Christianity in Asian American History: a Candler Foundry Online Short Course

This spring, I’m teaching this Candler Foundry Online Short Course. I would love to see you there! Here are the details:

Dates: April 18th – May 23rd, 2022
(6 weeks, Mondays 7:00 PM ET – 8:30 PM ET)

Cost: $65

Register at: bit.ly/asianamericanhistoryspr22

Description

This short course will provide an overview of the presence and influence of Christianity (primarily Protestantism) in Asian American history. While the stories and voices of Asian American Christians will be the central focus, some attention will be given to the roles that white missionaries and church leaders played in shaping Asian American Christianity. The course will begin with the rise of Asian American consciousness in the late 1960s and early 1970s among primarily mainline Asian American Protestants. Then attention will be given to Asian American evangelicalism and its responses to Asian American consciousness. Asian American consciousness created an interest in exploring Asian American history. We will then engage this history in chronological order, while giving attention to issues of gender, trans-national nationalisms, ethnic-specific histories, race and racial integration. This course will draw, in part, from my forthcoming book, Asian American Christianity and the Quest for a Better Country (tentative title, InterVarsity Press Academic).

Course Overview

I may not commit to the following overview as I prepare the course. But each session will include opportunities for participants to engage in breakout discussions. No reading or writing assignments are required.

1 The Rise of Asian American Consciousness in Mainline Protestantism

In the late 1960s and early 1970s, Japanese, Chinese, and Filipino mainline Protestant leaders formed caucuses to encourage ministry among and to advocate for the growing Asian American population. What led to the rise of Asian American consciousness among Protestants?

2 The Emergence of Asian American Evangelicalism

Since the 1965 Immigration Act, the Asian American population has increased tremendously. This new wave of Asian Americans, largely identified with evangelicalism, has reshaped Asian American Christianity by reorienting its focus to immigrant concerns and disconnecting from its pre-1965 history.

3 The World They Made Together: The Formation of Asian American Christianity

We go back to the origins of Asian American Christianity in the 19th century by exploring the collaborative efforts of white missionaries and Asian Americans to build Chinese, Japanese, Filipino, Korean, and other Asian American Christian communities in the U.S. (mostly West Coast) and Hawaii.

4 Racial Integration, Cultural Assimilation, and Their Discontents

By the mid-twentieth century, the focus shifted to second generation Asian Americans. With the end of immigration, Americanization became the watch word of the times. Many American-born Asian Christians shared the Protestant hopes for racial integration and acceptance, especially after World War II. Inter-generational tensions within and racial exclusion outside their communities created significant discontent, which would eventually fuel the Asian American movement within the churches.

5 Gender (and Sexuality) in an Asian American Idiom

Gender relations and roles within Asian American Christian communities have been viewed as both evidence of Christian superiority over traditional Asian cultures and as oppressive Christian patriarchy in a Western context. This session hopes to explore how historical contexts shaped and reshaped the Asian American Christianity’s relation to gender and their discourse on gender (and sexuality).

6 The Future of Christian Asian American Consciousness

A concluding session to review the course and discuss the future of Asian American Christianity. We’ll also discuss whether Asian American consciousness has any meaningful role to play in Asian American Christian communities. 

A not so surprising, but very good announcement!

I bring you good news that will cause great joy for all the people. – Luke 2:1

December 22, 2021

Merry Christmas ministry partners, friends and family!

The not-so-surprising, very-good news is that I’ve been invited to serve as co-Executive Director of New College Berkeley (starting in January). This will be a quarter time position, so I will continue in my role as GFM Pacific Area Director in a slightly reduced capacity. Craig Wong, the other co-Executive Director, is a former InterVarsity staff who has devoted more than 20 years to Grace Urban Mission, a San Francisco church related non-profit that served the marginalized in the Mission District.

New College Berkeley is a Christian Study Center next to the U.C. Berkeley campus. It is an affiliate of the Graduate Theological Union and a member of the Consortium of Christian Study Centers. Since its founding in 1977 NCB has served undergraduates, graduate students, and lifelong learners with wide-ranging courses, conferences, seminars, lectures, and retreats aimed at renewing minds, deepening faith, and shaping vocation.

Not ready for Prime Time Co-Executive Directors of New College Berkeley

By taking on this role, Craig and I hope to extend NCB’s service of providing discipleship resources and reflective spaces for students and faculty. We also hope to be a “third space” for local church leaders to gather and envision a future for a renewed, constructive Christianity.

On a personal note, NCB offers me opportunity to re-engage academic and ecclesial spaces where I hope to share my research. For example, I believe that my book on Christianity in Asian American history can benefit both church and academy.

Together, with great dependency on God’s wisdom, Craig and I look forward to discerning New College Berkeley’s future service for church and society. Would you pray for us as we transition into our new responsibilities? Let me know if you would like to stay abreast of NCB news and programs.

Please also continue to pray for my ministry with InterVarsity. God has provided an excellent team for the GFM Pacific Area, so I am confident that a slight reduction of my work hours will not hinder our ministry to the university. My budget remains the same, however. So would you renew and possibly increase your donations, or refer me to potential supporters?

Thanks again for your continued interest in my ministry and care for me!

Tim

Merry Christmas from Tim and Betty (Jack London Square, Oakland, CA)

A not so surprising, but very good year
2021 was supposed to be restorative. We were supposed to return to some sense of normalcy. But it wasn’t and we didn’t. Actually, that’s not so surprising. Some things, in my opinion, got worse. Ask me about that later, but for this update, I’d like to say that it was still a very good year.

On the family front

— we celebrated my dad’s life and ministry. He died of natural causes on September 26 at the grand old age of 93. As his health declined over the summer, our entire family rode an emotional roller coaster.  But the outpouring of love and appreciation for his ministry gave us great comfort.

— Betty was the Tseng Family Philanthropist of the Year in 2021.  A simple project of salvaging a friend’s Monstera plant turned into a fund raising campaign for the Alameda County Food Bank and a local church’s building fund. After months of propagating plants and swap meeting neighbors and strangers, she raised over $1,200. To Betty, we give the Philly Award.

— Our adult sons. Well, nothing new to report this year. We’re just grateful (and a little prideful) for their continued commitment to nurture their faith and values.

With InterVarsity

— GFM Pacific Area subscribed to Seminary Now, “a streaming video platform that delivers exclusive biblical, theological, and practical ministry training from a diverse group of leading educators and thought leaders.” Seminary Now partners with Northern Seminary, Missio Alliance, IV Press, and others. Our students, faculty, and ministry partners are welcome to access Seminary Now. Just let me know if you’re interested.

— The Stanford IV Grad Fall Retreat was held at Mount Hermon Conference Center on November 6-7. It was a delight (and sometimes a bit awkward) to have our first in-person retreat in a two years! Dr. Sophia Magallanes-Tsang spoke on the theme of “Embodied Witness.”

— Betty and I had a Thanksgiving meal with GFM alum Bowen Bao and Jimmy Lee at our home. We consider it a privilege to be a small part of the journeys of today’s young adults – especially as they navigate life with a bit of faith. Equipping the next generation of Christians for a Post-Christendom America will be the most exciting challenge for church leaders today.

— A cadre of PhD students, IV staff, and ministry partners have participated in the 20th Century American Christianity Book Club that I facilitated this fall. We will be starting again in January. A better understanding of the history of Christianity in 20th Century America has helped us interpret the current state of religion in the U.S. Let me know if you’re interested in joining us for this informal, but informative, lunch discussion group!

— Dan Stringer, our Hawaii GFM Team leader’s book, Struggling with Evangelicalism: Why I Want to Leave and What It Takes to Stay has been published! Order your copy at InterVarsity Press.

Looking forward to 2022

In the winter and spring quarters of 2022, look out for the following activities:

Finding God in Your Field: Grad Winter Conference (Feb. 4-6, 2022 at Redwood Christian Park)Do you ever feel lost as you seek purpose and passion, in your grad work and in your life as a follower of Jesus? As the world hungers for a connection between purpose and passion, we find the interconnectedness of both in Christ. Start the journey with us to find the connections between your deepest beliefs and your daily work. We’ll draw on The Scholar’s Compass, a guide toward thriving as a Christian scholar and impacting the world for good. The Scholar’s Compass will be provided for each conferee. The Early Bird discount registration deadline is January 10th. More Information and Registration at: https://tinyurl.com/gradwinterconference21

—  Faculty Roundtables at Stanford and UC Berkeley (Spring 2022)Depending on how the recent COVID situation develops, we hope to coordinate Faculty Roundtables at Stanford and U.C. Berkeley this Spring. The John Templeton funded  Roundtables gather faculty and administrators over a meal to hear and discuss presentations about Religion and Science. As a service to the university, FRTs offer an informal opportunity to talk and build relationships. The model for these discussions comes from the Cambridge Roundtable on Science and Religion which began in 2002. Since then, the model has been used to host thousands of discussions on campuses like Harvard, MIT, Yale, and Brown. Have a look at Northwestern’s virtual roundtable.

— I’ll be teaching Christianity in Asian-American History, a 6-week online course, for Candler Foundry at Emory University next Spring. The classes will be held Mondays 7:00 PM – 8:30 PM ET from April 18 – May 23, 2022. Please register at: bit.ly/asianamericanhistoryspr22

Grace and Peace to you and your loved ones!

Before Stop AAPI Hate, there was EWGAPA

An Asian American Christian legacy story

November 21, 2021. Stop AAPI Hate is one of the most significant movements today. Co-founded by Prof. Russell Jeung (one of Time magazine’s 100 most influential people of the world for 2021), it and the AAPI community have drawn more attention to anti-Asian discrimination than at any moment in U.S. history. But it wasn’t the only time that the AAPI community rallied to fight anti-Asian discrimination and violence. And it isn’t the first time that Asian American Christians joined the struggle. This post draws from a chapter of my forthcoming book on the history of Asian  American Christianity.

When Vincent Chin was bludgeoned to death by Ronald Ebens and his stepson, laid-off autoworker Michael Nitz, on June 19, 1982, the lenient sentence re-ignited the Asian American movement. The earlier phase of the movement centered on universities and local community empowerment. This time, it was a broad-based, nationwide movement that focused on anti-Asian violence and stronger federal hate crime legislation.[1]

In San Francisco’s Chinatown, Rev. Norman Fong was among the community leaders who rallied the Asian American community to respond to the verdict. Representatives from Chinatown churches, the Asian Law Caucus, and other community groups met at Cameron House in the summer of 1983 and formed Asian Americans for Justice (AAJ), which was modeled after Detroit’s American Citizens for Justice. Hoyt Zia (Helen Zia’s brother) was on AAJ to help stay in sync with what was happening in Detroit. Fong, who served as secretary for AAJ, had dedicated himself to activism when his family was evicted from their Chinatown home in 1970. Support from the Presbyterian Church in Chinatown and Cameron House enabled his family find housing again. As noted earlier in the book, Cameron House and the Presbyterian Church in Chinatown played a central role in mobilizing community members to fight for affordable housing in Chinatown.

Fong’s direct experience of the vulnerability of immigrant communities and the shortage of housing available in Chinatown encouraged him to become a community organizer. Under the leadership of his longtime mentor Rev. Harry Chuck, Fong organized disempowered groups such as youth and seniors. When he decided to enter the ministry, he chose to study at Princeton Theological Seminary, where he chaired its Social Action Committee and studied Liberation Theology. After a stint as a Mission Intern in Hong Kong and the Philippines, he returned to San Francisco in 1979 more determined to support immigrants and their families. He finished up his M.Div. at San Francisco Theological Seminary, joined Cameron House’s Youth Ministries Team and served as a pastor at the PCC.

In 1983, a few of the members of AAJ were involved with Rev. Jesse Jackson’s Rainbow Coalition. Jackson had decided to run for U.S. President that fall and became aware of Asian American protests against the verdict. Chin’s grieving mother, Lily Chin – the face of the movement – was invited to San Francisco to mobilize the community during the second anniversary of Chin’s murder in June 1984. Jackson joined her in a press conference at Cameron House, which drew the attention of the media. “Every Chinese media covered it, too,” Fong recalled. “It brought together the whole community, not just the activists…it was a pivotal moment here in the Bay Area.” The press conference was followed by an impromptu march through Chinatown. “As I led the march through Chinatown, I held a box to collect for the Vincent Chin Legal Defense Fund,” Fong noted, “I was so touched by every storeowner, even seniors on the street – everyone donating. Total unity in a sometimes divided community.” Over $20,000 was collected for what would become the biggest movement he was ever a part of. Fong contacted other churches in Chinatown and the S.F. Bay Area and Asian American caucuses. “We got great responses from every caucus and denomination,” he noted. There was much needed “solidarity with Jewish, Black, and Latino communities.” [2]

According to Harry Chuck, Fong was a key catalyst for Presbyterian Church in Chinatown’s engagement in the Vincent Chin case. “Norman provided the impetus (and exuberance) for our participation and support of the Vincent Chin case. At the time, our clergy staff resided at Cameron House so we were able to dedicate office and meeting areas for organizing community support.” [3]

Reverends Norman Fong and Jessie Jackson at the June 2021 Rally in Chinatown: “Solidarity in the Struggle from Vincent Chin to George Floyd.” Norman still works part time for the Chinatown Community Development Corporation. [photo credit: Norman Fong]

At the same time Rev. Dr. Wesley Woo, also a product of Cameron House, was a year into his appointment as Associate for Racial Justice and Asian Mission Development in the United Presbyterian Church’s Department on Racial Justice. Having just completed his Ph.D. at the Graduate Theological Union, Woo had dabbled with pursuing an academic career. He taught courses at the GTU and U.C. Berkeley and volunteered with PACTS while working on his doctorate. His dissertation, Protestant Work Among the Chinese in the San Francisco Bay Area, 1850-1920 (1983) was the first historical study of an Asian American Christian community. But ministry and community organizing commitments encouraged him to pursue denominational and ecumenical leadership roles where he felt he could make a larger impact. After serving as interim Associate for Asian Missions Development for the United Presbyterian Church, he took on a part-time role as Secretary for Pacific Asian American Ministries in the Reformed Church in America which allowed him time to defend his dissertation.

When he assumed the Associate for Racial Justice and Asian Mission Development, one of his first actions was to respond to the Chin verdict and concerns about anti-Asian racism. He reached out to American Citizens for Justice, visited leaders like Helen Zia and Jim Shimoura in Detroit, and developed close working relationships with them. He also put his community organizing skills to practice by networking with other Asian American denominational leaders and activists. This resulted in the formation of the Ecumenical Working Group of Asian and Pacific Americans (EWGAPA) in December 1984. Nine denominations and three community groups attended the founding national consultation in San Francisco, namely, the American Baptist Churches, Episcopal Church, Friends, Christian Church (Disciples of Christ), Presbyterian Church (USA), Reformed Church in America, Lutheran Church of American, United Church of Christ, United Methodist Churches, American Citizens for Justice, Asian Pacific American Legal Center, and AAJ. By including non-religious community groups into the network, Woo was able to develop strong working relationships with Helen Zia, Steward Koh, and others. “I wanted to say that churches are concerned about anti-Asian violence and want to be part of [this cause],” Woo recalled. The group met two or three times a year to monitor the Vincent Chin case and other incidents of anti-Asian discrimination.[4] EWGAPA’s mission was to “focus attention of churches on anti-Asian violence” and identified four purposes:

  1. Serve as a form for information sharing, networking, and support (including publishing a newsletter three times a year)
  2. Raise the consciousness within churches, both denominationally and locally, to racially motivated violence against Asians and Pacific Islanders in the U.S.
  3. Support communities and groups combatting anti-Asian violence.
  4. Facilitate dialogue with other racial ethnic groups seeking to end violence and racism.

Woo’s close friend, Rev. Dr. Wally Ryan Kuroiwa, then with the Disciples of Christ, spearheaded many of EWGAPA’a activities. This included the EWGAPA News, which reprinted articles documenting and monitoring incidences of anti-Asian violence and hate crimes. EWGAPA also produced study guides “It’s Just Not Fair…” Racially Motivated Violence Against Asians in the United States (June, 1989) and Beyond the Crucible: Responses to Anti-Asian Hatred (1994). Hawaii-born Kuriowa converted to Christianity in college by Southern Baptist campus ministers. Later, he found his way into the Disciples of Christ and finally, the United Church of Christ, where he felt most at home theologically. He earned his Th.D. at Chandler School of Theology and was a pastor of a Disciples congregation in Ohio when he got involved with EWGAPA.

EWGAPA Resources

“It’s Just Not Fair…”,  the title of the first study guide, were Vincent Chin’s dying words. In it, Kuriowa places the issue of anti-Asian violence within a historical context, demonstrating that its root causes were not new. He then shows that economic factors were among the most important causes for anti-Asian violence. The rise and proliferation of hate groups and persistent stereotypes of Asian Americans constituted other factors. Kuroiwa then provides additional contemporary case studies of anti-Asian violence to show that Vincent Chin’s murder was not an isolated case. Thirdly, he offered some biblical theological reflections to critique racism by centering the gospel narrative of Jesus’ life and teachings, giving particular attention to the image of Jesus’ suffering servanthood, and casting a vision of all humankind as part of God’s family. Finally, Kuroiwa recommends community organizing as a way to address immediate crises and suggests three long term solutions: education, a national system to monitor incidents of anti-Asian violence, and AAPI networking.[5]

EWGAPA News

Even Renee Tajima-Peña’s 1989 Academy Award–nominated documentary, Who Killed Vincent Chin? had a touch of mainline Protestant Asian American influence! Wesley Woo’s office was the first to provide financial support for the film. Christine Choy, the co-director of that film, later told Wesley that “the initial funding made it easier or possible for her to approach others to invest in that project.”

Renee Tajima-Peña herself was raised in a Presbyterian family. Her parents attended the Altadena First Presbyterian Church in Los Angeles which was pastored by her uncle, Donald Toriumi. Her paternal grandfather, Kengo Tajima, came to the United States because of religious persecution in Japan, studied theology at Yale and the University of California at Berkeley, and spent some time as a circuit-riding preacher in places like Provo Canyon, Utah, ministering to Asian railroad workers before becoming a pastor of Japanese American churches in Los Angeles. She reflected

If I look back on my life, I can see how at each critical juncture—the decision to become a student activist, a media activist, marrying outside of my race, loving and sacrificing for my son, foregoing certain material rewards, trying to be a mensch, has been a function of Christian values I learned at home—the perception of injustice and inequality, and the responsibility of the individual to work collectively for social change.

– Rita Nakashima Brock and Nami Kim, “Asian Pacific American Protestant Women” [6]

The coalition of Asian American community activists and denominational leaders succeeded at drawing attention to the rise of anti-Asian violence and successfully advocated for the passage of the Hate Crime Statistics Act of 1990 and the Violent Crime Control and Law Enforcement Act of 1994. The former required the Attorney General to collect data on crimes committed because of the victim’s race, religion, disability, sexual orientation, or ethnicity while the latter increased the penalties for hate crimes. In the backdrop was the 1992 Los Angeles uprising where more than 2,500 Asian-owned (mostly Korean) businesses were damaged or destroyed. For the first time Asian immigrants and Asian Americans were placed at the center of a new public conversations about multiracial America. EWGAPA, having recognized how “deep, pervasive, and institutionalized within the social order” anti-Asian racism was (as well as racism directed to other people of color), now sought to highlight stories of “creative struggles, defining moments, and positive actions.” Thus, Beyond the Crucible: Responses to Anti-Asian Hatred (1994) was written to offer case studies of APA communities that have “responded with positive actions to anti-Asian racism and violence.”[7]

Beyond the Crucible highlights examples from community organizations such as the Council of Asian American Organizations in Houston, Texas, Asian Americans United in Philadelphia, and the Committee Against Anti-Asian in New York City. Other grassroots efforts in Orange County, Fountain Valley, and San Francisco, California were examined. Featured also were case studies of mediation and alliance building between Koreans and African Americans in Chicago, Washington D.C., and Los Angeles. One study explored the University of California at Irvine students strike for Asian American studies. Taken together, all these case studies highlighted the growing Asian American diversity; Koreans and Southeast Asians were now prominently featured. Sandwiched around these case studies were two articles by AsianWeek staff writer, Samual R. Cacas. The first was a progress reports on the 1993-94 federal legislation on hate crime law and the second featured the National Asian Pacific-American Legal Consortium’s report on the data of anti-Asian violence. Katy Imahara provided an analysis that inked anti-immigrant sentiment to anti-Asian violence. But two key articles offered important theological and ministry reflection. Roland Kawano’s meditation on religion in the ethnic community as a significant resource for grieving and healing gave justification for the importance of religious and theological reflection in the struggle for Asian American empowerment. Franco Kwan, an Episcopalian priest based in New York City, concluded Beyond the Crucible with recommendations for “Building a Social Justice Ministry.”

EWGAPA ceased operations in the mid-1990s in the face of declining mainline Protestant fortunes. While mainline Asian American Protestants have continued to address anti-Asian racism, such efforts never again reached the national level led by Woo, Kuroiwa, and their fellow ecumenical leaders. In a recent conversation, Kuroiwa told me that he didn’t think EWGAPA made significant headway into the Asian American Christian community – especially when compared with the social media savvy of Stop AAPI Hate. Furthermore, in the 1980s, immigrant Asian American congregations experienced explosive growth but did not identify strongly with mainline denominations, despite the efforts of American-born or raised mainline Protestant Asians like Woo and Kuroiwa. Most post-1965 Asian American Christians preferred ethnic independency or chose to partner with conservative evangelical networks and denominations, and were invisible in this fight against AAPI hate.

For his part, Dr. Kuroiwa counts as one of his happier ministry achievements the successful efforts in 1993 to petition the United Church of Christ to issue an apology for the actions of the Hawaiian Evangelical Association (which later became the Hawai‘i Conference United Church of Christ) in support of and active participation in the illegal overthrow of Queen Lili‘uokalani a century earlier. Three years later, the Hawaiian Conference offered a Redress. [7]

The public witness of Cameron House, Norman Fong, Harry Chuck, Wesley Woo, Wally Kuroiwa, Renee Tajima-Peña, EWGAPA, Jesse Jackson, and many others should not be forgotten. Indeed, their effort was one of the fruits of the Asian American caucus movements of the 1970s. This coalition of Japanese, Chinese, Filipino, Korean, and other American-born Asians within mainline Protestantism helped define Asian American Christianity as a movement to liberate Christianity from its Euro-American socio-political and cultural captivity. This little known story of Christians who spoke out against anti-Asian violence in the wake of Vincent Chin is an Asian American Christian legacy.


Notes

[1] Helen Zia, Asian American Dreams: The Emergence of an American People (New York: Farrar, Straus and Giroux, 2000).

[2] Norman Fong interview with Tim Tseng (September 17, 2021) and email to Tim Tseng (November 11, 2021).

[3] Harry Chuck email to Tim Tseng (November 11, 2021).

[4] Wesley S. Woo, Protestant Work Among the Chinese in the San Francisco Bay Area, 1850-1920 (Ph.D. dissertation, Graduate Theological Union, Berkeley, CA: 1983). Wesley Woo interview with Tim Tseng (September 16, 2021) and email to Tim Tseng (November 11, 2021).

[5] Wallace Ryan Kuroiwa and Victoria Lee Moy, “It’s Just Not Fair…” Racially Motivated Violence Against Asians in the United States (EWGAPA: June, 1989); Brenda Paik Sunoo, Beyond the Crucible: Responses to Anti-Asian Hatred (EWGAPA, 1994).

[6] Rita Nakashima Brock and Nami Kim, “Asian Pacific American Protestant Women,” in Encyclopedia of Women and Religion in North America. Volume 1 (Bloomington and Indianapolis, IN: Indiana University Press, 2006), pp. 498-505.

[7] Ed Nakawatase, “Introduction,”Beyond the Crucible: Responses to Anti-Asian Hatred edited by Brenda Paik Sunoo (EWGAPA, 1994), 2-3.

[8] Wallace Kuriowa interview with Tim Tseng (October 3, 2021); “Apology and Redress” Hawaiian Conference, United Church of Christ. Access at https://www.hcucc.org/apology-redress

Ministry Update: Reclaiming and Rebuilding

Nov 1, 2021

Dear ministry partners and friends,

I want to thank so many of you for your kind words of support since I announced my father’s passing a few weeks ago. The memorial service went smoothly and our family is gradually feeling renewed from the emotional and physical fatigue that accompanies grief. I hope to have an opportunity to personally respond to each of you in the next few weeks.

Before I share a ministry update, here’s a story about the lost and found diploma…

My brother, Stephen, found my missing diploma.
My brother, Stephen, found my missing diploma.

My mom proudly displayed her three sons’ doctorate degrees on her bedroom wall in her home in Brooklyn in the 1990s. But we thought my parents lost the diplomas when they moved to California more than twenty years ago (unlike my brothers, I gave her my original diploma). Over the years, I thought my diploma was lost forever. But as my brother and I cleaned out my dad’s garage a couple of weeks ago, we found them! Few words can describe the joy of recovering the only physical evidence of my Ph.D.! Hmm. Now I wonder why my dad never cleaned out his garage.


Reclaiming and Rebuilding

In the latest issue of the Atlantic, Peter Wehner observes that “the evangelical church is breaking apart.”

The root of the discord lies in the fact that many Christians have embraced the worst aspects of our culture and our politics. When the Christian faith is politicized, churches become repositories not of grace but of grievances, places where tribal identities are reinforced, where fears are nurtured, and where aggression and nastiness are sacralized. The result is not only wounding the nation; it’s having a devastating impact on the Christian faith.

As our campuses gingerly re-opened, I’m happy to report that we have experienced an uptick of interest in our grad ministries. For example, New Student Outreach at Stanford, Berkeley, and UC Davis have gathered more new students this quarter than in previous years. The UCSF fellowship has added a third small group for doctoral students, post-docs, residences, and staff.

Yet, many students and faculty we talk to are also befuddled, frustrated, and – in some cases – angry at what is happening in the church (I encourage you to read Wehner’s article).

While there remains an interest in addressing whether Jesus’ claims are true, an emerging question now appears to be whether being part of his Body is desirable. Wehner concludes, “Something has gone amiss; pastors know it as well as anyone and better than most. The Jesus of the Gospels—the Jesus who won their hearts, and who long ago won mine—needs to be reclaimed.”

The church in America (evangelicalism, in particular) is paying the price of willful ignorance of its hunger for status and power. As many ministry leaders look to restart their ministries, it behooves us to reclaim the Jesus of the Gospels and support this generation’s efforts to rebuild faith.

I recognize that not every ministry or lay leader has the luxury of engaging this reclamation and reconstruction effort, but InterVarsity’s Grad and Faculty Ministries is uniquely positioned to help. Would you be interested in a conversation about this? It’d be great to have partners in this endeavor!

Ministry Updates

Discipleship of the mind

Dan Stringer, our Hawaii GFM Team leader, has written his first book, Struggling with Evangelicalism:Why I Want to Leave and What It Takes to Stay. Preorder now at InterVarsity Press. It will be available November 16.

Darren Hsiung, campus staff minister at U.C. Berkeley, shared a three-part series on postmodernism at the Stanford IV Gra Developing a Christian Mind (DCM) Small Group. This small group seeks guidance from God’s word and each other on topics that intersect with their lives and vocations as Christians within their respective disciplines.

I shared a draft chapter from my book on the history of Asian American Christianity with the Stanford IV Grad International Students Small Group in September.

I am also facilitating book club conversations about 20th Century American Christianity. Ministry partners, doctoral students, and IV staff have met twice already.

Faculty Ministries

There will not be a Spring Nor Cal Faculty Conference next year. Dan Stringer and Brennan Takayama, however, are continuing to support and strengthen the island-wide faculty ministries in Hawaii.

Rev. Ryan Bradley, our newly appointed Staff Associate for Faculty Ministries is gathering faculty at UC Merced.

Next Spring, we are planning on coordinating Faculty Roundtables at Stanford and UC Berkeley.

Other updates

Pray for the Stanford IV Grad Fall Retreat next weekend (Nov. 6-7). Sophia Maganalles-Tseng, adjunct professor at Fuller Seminary, will guide us to reflect on “Embodied Witness and Spirituality.”

Field Op Director, Michele Turek, has returned from maternity leave.

We welcome newly appointed volunteers in the area:

Rev. Ryan Bradley is Staff Associate (volunteer) for Faculty Ministries at U.C. Merced. He is also a Pastor at St. Luke’s Anglican Church in Merced and was an Assistant Professor in the Torrey Honors Institute at Biola University

Lori Chang is Staff Associate (volunteer) at U.C. Davis. She grew up in San Jose, California. She is a graduate of UC Davis with a Bachelor’s in English Literature and as well as a secondary teaching credential. Lori spent 20 years as a pastor’s wife in Chinese churches in northern and southern California. She is the spouse of Team Leader, Howard Chang, and the proud mom of 3 adult children. She enjoys gardening, taking deep dives into Scripture, and discipling graduate students.

Rev. John Woo is soon to be appointed Staff Associate at Stanford IV Grad. John was formerly Pastor at Millbrae Bible Church and has twenty years of pastoral experience in Northern and Southern California. He also served at Ethnos Asia Ministries, a ministry for persecuted churches. He is married to Cynthia and they have two high schoolers Caleb and Kira.

Ministry Update. In Memoriam: Rev. Paul F. Tseng

I’ve lived long enough to know that there will be seasons of stress. Since early summer, the stress related to my dad’s rapid health decline has occupied much of my spiritual, emotional, and physical space. My book project has slowed considerably. I have not had opportunity to remind my financial partners to renew their gifts, so I now face what I hope is a temporary budget deficit. On the other hand, there have been a lot of surprisingly good news in the GFM Pacific Area. I’ll share about these in a couple of weeks.

But for this update, I’d like to invite you to pray for me and my family as we grieve the passing of my father.

My dad passed away on Sunday, Sept. 26, 2021. He died while doing what he loved, namely, spending time with his grandson while visiting my step-sister in the Bay Area. The last time I spoke with him was after I preached at a church in Sacramento last August. I also preached the Sunday he died. Ministry is one of the few areas my dad and I clearly overlapped. Though he was more interested in the church in China than I was, he always expressed concern about me – especially after I was pushed out of the ministry of theological education and academia. Perhaps he felt a bit guilty about the pain that my family and I endured afterwards. But I’ve reassured him repeatedly that everything has worked out for good. Though I will miss him greatly, I’m grateful that his life was a testimony to the goodness of God in the midst of adversity and suffering.

Visiting Tim’s dad in July 2021

In Memoriam
Rev. Paul Fan Ping Tseng 曾凡平牧師 (1928-2021)

My photo tribute to my dad can be viewed at this link.

The Rev. Paul Fan Ping Tseng (曾凡平牧師) died on September 26, 2021, from natural causes while visiting family in Milpitas, California. He was 93 years old. Part of the pioneering generation of immigrant Chinese church planting pastors, Rev. Tseng founded the Brooklyn Chinese Community Church in 1970 and helped plant Touch Community Christian Church in Queens and the Suffolk Christian Church in Long Island. In retirement, Rev. Tseng continued to preach and teach the Christian gospel to an ever-growing Chinese audience. His books and online broadcasts touched thousands. Beloved for his spiritual leadership and vision, he nevertheless attributed his blessed and hope-filled life to God and his fellow Christian colleagues.

Paul Fan Ping Tseng was born to an influential and educated family in Wuchuan in China’s Guizhou Province on February 15, 1928, lunar calendar 公元一九二八年  農曆閏二月十五日. As a youth, he opposed the foreign influence of Christianity. He enjoyed telling the story of when he led a group of young people to throw rocks at the stained-glass windows of a local Catholic church. He married Mao Xiang Shen (申茂香) in 1944, who passed away in 1961. In 1948, their only surviving child, Rong Zeng (曾容), was born. They also had two sons who died young.

Paul Fan Ping served as an engineer in the Nationalist Chinese Air Force during the Chinese Civil War. In the wake of the People’s Republic’s takeover of the Chinese mainland, he relocated to Taiwan in 1949 instead of returning to Guizhou. While that decision meant that he would not see his family for many years, it also led to his conversion to the Christian faith. In Taiwan in the 1950s, Paul converted to Roman Catholicism during his recovery from tuberculosis. A caring priest and the near-death experience persuaded him to embrace the Christian faith. Paul later joined the Seventh Day Adventist church and entered the ministry as a chaplain at the Taiwan Adventist Hospital in Taipei. There he met and married a nursing student, Anna Hsieh (謝慧貞), in 1961.

In 1965, Paul, along with Anna and their first son, Timothy, left Taiwan and journeyed to Worcester County, MA, to complete his theological studies at Atlantic Union College. Their second son, Paul Charles, was born in Clinton, MA, at this time. Feeling led to plant Chinese churches, Rev. Tseng moved his family to New York City where their third son, Stephen, would be born. In 1970, the Chinese Christian fellowship that met in the garage of his family’s Brooklyn home was officially organized as the Brooklyn Chinese Christian [now Community] Church. Pastor Paul and Anna faced the hardships of the fledgling church during its early years with determination and faith, all the while devoting themselves to raising three boys.

Under his leadership, the small church sponsored dozens of ethnic Chinese refugee families from Southeast Asia displaced due to a border war in Vietnam in 1979. The church, at the time, also shared facilities with a Haitian, Puerto Rican, and White (transitioning to African American) congregation and became an early model of multicultural ministry at the Baptist Church of the Redeemer.

As the church grew in the 1980s, the Tseng family experienced a bit more stability. They were reunited with Eunice’s family, who immigrated to New York City. Pastor Paul then embarked on efforts to plant churches in Queens and Long Island, New York. In the 1990s, BCCC was able to acquire its own facilities. During that time, Pastor Paul visited China frequently to teach, train, and connect with the local church leaders. He became known as an insightful biblical interpreter and expositor.

Rev. Paul Tseng retired from full-time ministry in 1999, shortly after Anna was diagnosed with ALS. They moved to San Diego, California, where he cared for Anna and continued to reach out to the Chinese community with the gospel. Anna Hsieh Tseng passed away peacefully with her family by her side shortly after moving to Elk Grove, California, on September 9, 2003.

Paul married Amy Meng Xiao (蒙霄) on October 24, 2004 and settled in Elk Grove. He was finally able to enjoy traveling for recreation and treasured spending time with his family. Writing books, preparing lessons, and teaching, Pastor Paul served the local Chinese community and supported ministries in China. When he could no longer travel to China, he trained Christian leaders throughout Asia by teaching and broadcasting online. He continued serving until his death.

Rev. Tseng is survived by his wife, Amy Meng Xiao (蒙霄); his three sons and their spouses: Timothy (曾祥雨) and Betty, Paul Charles (曾祥霖) and Katie, Stephen (曾祥雷) and Vivien; his two daughters and their spouses: Rong Zeng (曾容) and David Mei Lun (王美伦), Peggy (孙湉) and Xiao Li (李潇); 11 grandchildren; 6 great-grandchildren; and his younger sister and her spouse, Fan Xuan (曾凡宣) and Rong (胡榮).  He was preceded in death by his first wife Mao Xiang Shen (申茂香) in 1961, his second wife Anna (謝慧貞) in 2003, and his younger brother Fan Zao (曾凡藻) in 2021. 

Rev. Paul Fan Ping Tseng leaves a grateful family and an inspiring legacy of faith in God and devotion to the Chinese church worldwide.

A viewing, open to all friends, will be held at East Lawn Memorial in Elk Grove, California, on October 14, 2021, between 5pm and 8pm.

A private viewing and memorial service will be held for family members on October 15, 2021. The service will start at 10am and will be livestreamed from the East Lawn obituary website: https://www.eastlawn.com/obituary/pastor-paul-fan-ping-tseng/

In lieu of flowers or non-monetary gifts, please consider making a gift to these two organizations. Their missions represent the lifework of Rev. Paul F. Tseng. Gifts may be made “in honor of” or “in memory of” Rev. Paul F. Tseng.

Overseas Missionary Fellowship
10 W Dry Creek Circle
Littleton, CO 80120
https://omf.org/us

The Alliance of Asian American Baptist Churches
Seminarian Scholarship Fund
c/o Japanese Baptist Church
160 Broadway, Seattle, WA 98122
https://allianceofaabc.wixsite.com/mysite

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