Challenges for Asian Americans: Identity, History, and Passivity

April 29, 2011

At The Gospel Coalition’s 2011 national conference in April, Julius Kim and Stephen Um led a workshop on “Asian-American Christian Thought and Theological History: Pastoral Implications for Diversity and Innovation in a Multiracial Church.” Um, a TGC council member, serves as senior pastor of CityLife Church in Boston. Kim is the dean of students and associate professor of practical theology at Westminster Seminary California in Escondido.
Stephen Um Julius Kim
In this article, Identity, History, and Passivity: Julius Kim and Stephen Um Discuss Challenges for Asian Americans, their interview previewed the issues of Asian America identity, history, and perceived passivity they planned to address.

Excerpts from the interviews:

While it’s difficult to generalize the unique challenges that all Asian American Christians face, there are certain issues that continue to emerge in these discussions. Take, for example, the issue of identity and/or identity formation. Risking the danger of oversimplification, many Asian Americans face the challenge of being viewed either as an assimilated American (thus bearing no unique cultural traits) or as a perpetual foreigner (essentially, a non-American). This perception influences the way Asian American Christians view themselves and their sense of belonging, whether in society or in the church.

… while these Asian Americans are emerging as leaders in their respective secular careers, they are not finding the same kind of opportunities for advancement and leadership within American churches that are predominantly led and populated by Caucasians.

Furthermore, much of the conversation regarding race and racial reconciliation within the church falls along black/white lines. Rarely, if ever, do churches and denominations discuss the culture and history of Asian Americans. Thus, much misunderstanding and insensitivity exists. For example, within group settings Asian Americans tend not to be as assertive, aggressive, and outspoken as their Caucasian counterparts. This passivity displayed by many Asian Americans is often misinterpreted to signify a lack of leadership qualities.

Read the entire article titled “Identity, History, and Passivity: Julius Kim and Stephen Um Discuss Challenges for Asian Americans”

Also, read Daniel Eng’s thoughts about this workshop and some of the highlights he noted, including: Asian-Americans have had different patterns of immigration; Speak the gospel into Asian-Americans’ performance anxiety; Because many of us Asian-Americans work from a shame-based perspective, we often we default to moralism; The gospel is about power distribution, not power accrual.

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Comments:One Response

Find more like this: Asian American, L2 Blog, identity, leadership.

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Daniel K. Eng
April 29th, 2011

Thanks for the pingback! I felt like the workshop didn’t answer questions, but it opened up some good discussions.

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