Writers’ Feedback Gathering
Friday, October 26, 2007
4:00 – 8:00 pm
Catalyst, Fuller Theological Seminary
Unlike our male counterparts, Asian American Evangelical Women (AAEW) of each generation often find ourselves lacking a safe space and role models, causing us to resort to a perpetual pioneering state. Internalizing extreme belief systems of the East and the West and integrating them with Christianity, many AAEW leaders face extreme pressure, stress, and alienation leading to burnout and depression. They also feel trapped by the triple pressure of familial, ecclesial, and social expectations. Due to the challenges of male hierarchies and internalized sexism, even women in our congregations oblige AAEW to function like modern day Bible women.*
As a response to such needs, Asian American Women on Leadership (AAWOL) was organized in 2005 as an initiative of the Institute for the Study of Asian American Christianity. The central purposes of AAWOL are to nurture and support AAEW in various ministries (see attached brochure). AAWOL’s main objective is to empower AAEW leaders through a nurturing community, promoting wellness (i.e. spiritual, emotional, and physical health) and holistic development of women leaders. As a way to encourage and empower other AAEW leaders, AAWOL’s core women decided to tell our stories, highlighting the connectedness we have experienced with specific biblical women. We invite your honest and critical feedback as we seek to portray the collective experiences of AAEW leaders. The following is a brief description of each chapter that we hope to share with you on October 26th. We look forward to a wonderful time of connecting and mutual sharing with you.
Yours in Christ,
* Young Lee Hertig, “Without a Face: The Nineteenth Century Bible Woman and Twentieth-Century Female Jeondosa,” In Gospel Bearers, Gender Barriers. Ed., Dana L.Robert, Maryknoll, New York: Orbis Books, 2002, Pp. 185-199.
For more information, contact Young Lee Hertig.
The Yin and Yang of Leadership: Biblical Characters According to Asian American Women
Chapter One: “Subversive Banquets of Vashti and Esther: Bucking and Milking the System” (Rev. Hertig). By examining two Queens, Vashti and Esther, this chapter will explore how Asian American women’s narratives converge with both Vashti and Esther. Examining one without the other will not do justice in understanding the systems they faced and to which they responded. There is a time to say “no” and a time to say “yes,” not one or the other. “Yes” will not be meaningful when women are forced to be constantly obedient. Similarly, many contemporary AAEW women feel silenced and they need to break the silence for their own well-being so that they can serve the community better.
Chapter Two: “Bathsheba: Breaking the Silence” (Chloe Sun, Ph.D.) I see myself on the way to transformation. That’s why the character of Bathsheba appeals to me. Bathsheba is a passive, voiceless figure in 2 Samuel 11, but turns into a more active character in 1 Kings 1. Her character transformation can be traced through these following movements: passive to active, silence to voice, maintaining the status quo to challenging it and from being on the margin to becoming influential. I hope that through this in-depth look at her process of transformation, it will help other AA women to shine.
Chapter Three: “Casting My Lot: Can My Soul Look Back?” (Rev. Kirsten Oh, M.Div.) In Lot’s wife I see loss, compassion, heart, feminine qualities, struggle and anger. Recalling my own departure from Korea at age nine, I looked back at my grandmother whom we left behind. I wonder when is looking back not good, or healthy? I will explore why God turned Lot’s wife into a pillar of salt.
Chapter Four: “Hannah: I Will Never Be The Same Again.” (Grace Choi Kim, Ph.D. candidate). Hannah displays patience and strength through intense prayer as many Korean American women do. Her story resonates with our mothers and grandmothers who carry tremendous “han” from societal pressures and burdens, but demonstrates tremendous courage, faith, and devotion to God.
Chapter Five: “Living in the Tension of Mary and Martha” (Beverly Chen, M.S.W.). I identify with both the biblical characters of Mary and Martha. They represent different pulls that I often find myself in personally, professionally and spiritually. These pulls involve the call to serve and perform versus to receive and rest in God, the expectations of meeting cultural and familial roles/demands versus acknowledging my own individual needs and desires and the tendency to focus on outward ministry versus inward spiritual formation. These tensions can also be in seen in the church context. It is in the midst of living within the tension that I am experiencing more of the grace of God who shows me the spiritual rhythm that allows for a balanced and abundant life.
Chapter Six: “Woman At The Well: Fill My Cup, Lord” (Rev. Tita Valeriano, M.Div.). Jesus’ strength of radically breaking down the walls of racism, sexism, classism, regionalism, and religion was done in a yin-ish manner of vulnerability. His vulnerability comes not from the ego but from the depth of a living well within. The Samaritan woman’s life transformed radically through the dialogical encounter with Jesus at the well who offered living water. She becomes the woman she is created to be when she ran into town and testified. I desire to bring the living water to the many Asian American women leaders whose potential has been buried and as yet needs to be reclaimed.
Chapter Seven: “Priscilla: Free From Labels or Titles” (Rev. Melanie Mar Chow, M.Div.). I relate to the testimony of the ministry couple Priscilla and, husband, Aquila, who served freely without titles. Both have the affirmation of the Apostle Paul, calling them co-laborers. Their unique testimony recognizes God’s provision in their service as tentmakers that enabled them to do ministry and empowered them to take risks for the sake of the gospel, without the burden of needing provisions.
Chapter Eight: Ruth: “Widening the Margins: A Woman’s Passage to Identity” (Deborah Gin, M.Div. M.Mus.). Those who are born and live outside of mainstream culture typically cope with marginalization either by narrowing the margins (i.e., fully adapting to the dominant group’s values, norms, and prescribed roles) or by maintaining the margins (i.e., passively interacting only within one’s own culture without engaging the dominant group). Another option involves widening the margins, finding one’s voice and getting those in the mainstream to make room for new values, norms, and roles and making the space in the margin count for more. Through the Ruth narrative, this chapter describes the journey to identity that she experienced as well as a model of leadership she demonstrated for those in the margins.
Chapter Nine: “Elizabeth and Mary: Working In Harmony” (Joy Wong, M.Div. student) Internalized sexism plagues women’s relationships with one another. Sadly, in church settings, women challenge other women in leadership. Elizabeth and Mary’s beautiful relationship models how women can empower each other. I want to highlight the forging of sisterhood among AAEW church women.