Probe Ministries. He received the B.A. summa cum laude in Bible
and the M.A. cum laude in history and theology from Criswell College. He has
also attended the University of North Texas, Canal Zone College, and Lebanon
Valley College, Pennsylvania.

What is Probe?

Probe Ministries is a non-profit corporation whose mission is to reclaim the
primacy of Christian thought and values in Western culture through media,
education, and literature. In seeking to accomplish this mission, Probe
provides perspective on the integration of the academic disciplines and
historic Christianity.

In addition, Probe acts as a clearing house, communicating the results of its
research to the church and society at large.

Further information about Probe’s materials and ministry may be obtained by
writing to:
Probe Ministries
1900 Firman Drive, Suite 100
Richardson, TX 75081
(214) 480-0240
FAX(214) 644-9664

— End —

To: Multiple recipients of list cac
From: “DJ Chuang”
Date: Wed, 18 Dec 1996 15:03:40 +0000
Subject: Re: Asian American Congregational Conflict Management

On 11 Dec 96 at 11:58, TSTseng@aol.com wrote:

> I do not subscribe the idea of a culture-neutral biblical culture,
> especially since such an idea is “gnostic” in outlook and anti-Incarnational
> in theology. Worst of all, it allows Euro-American cultural expressions of
> Christianity to be unconsciously defined as the “norm” for every Christian.

Dr. Tseng,
Thank you for being honest in your approach to culture and faith. Where I am
at today, I wrestle more with the relationship between culture and faith, and
do not see culture as being able to plainly and simply receive the Gospel in
whole, or you say, incarnate it into the culture. Using Niebuhr’s models of
“Christ and culture”, there are a number of relationships that are possible,
including Christ above culture, Christ in culture, Christ transforms culture,
Christ separate from culture, and one other that I can’t think of off the top
of my head.

What you seem to say is “Christ in culture”, where as I believe there are
elements of all 5 models in understanding the complexities of this
relationship, and with my personal critique/concern about Asian culture being

Also, given the diversity between western and eastern civilization, one has
to rightly be discerning of not imposing western concepts upon eastern
culture, but yet know when Christian values are to be applied to all

The following excerpt from the Christian History Institute also suggests that
western civilization has been more deeply affected by Christianity than other

A Word From Our President — Dr. Ken Curtis

Our contemporary society has forgotten where it came from and the
indispensible role of the church in laying the foundations for Western
civilization and establishing the institutions that have enriched our life and

It is no surprise that the secularist mentality conveniently ignores or
maligns our Christian past. But what is beyond comprehension is how many
Christian people have almost no sense of our heritage.

We are too easily captive to the contemporary and become unthinking assenters
to our culture’s seduction by the now, the latest, the present moment.
Understanding Christian history will help us in many ways. We will uncover
precedents in the past of how God has worked, We will gain perspective that
will help us to see our current situation in a new light. We will develop a
sense of continuity and see how the unfolding of God’s purposes transcends any
single generation, century, denomination, geography, or ideology.

We hope our web site will help you discover some of the riches of our
Christian heritage. We expect to be adding new features on a regular basis.
However, as we begin this service we are happy to present the complete set of
84 back issues of our church bulletin insert called Glimpses . Also, you will
find links to the first three selections published in our Pocket Classics
series. These are original documents from Christian history and the first
three are all from the Early Church period.


* * on the relentless pursuit of truth *

— End —

To: Multiple recipients of list cac
Date: Tue, 17 Dec 1996 12:53:05 -0500
From: TSTseng@aol.com
Subject: No Subject

Well, at least some Chinese Americans are taking some initiatives! – Tim
Date: Sun, 15 Dec 1996 01:00:27 -0600
From: “H-Net Exec Director: Richard Jensen”
Subject: $25m for Asian-American Studies in New York

Charles B. Wang Endows $25 Million For Asian American Center At State
University Of New York At Stony Brook

Gift By Computer Associates CEO And Founder Is Largest Endowment In SUNY’s

STONY BROOK, N.Y.–(PRESS RELEASE)–Dec. 9, 1996–In the largest private
gift in the history of the State University of New York (SUNY) Computer
Associates International, Inc. (CA) Chairman and CEO Charles B. Wang is
funding a high-technology Asian American Center on the campus of SUNY Stony
The $25 million gift will be used to construct the Charles B. Wang Asian
American Center, a far-reaching complex dedicated to the advancement of
education, cultural exchanges, business and technology. It will be the first
building, funded by a private donor, to be constructed on a SUNY campus.
“By any measure, Mr. Wang’s endowment ranks among the most generous in the
history of this nation,” said Stony Brook President Dr. Shirley Strum Kenny.
“This gift represents a major step forward for multi-cultural education at
the University. The generosity of Mr. Wang means that Stony Brook will be
alone among major universities in having a dedicated center specifically
built to meet the unique technological requirements of advanced
cross-cultural programs.”
The Charles B. Wang Asian American Center will become the core of an
emerging global “virtual university.” It will utilize the latest fiber-optic
networking technologies to enable the transmission of real-time video, voice
and data at extraordinary speeds, in excess of 45 mbs.
The Center will empower distance learning – a “university without walls.”
Professors and students at Stony Brook and in Asia will conveniently interact
and freely exchange ideas in real-time, regardless of their physical location.

“The Asian American Center will be a model of how technology should be
applied in the service of education,” said Mr. Wang. “It will expand
opportunities by eliminating the boundaries of geography and time.”
The Center will allow Stony Brook to expand the scope of its extensive
cultural programs and services. It will also make possible the exchange of
ideas about East/West approaches to medicine, science, technology, business,
engineering and many other fields in an international arena.
The first phase of the project, scheduled for groundbreaking in spring,
1997, will involve the construction of a facility located on a four-acre site
contiguous to the Staller Center for the Performing Arts.
In addition to state-of-the-art computer facilities, the 25,000 square-foot
building will include an auditorium/conference center, an art gallery,
meeting rooms, and a multi-cuisine food court. Subsequent phases will allow
the addition of supplementary annexes to accommodate the growing numbers of
students, faculty, visiting scholars and researchers expected to utilize the
Mr. Wang’s gift provides not only for construction of a world-class
facility, but also an endowment for the ongoing building maintenance and
upkeep costs.
Mr. Wang, who was eight years old when his family left Shanghai, China in
1952 to settle in New York City, has a keen interest in supporting programs
designed to help people gain greater understanding of Asian and
Asian-American issues.
“The Asian-American center will be the catalyst for numerous academic,
technical, cultural, and business initiatives,” Mr. Wang said. “When
participants have a greater understanding of each other’s history and
culture, such programs will always have a better chance of success.”
A graduate of Queens College in New York, Mr. Wang founded CA in 1976 and
has built the company into the world’s leading provider of business software.
The University at Stony Brook is the State University of New York’s leading
research institution. It is also nationally renowned for its Asian-American
studies programs. Approximately one quarter of its students are of Asian

CONTACT: State University of New York at Stony Brook
Vicky Penner Katz, 516/632-6311 or 516/282-8586 (pager)
[the university is in a suburb on Long Island, east of Manhattan]

— End —

To: Multiple recipients of list cac
Date: Tue, 17 Dec 1996 11:00:17 -0100
From: janei@violet.berkeley.edu (Jane Naomi Iwamura)
Subject: PANAAWTM – Annual Conference & Doctoral Seminar (Fwd)

Pacific Asian North American Asian Women in Theology & Ministry


Date: March 14-16, 1997 (Friday-Sunday)
Place: Emory University, Atlanta, Georgia

Participants can apply for scholarship travel and room and board.

Contact Person:
Millie Kim
3128-G Briarcliff Road
Atlanta, GA 30329
(404) 636-3725
e-mail: mkim@unix.cc.emory.edu

for Asian & Asian American Women Students in US & Canada

Date: March 13-14, 1997 (Thursday-Friday)
Place: Emory University, Atlanta, Georgia
Contact Persons:

Kwok Pui-lan
Episcopal Divinity School
99 Brattle Street
Cambridge, MA 02138
(617) 868-3450

Greer Anne Wenh-In Ng
Emmanuel College
75 Queens Park Crescent
Toronto, Ontario M5S 1K7
(416) 585-4549


PANAAWTM ‘s History
In 1984, a group of Asian women graduate theological students in
the Northeastern U.S. saw the need, and had the desire to form a group
which would provide a forum in which they could share and discuss their
interests, concerns, and ideas. The group at that time was called Asian
Women Theologians (AWT). Shortly thereafter, Asian American women in
theology felt that such a group would benefit them as well, and became
members of the group. Asian Women Theologians became Asian & Asian
American Women Theologians (AAAWT), and members resided throughout the U.S.
>From the beginning, the group was comprised of not just women in theology,
but also ministry. The name of the group was subsequently changed to Asian
American Women in Theology and Ministry (AAAWTM). For the past two
conferences, participants have come from Asian, the United States, as well
as Canada. The increased interest and support have been most encouraging
to all involved. In order to show that the homes of our members can be in
Asia, the United States, Canada, and the Pacific Islands, AAAWTM became

— End —

To: Multiple recipients of list cac
Date: Mon, 16 Dec 1996 09:48:19 -0800 (PST)
From: Donna Maeda
Subject: CFP: Mapping Race — Yale Grad. Student Conf. (fwd)



Happy Holidays, too!

>MAY 10, 1996
>This conference will explore the ways in which racial identity has been
>created, represented, and experienced on global, local, and individual
>terrain. The metaphor of mapping invites a variety of approaches to the
>question of how landscapes, communities, bodies, and nations are charted
>as racial territories.
>The conference is organized around broad themes concerning the
>construction and deployment of “race” in the negotiation of power;
>participants are encouraged to consider such questions as:
>% How do we know what race is?
>% What are the politics of racial marking?
>% How is “place” racially delineated and encoded?
>% How is power and authority mapped along racial lines?
>% How does race operate as an organizing principle of human
> knowledge? In the academy? In the household? On
the street? On the stage? In imperial conquest?
Colonial rule? Subordination and >slavery?
>% How do race and geography intersect in strategies of resistance?
>% How do they meet in strategies of domination and oppression?
>% How is race mapped along lines of class and sexuality?
>% How does race affect or determine those boundaries of difference?
>The conference will take place Saturday, May 10, 1997, at Yale University.
>It will be followed on Sunday, May 11 by a roundtable discussion, open to
>all. We invite graduate students across the disciplines to submit
>individual papers or propose panels.
>Abstracts of 1-2 pages (for papers of 8-10 pages) should be sent to Emily
>Epstein at the address below by February 15, 1997 :
>Emily Epstein
>307 Humphrey Street
>New Haven, CT 06511
>(203) 789-8640
>Please include with your submission your academic affiliation, telephone
>number, email address, and street address.

–Donna Maeda
Assistant Professor, Religious Studies
Occidental College
213-259-2856 tel.
213-341-4919 fax.

— End —


Asian Americans & Christianity Today

To: Multiple recipients of list cac
From: Russell & Lisa Yee
Subject: Critiquing Cultures
Date: Fri, 13 Dec 1996 02:28:26 +0000

Please, Pastor Tim, don’t stop your sermon there! Supply
us with a few provocative sermon illustrations of
(over?-)critiquing Chinese culture and (under?-)critiquing
mainstream evangelical culture!

While not excusing _CT_ from proper, ongoing critique
about ethnic short-sightedness, I always get nervous
when it smells like somebody may be in the mood to beat
up on something because it didn’t pay them enough attention.
By and large, it was not AsAm blood, sweat, and tears
that have kept _CT_ going all these years. Sure, if _CT_
wants to be the Voice of American Evagelicalism it needs
to pay attention to all the players. But if we want
to be properly recognized players, it’s also for us to
e. g., follow Helen Lee’s example and add our blood, sweat
and tears to the effort.

(To play the numbers crassly: There were 2 AsAm faces
out of 50 in the _CT_ Up & Coming piece. Sure, any of
us could have come up with a bunch more major AsAm players.
But would anyone like to guesstimate whether AsAm Evangelicals
are more or less than 1/25th of the future leadership of
American Evangelicalism?)

It seems to me that American Evangelicalism *is* very
much a predominantly white phenomenon. It’s really up
to us AsAm’s to decide if we want to act like and be
treated as a variety of that mainstream white culture,
or whether we intend to act like and be treated as
something distinct (like the Afro-Baptist tradition).

Russell Yee
Oakland, CA

— End —

From: CBC4PMSeto@aol.com
Date: Thu, 12 Dec 1996 14:12:00 -0500
To: djchuang@ix.netcom.com
Subject: Re: Letter re: “Exodus” article

I am responding to Leo Rhee’s emotional response to the second generation
Asian American pastors’ lack of a lot of things, lest we forget that the
second generation pastor is to some extent a product of the first generation
ministry. To blame the problem on the spoiled second generation is a little
simplistic and somewhat one sided. But some of us have already fought that
battle already, we are into the 3rd, 4th and 5th generations. To embrace
one’s culture is fine, but by the 3rd and 4th and 5th generation, what is
your culture? Just because one does not speak the language of his
grandfather or great grandfather or great great grandfather is he any less
Asian American or has instead become more “American” or nearly exclusively
“American”? I’ve been there, I’ve worked in and attended dominate culture
churches for many years, but even I have returned to ethnic ministries, where
I believe God wants me and where I can have the greatest impact for my Lord.
We can speculate all we want and drag all the arguments through a fine
filter, but what we understand, especially when it comes to the way God
works, is only a small part of the bigger picture. Maybe we must stand back
and observe a little more before we make our final judgements. Struggle is
fine, but to set one generation upon another is not.

Mike Seto, English Pastor
Community Baptist
San Mateo, CA

— End —

To: Multiple recipients of list cac
From: “DJ Chuang”
Date: Thu, 12 Dec 1996 12:01:37 +0000
Subject: Letter re: “Exodus” article

another response to the CT article, dated October 28, 1996 :

The ethnic church

To blame the exodus of second-generation Asians from the church on cultural
differences with the first generation is a one-sided judgment in disposition
and goes against fundamental biblical principles. It further fails to
represent the opposing views of first- and second-generation Asian Americans.

Submerged in our own arrogance and self-ambition, the disrespect,
disobedience, and indolence of today’s typical second-generation Asian pastor
is in stark contrast to the commitment, sacrifice, spiritual fervor, and
humility of the parent generation. We have become a generation spoiled by the
blessing painstakingly reaped by the first generation.

Moreover, to make the first generation solely culpable for our own
inadequacies and mistakes is a further reflection of our own
self-centeredness. How can one talk about multi-ethnic ministry when one
can’t even embrace his own culture? Scripture is quite clear when it comes to
principles of (1) the unity in the church, and (2) submission to authority.
There is still much to learn from the parent church.

-Leo Rhee
Bethel Korean Presbyterian Church
Ellicott City, Md.

* * John 2:17 *

— End —

To: Multiple recipients of list cac
From: “DJ Chuang”
Date: Thu, 12 Dec 1996 12:01:37 +0000
Subject: letters to CT editors 1

another response to the CT article, dated October 28, 1996 :

The ethnic church

* I am very thankful for Helen Lee’s article, “Silent Exodus” [Aug. 12],
about the flight of Asian Americans from their ethnic churches. I am
assistant to the senior minister of a Vietnamese church in Waco and have been
working with Vietnamese for a little over two years. In this short time, I
have run into the same problem: the ever-growing division between first- and
second-generation Asian Christians. The problem comes from the lack of
theological thought that rises from the fear of disunity and estrangement.

If Christianity responds to cultural changes by being relevant, then the need
to create ethnic unity within the church would be placed under the more
important goal of missions. For example, there is no need for ethnic churches
to teach their language in the church if those within the church are not
involved in bringing in nonethnic-speaking individuals. Christianity is about
unity through diversity; culture is about diversity seeking unity. Keeping
culture through the church institution undermines the work of these churches
to begin with. Having Korean-, Chinese-, Japanese-, or Vietnamese-speaking
services only for the sake of the languages reaches no one. The “exodus” to
atheism or English-speaking churches is inevitable, because when culture and
not theology is addressed, the ultimate result is dispersion. Theology speaks
to Asian cultures that are rapidly being undermined by the internal need for
assimilation or alien forces of assimilation. The question is “Are churches
willing to listen?”

-Phuc Luu, Assistant Minister
First Baptist Church
Waco, Tex.

* * John 2:17 *

— End —

To: Multiple recipients of list cac
From: “DJ Chuang”
Date: Thu, 12 Dec 1996 10:50:12 +0000
Subject: Re: FWD: Response to Helen Lee Article

On 12 Dec 96 at 1:28, TSTseng@aol.com wrote:

> Just a thought… if anyone’s seen the recent CT issue – which focuses on
> young, up and coming leaders – did you wander whether anyone at CT has a
> clue about the many talented, articulate, and gifted Chinese American
> leaders?

There are other talented & gifted Asian American ministers/leaders, just as
there are other African American and Caucasian American ministers/ leaders.
To pare down to a list of what 30 or 50 leaders from the new generation is
quite a task! My personal feel is that proportionally the ethnic
representation was not too unfair.

> …. I think it is important for
> younger Asian American Christians to think critically about what is going on
> and reflect on the history of American evangelicalism.

I agree this is important, and yet I have to wonder with the demands and
rigor of ministry, how many take the time to think about these matters or
history and philosophy and theology? Some of the people I converse with only
want “practical” answers because the needs are so pressing & demanding.


* * John 2:17 *

— End —

To: Multiple recipients of list cac
Date: Thu, 12 Dec 1996 01:28:03 -0500
From: TSTseng@aol.com
Subject: Re: FWD: Response to Helen Lee Article


Nice letter to _Christianity Today_. Will they publish it?

Just a thought… if anyone’s seen the recent CT issue – which focuses on
young, up and coming leaders – did you wander whether anyone at CT has a
clue about the many talented, articulate, and gifted Chinese American
leaders? The two Korean pastors certainly deserved mention and I’m glad that
CT even gave them some attention, but are there not others as well?

During my exhaustive weeks of interviewing Chinese American Christian
leaders, I’ve been inspired by their dedication in the face of complex
ministry obstacles. The passion and pathos of OBC, ABC, ARC Christians must
not be overlooked even though ministry among Chinese Americans can often be
troubling, frustrating, and isolated from the wider culture(s).

Finally, when CT mentions “honorary” minorities as it did in the
aforementioned issue (and publishes good articles like the one Helen Lee
wrote [I still believe it is a good article]), I think it is important for
younger Asian American Christians to think critically about what is going on
and reflect on the history of American evangelicalism. While CT is a lot
better than Christian Century in talking about Asian Americans (I know some
very good White “advocates” of Asian Americans on the CT staff), watch
carefully how mainstream evangelical presses portray us.

Because so many of us ABC evangelicals are so enamoured by theological
education in evangelical seminaries, I fear that – with few exceptions –
we’ve been indoctrinated to be more critical of our own Chinese heritage
than of what we are taught by mainstream evangelicals. Perhaps our pastoral
leadership need to scrutinize the wider cultural context in which Chinese
(and other Asian) Christians find themselves in more. Perhaps we need
greater exposure and experience working in mainstream Christian institutions
to get a better idea of how we are perceived by dominant culture in North
America. Let’s not uncritically internalize or mistakenly idolize the views
of dominant culture even while we critique Chinese culture. In my research,
I’ve often found myself in uncomfortable settings where Chinese folks
intentionally converse in a different dialect (even though I know they can
speak either English or my dialect). Whether intentionally or not, I often
feel out of the loop when that happens. Yet, what keeps me going is a
conviction that wholistic redemption occurs only via a truly incarnational
ministry. Thus, the pains caused by social injustices as well as by one’s
own cultural limitations need to be felt and understood more deeply before
they can be healed. Only then does doctrinal orthodoxy make sense to me.
(Do I sound like a post-modernist, Ken [Fong]?)

Thanks for reading these ramblings. End of sermon.

Tim Tseng

— End —

To: Multiple recipients of list cac
Date: Wed, 11 Dec 1996 11:58:52 -0500
From: TSTseng@aol.com
Subject: Asian American Congregational Conflict Management

Dear CACers:

As I thought about a discussion thread from a few months ago re: Chinese
culture, this article came to mind. Some of you may be aware of Virstan
Choy’s reflections on conflict within Asian American congregations. But for
those who are not, you might find the article helpful in thinking through the
interactions between culture and congregational life.

I do not subscribe the idea of a culture-neutral biblical culture, especially
since such an idea is “gnostic” in outlook and anti-Incarnational in
theology. Worst of all, it allows Euro-American cultural expressions of
Christianity to be unconsciously defined as the “norm” for every Christian.

Just thought I’d re-open the discussion. I hope to respond more directly to
the earlier discussion threads in the next few days.

Happy Holidays!
Tim Tseng
>From Surgery to Acupuncture: An Alternative Approach to Managing Church
Conflict from an Asian American Perspective
by Virstan B.Y. Choy

In _Congregations_ (Alban Institute: Nov.-Dec., 1995): 16-19.

A Case Study of Public Communication of Intergenerational Differences

Wanting to explore the theme “Improving Harmony and Communication in Church,”
an Asian American congregation invites a White counselor to be the keynote
speaker for its annual All Members’ Retreat. The speaker focuses one of the
sessions on intergenerational communication.
To encourage openness in sharing, the speaker asks the youth present to
identify issues about which they and their parents disagree. No youth
responds. The speaker rearranges her audience, asking the adults to sit on
one side of the room and the youth to sit on the other. She then rephrases
the question to the youth, “Think about the last time you and your parents
had an argument. What was it about?” Still no youth responds.
One of the adults new to the congregation tries to help. “Maybe the
youth need more time to think up some things to say. Maybe they need
anonymity. How about if we break up into two groups – one for the youth, one
for the adults – for the next half hour so that each generation can come up
with a list of what bugs them about the other generation. Each group could
choose its own reporter so that we won’t know who actually made the complaint
in the first place.” The retreat leader agreed with the suggestion. The
members divided into the two groups and meet.
Thirty minutes later, the groups return to the plenary room. The youth
are given the opportunity to report first. Their designated reporter reads
from a small piece of paper, “As the youth generation of the church, we
appreciate the opportunity to share our opinions at this retreat. However,
what our parents and we disagree about – well, we don’t feel it’s right to
bring it up in public. We love our parents. What we argue about is between
us.” She looks to the other youth. They nod in agreement. She turns back to
the audience, says “Thank you,” and returns to her seat.

A Case Story on Facing Conflicts in a Public Meeting

In an Asian American congregation, a lay leader is aware of a conflict among
some of the members and is unsure how to respond. She consults a member of
her denomination’s regional staff, who offers to visit the church and to
engage the members in some conflict resolution exercises.
In his visit with the congregation, the denominational executive
emphasizes “openness in communication” and encourages members to come forward
so that, “face-to-face,” they might “openly confront” their problems. He
asks the members to devote the day-long open meeting to the practice of
conflict resolution techniques “effective in other churches that have
experienced conflict.”
The church members dutifully cooperate with their executive,
participating in activities engaging them in presenting their “side” of the
issue, answering his questions about background history, and in trying
exercises in open communication.
At the end of this process, he presents to the congregation his
“findings,” his analysis of the conflict based upon these findings, and his
recommendations for what the congregation needs to do. One of the findings
is the revelation that there is more than one conflict in the congregation,
that some members reported disagreements with other members that have existed
for over two decades – disagreements “allowed” to remain unresolved.
Included in this report is his “power analysis” of the congregation,
revealing his perceptions of how power and authority have been skewed in
favor of the older generations of the church for over two decades and how
dysfunctional it would be for the congregation not to change such a
situation. The executive then lists the changes that need to be made in
order for the members to resolve their conflicts and to move forward
together. He concludes his report by noting the positive results of
confronting conflict and the importance of continuing such a “face-to-face”
process. He thanks the congregation for its cooperation. The members thank
the executive for his time and efforts and close with prayers for him and the
The day after this meeting, citing the statements about one another made
in public the day before, many of the members announce their decision to
leave the congregation.

>From a Human Relation Model to a Preserving Relationships Understanding

Most current approaches to church conflict management are based upon
conceptions of congregations as organizations (and congregational leadership
as organizational leadership). These conceptions have been primarily shaped
by human relations theory. The preceding stories of two actual cases in
Asian American congregations show how such approaches are influenced by a
psychological understanding of relationships within congregations, which
encourages confrontation of disagreements, engages the persons involved in a
conflict in direct interaction, and emphasizes communication skills
(self-disclosure, assertiveness in expressing demands, negotiation,
compromise, and collaboration). The use of such approaches to conflict in
Asian American congregations has not been effective.
To understand why, it is helpful to refer to Asian and Asian American
researchers (several are listed in the “Selected Resources” section at the
end of this article) who remind us that, for Asians, society is not
individual-based, but relationship-based. This focus upon relationships is
rooted in Confucianism, in which human beings are expected to develop and
conduct themselves as “relation-oriented” individuals. Accordingly,
attitudes that enable and sustain this relational orientation are cultivated
in the Asian family and Asian community. Three such attitudes or relational
postures are:
* continuous awareness of one’s networks of relationships.
* recognition of the importance of “face” (public self-image) for those
with whom one is in relationship
* fulfillment of the obligations involved in maintaining one’s
These attitudes and postures continue to shape behavior, not just for
the immigrant Asian generation as it arrives in this country, but for the
American-born generation as well – even to the third and fourth generations.
They are predispositional in nature – so influential that they are perceived
by some Asian Americans as a sort of “cultural DNA” – not always consciously
present, but functionally operative in predisposing Asian Americans to a
distinctive posture for engaging in interpersonal interactions in the family,
in the community, and in the congregation.
At first look, approaches to congregational conflict emphasizing human
relations theory and process may seem consistent with and appropriate to the
relational orientation of people belonging to Asian American congregations.
Yet, from the perspective of many Asian Americans, the confrontational
processes and techniques actually violate the cultural values and norms
regarding relationship, face, and obligation at the root of their
understanding of human relationships. For many Asian Americans, behavior is
based, not primarily upon one’s own feelings, interests, and motivations (as
emphasized in the majority American society), but rather upon those of the
persons with whom one has relationship. A cultural collision occurs when
persons acting out of this posture are placed in conflict management
situations emphasizing attention to one’s own feelings and calling for
expression (and negotiation) of one’s own needs and interests.
Sensitivity to the following key factors may lead to more effective
response to conflict in Asian American congregations:
* the power of the relational orientation
* the predisposition toward preserving relationship
* the preference for nonconfrontational interaction
* the paradox of solidarity in the midst of conflict.

The Power of the Relational Orientation

Relationship (rather than individual needs or interests) is at the center of
the Asian American orientation to conflict. As reflected in the first case
story, this relational orientation influences interpersonal behavior in
conflict or potential conflict situations. Understanding this orientation is
therefore foundational to the development of any culturally relevant conflict
management approaches for Asian Americans.

The Predisposition toward Preserving Relationship

In situations of conflict, the relational orientation leads to a
predisposition toward preserving relationship with those with whom one is
involved in a disagreement. Consequently, as reflected in the second case
story, differences and even disagreements may be allowed to remain unresolved
over a long period of time in order to preserve the face of others (“save
face”) and therefore maintain some form of relationship (“save
relationship”). In such situations, what non-Asian American conflict
managers may perceive as passivity or inability to make decisions may
actually be an intentional, culturally shaped decision not to engage in
interactions that threaten face or confrontations which jeopardize

The Preference for Nonconfrontational Interaction

In face-to-face interactions between Person A and Person B, there are four
possible outcomes: A might lose face, B might lose face, both A and B might
lose face, neither A nor B might lose face. Since three of the four
possibilities result in loss of face, the odds do not favor a face-saving
outcome in most processes calling for face-to-face interactions!
Consequently, the predisposition toward preserving relationships lead to the
preference for nonconfrontational interaction. This is not a preference for
inactivity, but on active nonconfrontation in conflict interactions with one
another. Such nonconfrontation in conflict interactions with one another.
Such nonconfrontation takes the form of subtle or indirect engagement of
parties in disagreement, e.g., through trusted third party “go-betweens” who
serve as avenues for indirect communication (rather than professional
mediators who engage disputants in direct communication).

The Paradox of Solidarity in the Midst of Conflict

The predisposition toward preserving relationships enables the toleration of
ambiguity in these relationships in times of disagreement. Some Asian
American congregations have remained together in the midst of their
differences, deferring debate or other open efforts designed to resolve the
dispute. Some Asian Americans have characterized such congregational
cohesion in the face of conflict as “solidarity in conflict” in contrast to
the “unity in diversity” emphasized in some mainline denominations. This
difference has theological implications: how might a theology of solidarity
be different from a theology of unity or a theology of reconciliation in
shaping our conflict ministry?

>From Surgery to Acupuncture

In addressing problems in interpersonal and intergroup relationships, many
Asian Americans are inclined to adopt a position of subtlety, indirectness,
and nonconfrontational interaction. They are not inclined to adopt most
current approaches to church conflict management, which involve direct,
face-to-face interactions, personal disclosure in public settings, as well as
provision of private personal information to outsiders or strangers. Like
surgery, these approaches involve cutting the body open, exposing for
examination (and therefore exposing to risk) delicate parts of the body, and
sometimes even cutting and removal of parts of the body. Like surgery they
risk causing trauma to the body. Like surgery, they sometimes cause the
death of the body.
In contrast, acupuncture is less invasive, less incising, and less
risky. Rather than pre-surgery X-rays, probes, or the introduction of other
foreign chemicals or instruments into the body, it involves noninvasive
external observation of key points of the body. Rather than involving
surgical incisions, this approach calls only for the gentle insertion of
small needles. Rather than identifying, examining, chemically treating
and/or cutting out parts of the body, acupuncture seeks to keep body parts in
healthy relation to one another, working to free the flow of energy within
the body and between its parts. For many Asian Americans, acupuncture is an
attractive metaphor suggesting new ways of intervening in church conflicts.
Given its emphasis upon maintaining balance in the body and enabling the
free flow of energy within the body, the acupuncture metaphor provides an
opportunity for reconceiving intervention, mediation. and the use of
third-party consultants in conflict situations. Consultants need a posture
less like that of an “outside expert” in objective process and more like an
intermediary – not necessarily mediator nor arbitrator, but more a
“go-between” who provides an avenue for subtle and indirect contact between
people in conflict. A “shadow consultant” who works informally in the
background rather than directly and visibly may provide the sort of
non-invasive intervention suggested by the acupuncture image.

Some Questions for Responding to Asian American Conflict

For people seeking to utilize the observations and proposals in this article,
the following questions may be of help. They are offered, not as a new
protocol to be followed for an Asian American conflict, but as questions to
be asked in an acupuncture posture or spirit by those working with Asian
American congregations.

* Assessment of a Conflict Situation
1. In what ways is ethnicity a factor in this congregation? How has
such ethnicity been a factor during times of previous conflict?
2. In what ways are the four key factors and dynamics affecting Asian
American conflict present and operative in this congregation?
3. How does the culture of the congregation’s members provide ways for
people in conflict to manage or resolve their differences? Which of those
ways are operative in this congregation?
4. To what extent does the congregation already use third parties or
“go-betweens” in interpersonal interactions, decision making, conflict? How
have they been helpful in the past in this congregation?

* Developing a Response to a Conflict Situation
5. In a conflict situation, what might constitute an “acupuncture-like”
approach to responding?
6. Given the “energy flow” image in the acupuncture metaphor, how is the
energy flow of the congregation at this point? What keeps it flowing? Is
there any blockage? What is needed to “unblock” the energy flow?
7. If “go-betweens” are used, are any “available” (willing) to assist in
enabling nonconfrontational communication and interaction between the parties
in the conflict?
8. How might a shadow consultant be acceptable and used in this

The five key factors in Asian American conflict and the proposal for an
acupuncture-like approach presented here represent initial discoveries on the
path to a culturally sensitive approach to conflict management in Asian
American congregations. Such a proposal does not represent a dismissal
existing approaches by church consultants and denominational executives. It
does represent an alert to the limits and liabilities of approaches based
upon one particular understanding of human relationships and the conception
of interpersonal interactions following from it. In addition, this proposal
may not be limited to use in Asian American churches. Just as some Western
medical practitioners have become open to the appropriateness and benefits of
acupuncture for certain health problems, leaders of congregations seeking
alternatives to surgery-like conflict management processes may want to
explore acupuncture-like approaches.

Selected Resources
Augsburger, David. _Conflict Mediation across Cultures: Pathways and
Patterns_, 1992.
Kendis, Kaoru Oguri. _A Matter of Comfort: Ethnic Maintenance and
Ethnic Style among Third Generation Japanese Americans_, 1989.
King, Ambrose Yeo-chi. “Kuan-Hsi and Network Building: A Sociological
Interpretation.” In “The Living Tree: The Changing Meaning of Being Chinese
Today” _Daedalus_ 120:2 (Spring, 1991): 63-84.
Lebra, Takie Sugiyama. “Nonconfrontational Strategies for Management of
Interpersonal Conflicts.” In _Conflict in Japan_, ed. E.S. Krauss. T.P.
Rohlen. P.G. Steinhoff, 41-60, 1984.
Perrow, Charles. _Complex Organizations: A Critical Essay_, 3rd ed.,

This article is based upon the work of the Alban Institute Action Research
Team on Conflict Management in Asian American Congregations. If you are
interested in having a team consult with your congregation or judicatory,
contact Alban consulting and training at (800) 486-1318, ext. 229. For other
information, contact the team convenor directly – the Rev. Bert Tom,
Presbytery of San Francisco, 2024 Durant Avenue, Berkeley, CA 94704, (510)

Dr. Virstan Choy is Director of Field Education and Integrative Studies and
Assistant Professor of Ministry at San Francisco Theological Seminary. He is
a member of Alban’s Action Research Team on conflict management in Asian
American congregations.

Reprinted by permission from CONGREGATIONS, published by The Alban Institute,
Inc., Suite 433 North, 4550 Montgomery Ave., Bethesda, MD 20814. Copyright
1996. All rights reserved.

— End —

To: Multiple recipients of list cac
Date: Tue, 10 Dec 1996 12:33:16 -0500
From: TSTseng@aol.com
Subject: On Community Organizing

Dear CAC friends:
Some of you know how deeply committed I am to congregation based community
organizing as an effective way to conduct a ministry of incarnational
evangelism and confront systemic injustices. Here is an article from the
Sept-Oct issue of _The Other Side_ which describes what community organizing
is. I’d appreciate your comments. Have a wonderful Christmas season! – –
Tim Tseng
Reweaving the Fabric
by Danny Duncan Collum

>From _The Other Side_ (Sept.-Oct., 1996): pp. 12-18.

At least twice in the past decade, I have sat in rooms where I witnessed
the futures of U.S. public life.
Both times I joined gatherings of ordinary Americans where race didn’t
seem to matter much. In both cases groups were almost equally Black, White,
and Hispanic. They were diverse in income and ethnicity, but they were much
more interested in the things that united them.
I could see no suppression of ethnic heritage in those rooms. When
prayers were said, the Black Baptists responded audibly, as they would in
their own churches. Hispanics spoke Spanish to one another and English, or
both, to the group at large. But those obvious differences gave way to a
pervasive and uplifting understanding that among these people, race and
ethnicity were not walls or weapons. They were instead, gifts to be shared
for the sake of a common good.
Both gatherings were meetings of people active in church-based community
organizations. These people had come together, on the basis of shared
Judeo-Christian values, to further their common interests in improving the
life of their communities.
In a seafood restaurant off a back road in the pine-barren swamps of
southeastern Louisiana, I dined with about forty community leaders from
Alabama, California, Louisiana, and New Jersey. These individuals had just
complete a week of training to become more effective organizers in their
congregations and neighborhoods.
Their training was run by the Pacific Institute for Community
Organizations (PICO). It did not focus on lobbying, demonstrating, election
campaigns, or any of the other things commonly considered the tools of
political action. Instead, the trainers and community leaders worked
together to bring to the surface, first, their own most deeply held values
and, second, their concerns about the life of their communities.
The most important skill the community leaders learned was to listen,
really listen, to their neighbors and parishioners, to hear the things that
they held most dearly in common. They were taught to build relationships,
one by one, and ultimately to reweave the fabric of their communities so that
it would serve the interests of ordinary families.
Reweaving the fabric of community, they learned, also meant learning to
claim and maximize their power as citizens and children of God.
At the closing dinner the group freely laughed and sang songs. All
geographic and ethnic groupings had broken down. The banquet room looked
like a utopian advertisement for Brotherhood and Sisterhood Week.
Race, as such, had been only at the margins of the agenda all week.
Instead, discussion had turned to common concerns such as vacant housing,
youth unemployment, and conditions in the public schools – and how the power
of the people could bring about solutions to those problems.
The next day, these people would all go back to their families and
churches and neighborhoods and try to communicate a new optimism about what
was possible for ordinary people like themselves.
The other room where I saw the future was big one -the gymnasium of a
Catholic high school in Houston, Texas. There, on a hot July night, fifteen
hundred leaders of congregation-based organizations gathered for a
voter-registration and education rally. Like the city they represented, the
community leaders were almost equally divided among Whites, Blacks, and
Mexican Americans.
Through their churches, these people had become part of an alliance
called The Metropolitan Organization (TMO), which extended through the whole
Houston metropolitan area. That alliance was in turn linked with seven
similar organizations throughout Texas organized by the Industrial Areas
Foundation (IAF), the institution founded by community-organizing legend Saul
When I visited Houston in 1985, this Texas network was changing the
political landscape of the state. This was evident from the fact that the
lieutenant governor Ray Hobbie, was at the meeting to speak to the group and
to answer their questions.
In the course of the evening, the lieutenant governor underwent what the
community-organizing jargon called an “accountability session.” That means
he was presented with a list of actions the organization had determined to be
in the interest of the people. He was then asked to supply a straight,
unnuanced, and unspun “Yes” or “No” answer to questions such as “Will you
support this measure?” and, given the lieutenant governor’s authority over
the state Senate, “Will you call it up for a vote?”
The crowded gymnasium was warm, and the lieutenant governor, a bull-like
man in a gray suit, was visibly uncomfortable. As the evening wore on, the
region above his white collar bulged and his face reddened. The various
bills he was called to account for included fair funding of public education,
utility services for the “shanty towns” on the Mexican border, and
state-sponsored healthcare for the indigent.
Jan Wilbur, a stout, gray-haired, White woman and a TMO leader, told me
that when the organization began in Houston, the president of the Chamber of
Commerce and a former mayor led a crusade against TMO.
“I began to realize,” Wilbur recalled, “that they were afraid African
American, White, and Hispanic people might join together to work for their
common interests – housing, education, fair utility rates, better
neighborhoods – and that resources might be used for the good of all, instead
of for the benefit of just a few.”
In small but significant ways, that was exactly what started to happen
in Texas in the later 1980s. In Houston and other cities, the IAF
organizations registered new voters and brought new citizen leaders into the
arena. They transformed politics by creating a new political public, or
“civil society.” This new reality was embodied in broad-based “people power”
organizations, firmly rooted in the churches, with which politicians and
business leaders were forced to contend as equals.
The citizens organizations were effective because they had real
institutional power in their churches. Unlike traditional liberal or
conservative lobbies, the congregation-based organizations did not speak for
one region, one aggrieved ethnic group, or one single-issue special interest.
Instead, they spoke for a representative coalition of citizens – urban,
suburban, and rural; middle-class and poor; Black, White, and Hispanic – who
were motivated by common interests and values.
Suddenly, in one of the most conservative states in the Union, issues
such as healthcare and utilities for the poorest members of the community
entered the political mainstream. And those issues came to the fore with the
support of middle-class church people who, five years earlier, might not have
known that Texas had shanty towns. White, middle-class Texans found
themselves drawn into a relationship of mutual cooperation and solidarity
with the poor, brown people who lived in those shantytowns.
There is an old saying that “God must really love the common people
because He made so many of them.” The proverb holds the key to the working
of church-based community organizations. Ordinary citizens may have little
money or access to the institutions of power through their numbers and
through the practice of their faith.
Congregation-based organizations work on the principle that the vast
majority of people have more in common than they have dividing them.
Furthermore, those common people, the democratic majority, have shared
interests which are not being served by their public institutions.
In the early days of community organizing, it was assumed that people
had to be organized on the basis of their immediate material self-interest.
Church-based organizers have now refined this precept with the understanding
that, in reality, people’s interests are defined by their values. And people
have both material and moral values.
For instance, most people value a certain standard of living for their
family and an education for their children. We might call these material
values. Most people also value freedom and human dignity and a sense of
responsibility. Those are moral values.
But in the arena of the family and local community, the moral and
material – values and interests – intersect. A decent standard of lliving
for one’s family means economic development that will contribute to the
overall prosperity of the community. For most people, a good education for
their children is inextricably linked with the fate of the public schools.
IAF’s Texas coordinator Ernesto Cortes calls this the conjunction of
“the world as it should be,” ruled by love, and “the world as it is,” ruled
by power. Cortes recognizes that both love and power are necessary. “Both
come from God,” he says, “they both are part of creation.” But when they are
out of alignment, love becomes mere sentiment, power becomes oppression, and
legitimate self-interest deteriorates into selfishness.
When love and power work together, self-interest leads us into
relationships with others, because only in a community of relationships can
our deepest values be acted out and our truest self-interest realized.
Over generations of community-organizing work, the smartest organizers
have learned that religious congregations are the places where most people’s
values and interests come together. Families convene in congregations to
affirm the things that are important to them. Those families bring money to
the church to further those values, giving congregations a measure of
material power and permanence.
Religious congregations are also the places where citizen-leaders are
often already functioning on boards of deacons or elders or parish councils.
And, at the deepest level, places of worship supply the moral grounding
needed to maintain a balance between the world as it is and the world as it
should be.
Now, in hundreds of cities and towns across the country, people are
becoming active through their congregations in improving the life of their
community alongside others who share their fundamental values.
Today, several different national and regional networks are involved
full-time in building congregation-based organizations. These organizations
involve 1,800 congregations nationwide with an estimated total of 1.5 million
Americans of every ethnic background and economic status. The membership of
California-based PICO, for instance, is 38 percent Hispanic, 33 percent
White, 21 percent Black, and 7 percent Asian. PICO’s member familiesare 37
percent working-class, 29 percent middle-class, and 12 percent low-income.
Each of the networks has its own twist on the organizing process. But
in most cases the pattern is remarkably similar. A committee of local
pastors invites in an organizer. From the beginning, the organizing
committee is required to be ethnically and ecumenically representative of the
community. Member churches must commit money to fund the first stage of the
organizing, which can last for two years.
Next comes an exhaustive series of meetings. One to one, and in small
groups, the leaders in each congregation are identified and trained. They in
turn meet with others to identify the problems facing the community.
Problems and possible solutions are researched by the people themselves.
From this process a plan of action will emerge from the bottom up.
Piece by painstaking piece, over a period of years, and organization emerges
that can speak for the people in the language of their best hopes and dreams
and being transforming the life of the community.
The focus of church-based organizing is kept on immediate, winnable
issues. Sometimes the congregation groups begin by taking action on issues
they have identified as important for their immediate action.
The groups also begin meeting and acting in coalition with other
congregations from throughout the city. These coalition groups are always
city – or area-wide and interracial from the outset. As a result, bridges
between Black, White, and Hispanic neighborhoods and churches are built from
the start. In some cities, these bridges also extend from the poor inner
city to the middle-class suburbs.
In such racially divided cities as New Orleans, Memphis, and Atlanta,
the very existence of broad-based interracial organizations represents an
important beacon of hope. In Washington, D.C., the recent emergence of the
interracial, IAF-organized Washington Interfaith Network (WIN) was seen by
many observers as a surprising and important first step in constructing a
non-racial politics for the nation’s troubled capital.
In New York, a leader of the Queens Citizens Organization identified
himself with a famous Queens dwelling TV bigot when he admitted frankly, “I’m
an Archie Bunker.” But, he added, “We’ve buried the stereotypes by sharing
the same values – values of family, neighborhood, congregation – by
empowering our people to act upon those values. We broke the language
barrier by speaking a common language, a language of diversity, dignity,
self-respect, a power.”
As IAF’s Ed Chambers has written, an alliance of churches can negotiate
successfully with banks, insurance companies, and media institutions. It
“can open up the doors of corporate America and the government bureaucracy.”
In the process of winning tangible victories for the ordinary people, he
adds, “the citizens organization serves as a forum for city-dwellers and
suburbanites. Blacks and Hispanic and Whites, transforming words like
‘ecumenicity’ and ‘racial equality’ into flesh-and-blood realities.”
The process of church-based community organizing has been replicated so
many times now that it is almost formulaic. But it is a formula that works.
It produces community spirit and steps towards social justice. It
rekindles the best of the American democratic tradition. It brings people
together, and lets them be their best and truest selves. It demonstrates, in
concrete, face-to-face action, that the things ordinary people of all races
have in common are more important and powerful than the things that drive
them apart.
We all know that power corrupts. But, as Ernesto Cortes has pointed
out, “powerlessness corrupts, too.” Powerlessness is the plgue of our
turn-of-the century America. It is the parent of our cuture of cynicism and
violence. Powerlessness is the communion of denominator of the angry White
males of militia-land and the angry Black makes of inner-city gangs.
Powerlessness is the void that the middle class may try to fill with
another credit card or another cable channel. The welfare mother may try to
fill that same void with another child. Powerlessness is the plague that
makes our hate each other when we can’t control, or even understand what is
happening to us.
In America today, people who work hard and play by the rules don’t get
ahead anymore. The jobs those people used to do are gone. The majority is
sinking into debt and permanent decline. The poor minority is sunking into
The world we though we know has been taken away from us. We don’t know
where it went, and we can’t seem to do a thing about it. We try a new
president or a new Congress, as if they were a new drug. But the medicine
doesn’t work.
None of our diversions are effective substitutes for power. Power is
the ability to speak with our own voice, walk with our own feet, and mark our
own image of God across the face of earth. We can’t live without it. It,
alongside love, is what makes us human.
Church-based organizations may not have all of the answers to everything
that plagues the United States today. But when they talk about
powerlessness, they have made the right diagnosis. And when they talk about
more democracy, they are onto a prescription.


Author Danny Duncan Collum lives in Alexandria, Virginia. This article is
adapted from with permission from his upcoming Orbis Book press, Black and
White Together (#183A, $14.00). To order it from The Other Side, call

— End —

To: Multiple recipients of list cac
Date: Tue, 10 Dec 1996 09:24:44 -0800 (PST)
From: “Dr. Donna Maeda”
Subject: Conference information



———- Forwarded message ———-
Date: Tue, 10 Dec 1996 01:09:17 -0700 (MST)
From: jjd26@IMAP2.ASU.EDU
To: cfp@english.upenn.edu
Subject: CFP: Asian Pacific Americans & the US Southwest (1/15; 3/28-2/29)

Asian Pacific Americans and the US Southwest
28-29 March 1997
Arizona State University, Main Campus
Tempe (Phoenix), Arizona

Hosted by the Arizona State University Asian American Faculty and Staff
Association, the conference will be held at the main campus of ASU, on
March 28-29, 1997. The year’s theme “Asian Pacific Americans and the US
Southwest,” promises to open an exciting area of inquiry for scholars from
an array of disciplines.

Like other regions of the US, Asian Pacific Americans have has a long
history and continue to play significant roles in the US Southwest.
Unlike California and Hawaii, research on the topic is scant and ripe for
further exploration. We know, for example, that many Asian Americans tace
their immigration history through Latin America, especially Mexico and
Peru. The necessity for laws in many Southwest mining towns that
prohibited Chinese from the city itself indicate a complex history that
needs to be uncovered. The role of Asians in Westerns and literature
could be explored, as well as sociological information on Asian settlement
patterns and ethnic enclaves in the region. The legacies of W.W.II
internment camps for Japanese Americans in Arizona, the former existence
of a Chinatown in Phoenix, and Indo-American settlement in the Southwest
offer additional areas for exploration. These topics and more would be
appropriate for this conference. We welcome proposals from any
appropriate methodological and social theoretical position, and any

The weather in March should be superb. Main campus ASU is located in
Tempe, a progressive suburb of Phoenix, only 15 minutes from Sky Harbor
International Airport. Please join us.

Those wishing to present papers for this conference should submit one-page
abstracts, including name, address, telephone number, and e-mail address.

For further information, contact:

Thomas K. Nakayama
Dept. of Communications
ASU Main
PO Box 871205
Tempe, AZ 85 871205
E-mail: nakayama@asu.edu

Deadline for receipt of abstracts is January 15, 1997

Donna Maeda
Assistant Professor, Religious Studies
Occidental College
213-259-2856 tel.
213-341-4919 fax

— End —

To: Multiple recipients of list cac
From: TSTseng@aol.com
Date: Mon, 9 Dec 1996 16:30:02 -0500
Subject: AARSC Group Call for Papers

1997 Call for Papers (pending approval)

Asian American Religions, Culture, and Society Group. Rita Nakashima Brock,
Hamline University, Box 1661, 1536 Hewitt Avenue, St. Paul, MN 55104. OF:
(612) 641-2893; and Rudy V. Busto, Stanford University, Dept. of Religious
Studies, Stanford University, Stanford, CA 94305-2165,. OF: (415) 723-0465.
E-mail: rude@leland.stanford.edu.

The group invites papers in the following areas: 1) The California Civil
Rights Initiative – Proposition 209 – has undergone heated public debate and
continuing controversy on both the state and the national level. This
session seeks to explore the repercussions of Proposition 209 on Asian
Pacific Americans from a variety of perspectives (ethical, practical,
representational or discursive). 2) Another panel looks to address the
methodological question: What are the hermeneutical or interpretive
frameworks by which we interrogate and understand Asian American religious
identities and issues as they are reflected in narrative approaches to
religion and theology (e.g., “talk-story”, reading lives, and the
hermeneutics of autobiography and literature)? 3) A joint session with
Native Traditions in the Americas Group will investigate the Eurocentric bias
in theories and definitions of religion and their limitations for
illuminating the cultures and societies of Asian Pacific and Native

— End —

To: Multiple recipients of list cac
Date: Mon, 9 Dec 1996 16:30:28 -0500
From: TSTseng@aol.com
Subject: Re: fwd: a study of Japanese American churches


Duntley’s project will be one of the papers delivered at the American
Historical Assn/American Society of Church History session on Asian American
Christianity in the West in NYC this Jan (a session which I was privileged to
have organized). I, too, received a Louisville Summer Stipend for my
oral-video project and will, along with Prof. Duntley, present my findings at
the Louisville seminar for grantees in mid-January. Thanks for making
everyone aware of recent developments in Asian American Christian research.

Have you relocated to Texas yet?

Tim Tseng

— End —

To: Multiple recipients of list cac
From: TSTseng@aol.com
Date: Mon, 9 Dec 1996 16:29:51 -0500
Subject: The North Star: Online Journal

Dear Asian American Religion, Culture, and Society list members:

The following announcement was given to me by Judith Weisenfeld. – Tim


The North Star: An Online Journal of African-American Religious History


We invite submissions of:

– Articles
– Reviews (book, film, theater, music, musuem, web, cd-rom)
– Research reports
– Documents
– Bibliographies

For a new electronic journal devoted to African-American religious history.
The journal’s primary focus will be on historical studies that explore the
religious cultures of people of African descent in the United States. We
will, however, consider work from other disciplines and/or that deals in a
comparative way with other areas of the African diaspora, as well as with
regions in Africa.

Authors should submit four copies to:

Judith Weisenfeld
Department of Religion
Barnard College
3009 Broadway
New York, New York 10027-6598


Judith Weisenfeld, Barnard College
Albert G. Miller, Oberlin College

Editorial Board:
Karen McCarthy Brown, Drew University
Randall K. Burkett, Harvard University
Laurie Maffly-Kipp, University of North Caroline, Chapel Hill
Albert J. Raboteau, Princeton University

— End —

To: Multiple recipients of list cac
From: TSTseng@aol.com
Date: Mon, 9 Dec 1996 16:29:59 -0500
Subject: Re: AAR

FYI: a draft of the Native Traditions in the America Group’s call for papers.
Thanks to Chris Jocks of Dartmouth. – Tim Tseng

Native Traditions in the Americas. Christopher R. Jocks, H.B. 6152,
Dartmouth College, Hanover, NH 03755-3530. OF:603/646-3855. Ines M.
Talamantez, Department of Religious Studies, University of California, Santa
Barbara, CA 93106-3130. OF:805/893-4326. Papers are invited in three broad
areas: recent and current religious issues and developments in Native
California; hemispheric issues and approaches in Native American religious
studies (including issues of power and knowledge, both as cultural
constructions and as experienced realities); and articulations of Indigenous
theory (that is, religious theory arising immediately out of First Nations
thought and practice, including but not limited to theory that critiques the
category of “religion” itself). Along these latter lines, we seek papers for
a proposed joint session with the Asian American Religion, Culture, and
Society Group that will address the Eurocentric bias in theories and
definitions of religion and their limits for illuminating the cultures and
societies of Asian Pacific and Native Americans, i.e., an interrogation of
the hegemonies of definitions and laws.

— End —

To: Multiple recipients of list cac
Date: Mon, 9 Dec 1996 18:32:34 -0100
From: janei@violet.berkeley.edu (Jane Naomi Iwamura)
Subject: *Important* AARCSPOSTS Information

American Academy of Religion
Asian American Religions, Culture, & Society (AARCSPOSTS)
Internet Forum

*Please save for future reference*

To _subscribe_, _unsubscribe_, or make other administrative requests, e-mail:


To _post_ an announcement or raise an issue for discussion, e-mail:



I apologize for the volume of administrative mail each of you may have been
receiving over the past week or so. In order to eliminate such requests
from showing up at everyone’s e-mail door, please make note of the above

We look forward to making the list efficient and informative for
everyone…Thanks for your patience during this initial period.

Jane Iwamura

— End —

To: Multiple recipients of list cac
Date: Mon, 9 Dec 1996 11:25:32 -0800 (PST)
From: “Dr. Donna Maeda”
Subject: Info. for grad students


Grad. students on this list may be interested in the 2 following items:

1) Williams College is seeking applicants for its Gaius Charles Bolin
Fellowships for Minority Graduate Students for the 1997-98 academic
year. The fellowships are intended for grad. students who are near
completion of dissertation work.
Eligibility: U.S. citizen, all doctoral work completed except diss.
Stipend: $25,000 plus housing support and up to $2500 for
Responsibilities: teach 1 one-semester course
Application: a full c.v.
grad. school transcript, 3 letters of rec.
dissertation prospectus, 10-15 pp.
description of teaching interests
Deadline: Jan 1, 1997

For info, contact
David L. Smith
Dean of the Faculty
Hopkins Hall
Williams College
Williamstown, Massachusetts 01267

(NOTE: This information comes from a flyer in a general mailing. I have
no further information–I’m not even sure what counts as “minority” at
Williams. If you’re interested, contact Dr. Smith.)

2) UCLA Asian American Studies Center,
Korean Youth & Community Center (KYCC), &
Korean Immigrant Workers’ Advocates (KIWA)’s


>>To encourage young scholars to pursue research in Korean American Studies
>>and in issues concerning the Korean American community.
>>All graduate students doing research on Korean Americans or research that
>>includes Korean Americans as part of a larger study are invited to submit a
>>paper for review. The topic of research is not limited to the theme of the
>>conference. All articles must be original and unpublished, double-spaced,
>>formatted to Microsoft Word version 5.1a, and should be between 15 – 20
>>The student with the winning paper will be a guest of the conference and
>>will be presented with an honorarium.
>>Submission Deadline: February 14, 1997
>>The author of the winning paper will be notified by the end of March 1997.
>>Conference Info:
>>NKASC is the first collaborative conference between universities, the
>>Korean American community, and other communities to cover a broad range of
>>Korean American experiences in the United States. Its objectives are
>>(1) to remember the fifth year since the 1992 Los Angeles civil uprisings
>>by assessing the political, social, and economic impacts, reviewing our
>>present collective situation, and strategizing collectively for the future;
>>(2) to build linkages between scholars, community leaders within the Korean
>>American community and in other communities, and individuals in the
>>communities-at-large by sharing research and insights on issues of common
>>concern; and
>>(3) to promote a multi-disciplinary Korean American Studies, nationally and
>>NKASC is intended to reach a broad audience of Korean Americans, other
>>communities of color, the mainstream and media representatives. All
>>sessions will have a format that is conducive to audience and panelists
>>interaction. Simultaneous translation in English/Korean will be available.
>>The conference will be held on Friday April 25th through Saturday April 26,
>>1997 at the Radisson Wilshire Plaza Hotel in Koreatown, Los Angeles.
>>All submissions and inquiries about the competition should be directed to:
>>Mr. Miple Kim
>>”Graduate Student Paper Competition”
>>Korean Youth & Community Center
>>680 S. Wilton Place
>>Los Angeles, CA 90005
>>ph: (213) 365-7400, ext. 143
>>fax: (213) 383-1280
>>email: mwkim@kycc.apnet.org
>>All other inquiries about the conference should be directed to:
>>Ms. Susan Suh
>>Conference Coordinator
>>Korean Youth & Community Center
>>680 S. Wilton Place
>>Los Angeles, CA 90005
>>ph: (213) 365-7400, ext. 114
>>fax: (213) 383-1280
>>email: nkasc@kycc.apnet.org

Donna Maeda
Assistant Professor, Religious Studies
Occidental College
213-259-2856 tel.
213-341-4919 fax

— End —

To: Multiple recipients of list cac
Date: Fri, 6 Dec 1996 16:56:57 -0700 (MST)
Subject: jobs in china???


My fiancee and I are desperately seeking jobs in China (PRC) for next
semester and wonder if anyone can help with leads. We have had two solid
leads fall through in the last week and its nearing time for us to nail
something down or give up. Florence is hoping to do research for her
dissertation in psychology on Chinese students and I want to search some
libraries to continue my research into the writings and experiences of
Chinese Christians in the 16th and 17th centuries. We want to teach
english (or psychology for Florence) while we do this. Does anyone have
any suggestions? Also, if you know of grants for research in these areas
that might be available, we would like to hear. Thank you.

Mike Parrish

— End —

To: Multiple recipients of list cac
Date: Fri, 06 Dec 1996 13:22:17 -0500 (EST)
Subject: fwd: a study of Japanese American churches

Any comments about this proposed research project?

Fenggang Yang
> From: IN%”H-AMREL@h-net.msu.edu” “H-Net American Religious History discussion group” 6-DEC-1996 09:59:56.50
> To: IN%”H-AMREL@H-NET.MSU.EDU” “Multiple recipients of list H-AMREL”
> Subj: Japanese-American churches in Seattle

> From: H_NET Director Richard Jensen

> press release from College of Wooster [Ohio]

> X-URL: http://www.wooster.edu/News/Duntley.html

> Duntley Receives Research Grant from Lilly Endowment

> WOOSTER, Ohio — Madeline Duntley, an assistant professor of religious
> studies at The College of Wooster, has been awarded an $8,000 summer
> research grant from the Louisville Institute, which is a Lilly
> Endowment Program for the Study of American Religion.

> Duntley will use the grant to study how Seattle’s Japanese-American
> churches promote cross-cultural Asian-American interactions in a
> variety of ways. Principally, she will conduct an examination charting
> the 50-year history and functions of the “Domei,” which is an informal
> ecumenical association of four mainline Japanese-American Christian
> Churches (Presbyterian, Congregational, Baptist and Methodist) that
> are located within three miles of each other in an ethnically diverse
> urban Seattle neighborhood.

> “‘Domei’ in Japanese means federation, and it is a voluntary coalition
> of Southeast Seattle’s historically Japanese-American churches formed
> during World War II in the Minidoka internment camp,” said Duntley.
> “Once effective in meeting the crisis of war, the Domei now is equally
> effectual in meeting the various crises and challenges of religious
> work in the inner city.”

> According to Duntley, the Domei provides an opportunity for these
> religious communities to transcend their traditional ethnic Japanese
> label, bridge denominational differences and work together to meet the
> challenges of being mainline minority churches serving a diverse
> Asian-American constituency in an area that is home to Seattle’s
> largest concentration of residents of Asian ancestry.

> Duntley also observes that Japanese-, Chinese- and Korean-Americans
> are interacting in the Domei with recent Vietnamese, Cambodian and
> Mien immigrants to the area. She intends to find out how new
> institutional structures and a Christian faith both facilitate this
> contact and exchange as well as present barriers to tolerance and
> understanding among such culturally diverse Asian-Pacific Americans.

> “Seattle’s Japanese-American churches use creative institutional
> reconfiguration to mitigate the dual marginalization they experience
> as both ‘ethnic’ and ‘urban’ churches within their denominations,”
> said Duntley.

> These churches participate in ‘nesting,’ or the hosting of
> non-denominational immigrant Southeast Asian Christian groups by
> providing both access to the church building and volunteer staffing
> for church school and social service activities. These inner-city
> ethnic churches rely heavily upon ecumenical associations as a way of
> combining resources in order to perform other mission outreach
> programs to neighborhood children and the homeless, to run a senior
> citizen day care program and to sponsor a nursing home for elderly
> Japanese-Americans.

> Duntley brings a singular perspective to this research project because
> she grew up and attended public schools in this same Seattle
> neighborhood. She thinks that scholars tend to consider
> Japanese-Americans primarily in relation to white society and not in
> relation to the greater Asian-Pacific American community. As a result,
> she intends to cover new territory with her research project.

> “I’m planning to do an interdisciplinary study of several specific
> Asian-American Christian Churches that share common ground on several
> levels, including the same geographic region, the same neighborhood, a
> similar history as Japanese ethnic churches in Seattle and a focused
> sense of mission to urban city dwellers — especially to
> first-generation Southeast Asian immigrants,” said Duntley. “In
> addition, my work breaks new ground in documenting the religious
> dynamics between so-called ‘old immigrants’ and ‘new immigrants.’ In
> these churches, the adult children, grandchildren and
> great-grandchildren of Japanese, Chinese and Korean immigrants are
> involved in social programs and mission outreach to recent Vietnamese,
> Cambodian and Mien immigrants. They also are making efforts to respond
> to the needs of temporary immigrants from Japan, especially the wives
> of executives here in the United States on business.”

> A member of Wooster’s faculty since 1991, Duntley teaches American
> religious history and history of Christianity classes. She has
> presented her research about Asian-American Christians to the
> community during the College’s Lay Academy of Religion. In addition,
> she incorporates what she has learned in her research in the several
> courses she teaches at Wooster, including Religion in America and
> Communities of Faith as well as her section of the First-Year Seminar.
> _________________________________________________________________

> W Home Page
> _________________________________________________________________

> Last Updated: Thursday, March 28, 1996; 11:30 am EST

> Wesley F. Tree; wtree@acs.wooster.edu

— End —

To: Multiple recipients of list cac
Date: Fri, 6 Dec 1996 01:40:00 -0500
From: Dick Lee
Subject: Opportunities in Europe

Hi, just wanted to forward this message to you all in the States from the
Chinese Church in London, a 1000+ people, three-language, 5-sited church
located in the heart of London, a center of education (meaning lots of
Chinese students) and commerce (meaning lots of Chinese businessmen and
families). I am an ABC presently working with the missions organization,
Chinese Overseas Christian Mission, in parachurch youth ministries, and
wanted to inform you all about the growing need for English-speaking
Chinese pastors here in the United Kingdom and encourage you to consider
this following job offer from CCIL. The English ministry in Chinese
churches is just starting up here, but the potential is great and in need
of pioneers in ministry. The UK Chinese churches are like what the US
Chinese churches were twenty years ago – underdeveloped English-speaking
ministries, second generation leaving the church, etc. But, now, we have a
better understanding of OBC-next generation relationships, better
understanding of the Chinese church in a global context and 20 years of
experiencing the multi-lingual church that can be applied to the Chinese
churches here in the UK. If you are interested please read on. If you
would like to talk personally about this subject, I will be travelling in
California in January 1997. I would love to meet with you. Please contact
me at 101746.2544@compuserve.com. I hope to hear from you. As the good
Shepherd leads us all, Rev. Dick Lee

————— Forwarded Message —————

From: INTERNET:staff@ccil.u-net.com
To: Dick Lee, 101746.2544
Date: Tue, 12 Nov, 1996, 12:58 PM

RE: Re:advert

To: Dick Lee
From: staff@ccil.u-net.com
Subject: Re:advert
Date: Tue, 12 Nov 1996 12:55:02 +0000

>7 November 1996
The Chinese Church in London would like to recruit a male full-time church
worker to work alongside the existing female Churchworker serving primarily
within its English -speaking ministries.

The responsibilities are to :

* Provide pastoral care to the English Congregation
* Co-ordinate youth work activities within the whole church
* Provide teaching , training and preaching within the whole church
* Develop the bi-monthly English Celebration services

Suitable candidates should be able to display the following qualities :

* Agreement with the doctrinal basis of the Chinese Church in London (
Evangelical , inter-denominational)
* Bible College graduate
* Able to communicate in Englsih at native -speaker level , and conversant
in mandarin and Cantonese
* Wide experience of youth and young adult work
* Prepared to adapt to rapidly changing ministries of CCIL , serving
throughout London as necessary
* Willing in principle to serve for at least two three -year terms

The Chinese Church in London is a inter-denominational church which exists
to serve Chinese and other people throughout London. By January 1997 , we
will have eight congregations in central and surburban London, using
Canotnese, mandarin and English .
The staff team comprises ten full-time pastoral and administrative staff ;
additionally many of its ministries are led by lay members.

Please contact Christina Chia
81 Chiltern St, London W1m 1HT., UK
for further details

Alternatively : e-mail address : staff@ccil.u-net.com
with full postal , telephone and fax and e-mail contacts.

Information about our church is also on :


— End —

To: Multiple recipients of list cac
Date: Wed, 04 Dec 1996 18:05:58 -0500 (EST)
From: “Eng, Milton”
Subject: FWD: Response to Helen Lee Article

Dear CAC Friends

It’s been quite some time since the Helen Lee article in CT but I enclose
my response which I just mailed to CT recently. I don’t know if they’ll
publish all, part or none of it. In any case, I include the letter in its

For those of you who do not know me, I am a Ph.D. candidate at Drew
University and am also teaching full-time as Assistant Professor of Old
Testament at Zarephath Bible Institute, Zarephath, NJ. I am an american-born
chinese-american minister and have served in various churches in the NY/NJ
areas for the past 15 years.

Milton Eng

–Boundary (ID mnuYoM9F00S5S7+7g+XNWg)

Date: Wed, 4 Dec 1996 17:31:01 EST
From: “Eng, Milton”
Subject: Response to Helen Lee Article

Milton Eng
19 Harding Pl.
Livingston, NJ 07039
(201) 740-0299
Email: meng@drew.edu

December 4, 1996

Christianity Today
465 Gundersen Dr.
Carol Stream, IL 60188

Dear CT

I have been meaning to write regarding Helen Lee’s article
“Silent Exodus” in CT’s August 12, 1996 issue but have observed
with some interest the various reactions in the ensuing “Letters to
the Editor.” I apologize for this long delay.

CT is to be congratulated for bringing to national attention
what has long been recognized among asian-american ministers as a
very serious problem. Despite what others may say, the majority of
voices on the subject unequivocally recognize that “there is a
problem” and Helen Lee’s article ably demonstrates this. The
article was also very helpful and informative in pointing out the
differing immigration patterns of the various Asian groups and how
the “success” of first-generation churches may have more to do with
these immigration patterns than anything else.

In light of the article and ensuing conversations, a few more
salient points need to be made. One of the problems second-
generation asian-americans face is that they have no or very few
asian-american pastoral role-models to emulate. Who do pioneers
follow when they are the first ones to land on shore? First-
generation pastors are not necessarily role-models because they
represent a very different culture and mindset and as the CT
article points out people need to see “Asian Americans as an
unchurched people group” who need their own indigenous role-models
as missiologists have long recognized. Therefore, if second-generation
pastors are faulted, I ask, for being “arrogant” and “self-ambitious” where
do these qualities come from?

A number of individuals have brought up the issue that ‘asian-
american believers should be willing to sacrifice’. While there is
an element of truth in the statement that “English-ministry pastors
have a certain lack of willingness to persevere sometimes” a few
things need to be mentioned here in their defense. First, it
should be noted that many second-generation believers have
sacrificed greatly and continue to sacrifice in and toward first-
generation ministries. Secondly, it is one thing to sacrifice from
a position of power and quite another to sacrifice from a position
of ‘powerlessness’ in which English ministers often find
themselves. Thirdly, if second-generation believers found
ministries worth sacrificing themselves for, i.e. ministries which
accept them for who they are instead of condemning them, they would
be more than willing to ‘sacrifice’.

Finally, while the CT article was generally informative and
well-balanced, I was surprised to see so little mention of Ken
Fong’s work with Evergreen Baptist Church in the LA area. The
latter ministry is more established and more well-known within the
asian-american Christian community as a pioneering work. More
importantly, Mr. Fong has published on the results and progress of
the ministry with his D.Min thesis at Fuller Seminary “Insights for
Growing Asian-American Ministries.” While the work may not be the
definitive answer to many of our perplexing problems, I have found
it to be a very good starting point. For example: while many still
question the principle of the ethnic church, Fong has already
suggested a theological basis for such by borrowing from Lewis
Smedes’ book “Love Within Limits.”

At the recent Promise Keepers rally in Shea Stadium, New York
City, one of the black, African-american speakers borrowed from the
story of the Samaritan woman in John 4 to make a point with his
white fellow brethren in Christ. The dominant culture has the
tendency to offer ‘living water’ yes, but with their own ‘cup’.
The question he posed to his white brethren was “Are you willing to
drink from the black man’s cup?” The same question needs to be
addressed to first-generation churches on behalf of their second-
generation asian-americans.

Nuff said,
Rev. Milton Eng
Assistant Professor of OT
Zarephath Bible Institute
Zarephath, NJ

— End —

To: Multiple recipients of list cac
Date: Wed, 4 Dec 1996 10:57:13 -0500
From: TSTseng@aol.com
Subject: Fwd: Global economy

Here’s a comment on the evangelical paper I forwarded to the CAC list. It is
from Prof. Jim Beck, Counseling Professor at Denver Seminary. – Tim Tseng
Forwarded message:
Subj: Global economy
Date: 96-12-04 08:42:33 EST
To: TSTseng

Thanks for sending the Great Reversal article. Very interesting. Seems
to me like one of his sources was no doubt Tim Weber’s book on
pre-millennialism. (Is that spelled correctly?) If the global capitalistic
economic system is fueling current social fabric decay, evangelicals will
never attack the true cause of the decay because it would threaten their own
personal economic security. I think I sound cynical. Jim Beck

— End —

To: Multiple recipients of list cac
Date: Mon, 2 Dec 1996 10:51:48 -0500
From: TSTseng@aol.com
Subject: FYI from Tseng

Hi friends:

Came across this interesting article about evangelicalism. Thought you might
want to discuss it further! – Tim Tseng

Date: Fri, 29 Nov 1996 22:12:03 -0500
From: H-State Co-Editor Mary Schweitzer
Subject: Hertzke, ” Evangelicals, Populists, and the Great Reversal”(LONG)
(x-post H-Pol)

Subject: H_POL: ON-LINE SEMINAR: Hertzke, ” Evangelicals, Populists, and the
Great Reversal (LONG)
Date: Fri, 29 Nov 1996 20:19:10 -0500
From: 3z2pbux@cmuvm.csv.cmich.edu (Timothy Hall)

[H-Pol} Editor’s Note: Welcome to the H-POL On-Line Seminar on Political
Inequality, an on-line republication of papers from a conference held at the
Kennedy School of Government at Harvard University. The conference was
organized by the Workshop on American Political Development and sponsored by
the Kennedy School and the Malcolm Weiner Center for Social Policy on
September 28, 1996.

To open the discussion, Allen Hertzke tackles one of the largest, and most
under-recognized, puzzles of modern American history: What caused the
remarkable transformation of revivalist Protestantism from a populist voice
critical of capitalist excesses, to a bulwark of economic conservatism and
“an uncritical defense of the free market”? In an essay distinctive for its
sympathetic engagement and rejection of reductionism, Hertzke explores the
theological underpinnings of the change, and concludes with a caveat that
modern evangelicals face irrelevancy if they fail to acknowledge the
challenge that global capitalism poses to their own religious values.–RPF


Evangelicals, Populists, and the Great Reversal: Protestant Civil Society
and Economic Concern
Allen D. Hertzke, University of Oklahoma

For much of American history, Protestant evangelicals profoundly shaped
civil society, and with it, politics. Take a huge period — say from the
1730s to the early 1900s — and you see the strong link between religious
currents and political fallout.
From the Great Awakening that sparked revolutionary consciousness in
the colonies, to revivals that propelled democratization of culture and
politics in the new nation, to evangelism that fueled crusades against
slavery, drink, and the subjugation of women, to the spirit-filled zeal that
spawned urban missions and agrarian reformers alike, evangelicalism often
provided an egalitarian political response to society’s challenges.
Yet by the 1920s evangelicals had so disengaged from societal concern
that the phenomenon has been dubbed “The Great Reversal.” This disengagement
explains why modern scholars so often equate Orthodox Protestantism with
detached, other-worldly conservatism.
Many evangelicals in the past, however, combined a quest to save souls
with a zeal to transform society. And that transforming zeal could take, and
did take, radical forms. Charles Finney, the father of modern evangelism,
espoused an egalitarian Christianity that propelled enormous forces for
social reform, including the earthquake against slavery. Theodore Weld,
another abolitionist firebrand, renounced the sexist laws of his day and
turned his Oberlin College into the first co-educational and racially
integrated institution in the world. Influential pentecostal preacher Phoebe
Palmer published a 400 page defense of the right of women to preach. And
Wheaton College founder Jonathan Blanchard envisioned “schools for prophets,”
who would “learn how to correct the follies and errors of the nation.” To
revivalist Christians nations, not just individuals, were subject to God’s
Without an appreciation for this dimension, we vastly underestimate the
evangelical contribution to American political development.
Now to underscore the significance of the Great Reversal, I shall focus
on one aspect of late 19th and early 20th Century evangelical concern: its
response to economic inequality. Of course, enormous complexities and
contradictions abound in the Protestant response to emergent industrial
capitalism. The Gospel of Wealth, for example, was embraced by many
Protestant leaders, some of whom were frankly bought off by big business
contributors to their churches.
But the same egalitarian impulse that chafed at restrictions on
citizenship or that despised slavery, ultimately viewed with alarm the
emergence of urban squalor and rural poverty amidst fabulous wealth of the
Gilded Age.
To understand where this egalitarian impulse manifested itself, we are
able to draw upon new scholarship that clarifies the dynamic nature of church
membership in American civil society. Only by knowing something of the
patterns of church growth and decline can we appreciate how different sectors
of Protestant civil society might shape Americans’ perceptions of economic
Extremely helpful here is Finke and Stark’s landmark study, The
Churching of America, 1776-1990. By comparing market shares of the faithful
over time, they come to an exquisite conclusion: The mainline is always in
decline. In other words, they find a repeating cycle in American history:
Upstart churches begin with fire and sacrifice, providing certitude, meaning,
challenge, and comfort, especially to more marginal members of society. Once
they become established, however, they often lose that sect-like tension with
the world; their ministers become better educated, their affluent members
comfortable. The church then loses its vitality, and its market share erodes
as religious upstarts move into the spiritual breach.
By examining evidence of economic concern among Protestant
evangelicals, we find that the egalitarian impulse was most vigorous, as it
has been in the past, among the upstart churches, whose leaders and
parishioners were more likely to emerge from, or rub shoulders with, the
economically marginalized. Shorn of ecclesiastical hierarchies and open to
untutored clergy, upstart churches — such as those born of the Holiness
movement — uniquely attracted the peripheral, the less educated, the left
out. Thus Finke and Stark help us understand how critics of the robber
barons could be orthodox religionists, enlisted by revivals in the rural
backwaters and urban slums, while some theologically liberal congregations,
which tended to be affluent homes of emergent capitalist class, might embrace
social darwinist economics.
Let’s examine more closely the evangelical contribution to economic
concern. On the rural front several million citizens flocked to the populist
platform. I need not elaborate here, as Professor Sanders will chart the
significance of the agrarian movement. But who were these farmers and their
leaders? Most were evangelical Protestants, often fervently sectarian in
their faith. The pentecostal Church of God, for example, arose
contemporaraeously with the Farmers’ Alliance and People’s Party. Many of
its ministers, in fact, were subsistence farmers. The Church attracted both
rural whites and blacks with a characteristic sectarian blend: a rigorous
moral code and an egalitarian message of the equality of all before God.
Because it focused on building a “cooperative brotherhood,” the
Holiness movement provided a spiritual critique of social darwinism,
rapacious competition, and “monopoly capitalism” that “absorbed the
community.” Revivalist Protestant culture, indeed, equipped populists with
potent biblical rhetoric and vibrant sources of solidarity, in a manner akin
to the black church in our own day. The power of religious culture should
not be underestimated. Far more than many historians acknowledge, Franklin
Roosevelt echoed the cadences of revivalists and populists as he pledged to
“drive the money changers from the temple of democracy.”
In the urban milieu, too, it was often the most sectarian Christians
who strove to practice the biblical injunction to “preach good news to the
poor.” Indeed, “holiness minded evangelicals” took the lead in work with the
poor. They operated a vast array of social service organizations, rescue
missions, homes for unwed mothers, job programs, industrial institutes,
orphanages, relief efforts, and settlement houses. Evangelists preached and
ministered among the skid rows and red light districts, striking in their
close contact with the most marginalized of society.
Notable here is the Church of the Nazarene, whose founder “felt called
in the 1890s into ministry to the poor of inner-city Los Angeles.” That
vision inspired missionaries across the country who saw their “field of
labor” in the “neglected quarters of the cities.” Also conspicuous was the
work of the Salvation Army, which offered food, shelter, clothing, legal aid,
and day care centers to allow mothers to work. Rescue missions for
prostitutes, such as the Crittendon homes, provided “fallen women” with jobs
and other support.
To these revivalists, in short, preaching the Good News to the poor was
the sign of the true Church. Moreover, this close contact with the poor led
many to agitate against structures that created such appalling conditions. A
Salvation Army leader called for fundamental justice because, “To right the
social wrong by charity is like bailing the oceans with a thimble. We must
adjust our social machinery so that the producers of wealth become the owners
of wealth.” In turn, the Salvation Army’s organ, War Cry, “asserted that the
chief social evil in America was the unequal and unjust distribution of
wealth.” Charles Blachard also admonished Christians to fight injustices,
such as “unequal taxation, benefits to favored railroads, delays in justice
in the courts, justice denied to poor because of excessive legal expenses,
pardons for corrupt officials while poor immigrants served out jail terms.”
Circa 1910, the theologically conservative Christian Herald, endorsed labor
unions, child labor laws, and better treatment of immigrants and blacks. We
even see Christian muckraking, such as T.W. Steed’s If Christ Came to
Chicago, which caused a major shakeup there in the 1890s.
A vivid example of this blend of revivalist Christianity and
progressive economic concern, of course, was three-time presidential
candidate William Jennings Bryan. He fought for child labor reform, women’s
suffrage, the graduated income tax, government aid to farmers, public
ownership of railroads, federal development of water resources, government
guarantee of bank deposits, and laws to prevent profiteering. Like an old
testament prophet, he chastised the forces of money and power arrayed against
the common people. Note how he denounced a supreme court decision striking
down child labor laws as, “a victory for capitalism whose greed coins the
blood of little children into larger dividends.”
Yet Bryan was also a traditional Christian who joined fundamentalist
organizations, railed against liberal theology, and fought with all his might
against the teaching of evolution. To him these were complementary
positions. With Darwinism and biblical criticism dangerously chipping away
at the foundations of traditional moral codes, Bryan saw no check on
plutocracy, privilege, materialism, and a coarsening of life.
In short, from the antebellum era through the early progressive age,
revivalist Protestantism expressed a reformist, often egalitarian economic
impulse. Yet by the mid 1920s evangelicals had dramatically retreated from
social concern and increasingly adopted antagonistic views toward unions and
other progressive impulses. Why the Great Reversal?
A number of factors are offered. But the crucial explanation centers on
a dramatic theological shift in the evangelical world — a shift away from
post-millennial optimism that Christians would transform society, to
pre-millennial resignation that the world was hopeless until Christ’s return.
Deeply fatalistic about the world, pre-millennial doctrine weakened economic
concern. After all, why polish brass on a sinking ship? Or, as one preacher
put it more delicately in 1914: “In the return of our Lord…is the only
solution of the political and commercial problems that now vex us.”
This pessimistic shift, in turn, arose out of intellectual crisis.
Briefly put, Darwin’s teaching about the origin of life, scientific attacks
on biblical authority, and other secularizing forces, combined to shake the
foundations of faith. Modernity itself seemed to undermine Christian belief,
to narrow the zone of the sacred. Evangelical energies were thus siphoned
into the defense of the transcendent against this new menace.
There is a final piece to the puzzle, however. When some of the most
well placed and educated Protestants embraced Darwin and modern theology —
in a sense joining the enemy — a bitter division erupted with those who
still clung to fundamentals of the faith. And anything associated with
liberal theology became suspect, including the Social Gospel movement. Social
gospelers attacked economic privilege and called for social transformation;
nothing new there. But as theological liberals, they evinced little Orthodox
concern for the salvation of souls. Thus as attacks on theological
liberalism intensified, the social gospel became tied with modernist
heresies. Progressive economic concern among evangelicals was, thus,
And now for a coda to our story. Revivalist Christians, as we know,
have re-engaged in spectacular fashion in our own day. But the economic
concern is muted. There are charitable agencies, to be sure, and a few
efforts reminiscent of the 19th Century, such as Charles Colson’s Prison
Fellowship. And we even occasionally hear distant echoes of the egalitarian
impulse, such as when Pat Robertson shocked the Wall Street crowd with his
plan for a year of Jubilee — when debt would be forgiven and economic
burdens lifted. But more often we hear an uncritical defense of the free
market or some version of the prosperity gospel.
Animated, instead, by a sense of moral and cultural crisis,
evangelicals now address what they see as the catastrophic collapse of the
family, the fraying of the social fabric, and the marginalizing of people of
faith. Economic inequality ranks low in such calculations, or is seen as a
consequence of cultural collapse.
Now, this understanding of the cultural and moral underpinnings of
economic advancement may be a genuine contribution to the debate about our
economic challenges. But what modern evangelicals fail to appreciate enough,
I think, is that global capitalism itself is a great engine of the
secularism, materialism, and hedonism they decry. So unless deeper linkages
can be forged between economic tides and cultural concerns, we will not see
revivalist Protestants contributing much in fashioning responses to
inequality in the global age.

— End —