2021 Asian American Theology Conference

Lived Theology in Asian America

Race, Justice, and Politics in Transpacific Context

April 23-24, 2021 • Online Conference

Asian American Program
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2021 Asian American Theology Conference

Lived Theology in Asian America

Race, Justice, and Politics in Transpacific Context

Rising anti-Asian racism in the United States and ongoing debates over race have sparked critical reflection on the role and responsibility of Asian Americans in domestic politics. The 2020 presidential election revealed political tensions among Asian Americans across ethnic, socioeconomic, religious, and generational lines. Christian clergy and laity have expressed renewed interest in the tasks of racial reconciliation and justice, the relation between Christianity and politics, and the unique transpacific contexts of Asian churches here and abroad. Yet, many Asian American Christians struggle to find their place in these heated debates, and desire a critical theology that articulates and responds to their discontent.

This conference draws upon history, social science, and ethnography to explore the lived experience of Asian Christian communities and articulate a lived theology by, for, and about Asian Americans. How does Christian faith shape Asian American participation in conversations about race, justice, and politics? How do stories of transpacific migration motivate Asian communities differently than other groups in the work of justice? What historical precedents or case studies might we turn to, in order to form a better kind of politics in our churches and communities?

This conference centers the experiences of Asian American Christian communities, using historical, sociological, and ethnographic tools to examine how Asian American Christians creatively engage race, justice, and politics from a transpacific perspective.

Registrations
1200
Countries Represented
34

COVID-19

Following the success of the 2017 and 2019 Asian American theology conferences at Princeton Theological Seminary, we had planned to host a conference in 2021. COVID-19 has prevented us from gathering in Princeton out of a concern for the health and safety of our community.

We are adapting to the new normal by organizing a two-day, online conference for April 23-24, 2021. We aim to create a virtual, synchronous conference experience that maximizes conversation and relationship-building among speakers and attendees in addition to the usual presentations of papers. Based on the guidance and recommendation of local and state health officials, we hope to host a conference at Princeton Theological Seminary in spring 2022.

We Believe This Is An Opportunity

We have worked hard to re-imagine an online, virtual experience for our 2021 conference. Creative uses of technology during the global pandemic serve as an opportunity to expand the conversation about Asian American theology in new ways.

A Global Conference

Technology allows us to overcome geographical boundaries. This year we are able to reach and gather a national and international audience.

Free

With the help of Princeton Theological Seminary, sponsors, and friends, we are excited to host this year's conference as a free event. The cost of registration, travel, lodging, and meals is no longer a barrier to entry.

Bigger & Better

This is an opportunity to grow our network and to connect with Christians across the globe.

Real Engagement Online

We are excited to provide an online conference platform where you can meet new people and gather for informal conversation in lounge rooms and at discussion tables.

Statement on the Atlanta Murders

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Speakers

Baylor University

Dr. Jerry Park

Dr. Jerry Park is an associate professor of sociology and an affiliate fellow of the Baylor Institute for Studies of Religion. He graduated from the University of Virginia with a psychology degree and earned his masters and Ph.D. degrees in sociology from the University of Notre Dame. His research interests include the sociological study of religion, race, identity, culture and civic participation. Recent publications have covered topics such as racializing religious measures, religion and inequality attitudes, religion and workplace attitudes, religious attitudes of academic scientists, and Asian-American religiosity. Currently his research focuses on attitudes toward racial and religious minorities and perceptions of discrimination from racial and religious minorities including: perceived religious group threats, White perceptions of racial inequality, perceptions of Anti-Muslim discrimination, and perceived Asian American advantage.
Occidental College

Dr. Jane Hong

Jane Hong is associate professor of history at Occidental College and the author of Opening the Gates to Asia: A Transpacific History of How America Repealed Asian Exclusion (University of North Carolina Press, 2019). Her current project considers how post-1965 Asian immigration has changed U.S. evangelical institutions and politics. The book, under contract with Oxford University Press, connects two historical developments rarely considered together: the rise of the Religious Right and the demographic transformations of the 1965 Immigration and Nationality Act. A publicly engaged historian, Hong has led seminars for the Gilder-Lehrman Institute of American History, consulted for TV programs such as Finding Your Roots with Henry Louis Gates, Jr., and penned op-eds for the Washington Post and the Los Angeles Times. She also appears in the PBS docu-series, Asian Americans (2020). Hong received her Ph.D. in history from Harvard and her B.A. from Yale.
University of Michigan

Dr. Melissa Borja

Melissa Borja is Assistant Professor of American Culture at the University of Michigan, where she is a core faculty member in the Asian/Pacific Islander American Studies Program. She researches migration, religion, politics, pluralism, and race in the United States and the Pacific World, with special attention to how religious beliefs and practices have developed in the context of the modern American state. Her book, Follow the New Way: Hmong Refugee Resettlement and the Practice of American Religious Pluralism (under contract, Harvard University Press) explores the religious dimensions of American refugee care. An avid public scholar, Dr. Borja is a senior advisor to Princeton University’s Religion and Forced Migration Initiative , a national program that aims to improve understanding of the role that religion plays in the lives of refugees as they resettle in the United States. She is an affiliated researcher with the Stop AAPI Hate Reporting Center, which unites scholars and community organizations to analyze and prevent hate incidents targeting Asian Americans and Pacific Islanders. She is part of a national research team that received support from the Louisville Institute to study Filipino American theology and religious life during the Covid-19 pandemic. Finally, she contributes regularly to the religious history blog, Anxious Bench. Dr. Borja was named a 2020-20201 Faculty Fellow at the Charles Warren Center for Studies in American History at Harvard University and a 2018-2019 Young Scholar in American Religion. She earned a Ph.D. in History from Columbia University, an M.A. from the University of Chicago, and an A.B. from Harvard University.
Executive Director of the National Asian Pacific American Women’s Forum

Rev. Sung Yeon Choimorrow

Sung Yeon is a first generation immigrant working mom who is passionate about building power to create change so her daughter can live in a more just world than the one she inherited.

Sung Yeon initially came to NAPAWF as it’s National Field Director with a vision to build infrastructure for building a robust base of community leaders who are most affected by the policy issues that NAPAWF works on, namely immigrant rights, economic justice, and reproductive right and health, using the reproductive justice framework.

Sung Yeon has continued to lead NAPAWF with the vision of building power with Asian American and Pacific Islander (AAPI) women and girls as she took on the role of Executive Director at NAPAWF.

Under Sung Yeon’s leadership, NAPAWF has gone from one organizer (her!) to now a team of nine on the organizing team. Sung Yeon deeply believes that policies should be made by the people for the people and when people are equipped with tools to build power and create change, we will get the job done.

Before working at NAPAWF, Sung Yeon was the Director of Organizing at Interfaith Worker Justice (IWJ) leading collaborative work with community organizations, unions and faith communities on worker organizing and worker justice public policy. Prior to IWJ, Sung Yeon was a Community Organizer at Asian American Institute where she helped organize the pan-Asian American community in Chicago to work together on presidential and mayoral elections, immigration reform, the state budget, and redistricting.

Sung Yeon was born in South Korea and spent her childhood in Singapore and India. Sung Yeon came to the U.S. at the age of 18 to study Political Science and Urban Studies at Wheaton College in Wheaton, IL and earned an M.Div from McCormick Theological Seminary in Chicago. Sung Yeon is an Ordained Minister in the Presbyterian Church (U.S.A.). Sung Yeon is a board member of the Hana Center, a Chicago based organization that builds power with Korean Americans, immigrants, and multi-racial communities for just policies that impact immigrant families.

New York City College of Technology

Dr. Lucas Kwong

Lucas Kwong is a writer, musician, and assistant professor of English at New York City College of Technology. He’s written at his newsletter eschatontwist.substack.com; outlets like Public Books, Red Letter Christians, and the Institute of Christian Socialism’s Bias Magazine; and scholarly journals like Victorian Literature and Culture and Journal of Narrative Theory. He is also assistant editor for New American Notes Online. He makes music as The Brother K Melee, at brotherkmusic.com. He and his wife are geographically displaced, but spiritually diehard, New Yorkers.
President, Princeton Theological Seminary

Rev. Dr. M. Craig Barnes

Craig was raised on Long Island, New York. After graduating from The King’s College and Princeton Theological Seminary, he received a Ph.D. in the History of Christianity from The University of Chicago.

He has served as a pastor to three congregations including The National Presbyterian Church in Washington D.C. He also served as the Meneilly Professor of Pastoral Ministry at Pittsburgh Seminary while also serving as the senior pastor of Shadyside Presbyterian Church. In 2012 he was elected president of Princeton Theological Seminary.

He has eight published books (soon to be nine…his latest book Diary of a Pastor’s Soul, will be published this May. He also served as an Editor at Large and frequent contributor to The Christian Century for many years.

Overseas Ministries Study Center, Princeton Theological Seminary

Dr. Easten Law

Easten Law recently earned a Ph.D. in theological and religious studies from Georgetown University. His research focuses on lived theology, public life, and religious pluralism in contemporary China. Utilizing qualitative research methods, his dissertation discerns a Chinese lived theology of migration grounded in the experiences of young professionals in the Shanghai and Hong Kong regions. He received his M.Div. from Wesley Theological Seminary and an M.A. in intercultural studies from Wheaton College. In July, 2021, Easten will begin serving as the Assistant Director of Academic Programs at the Overseas Ministries Center (OMSC) at Princeton Theological Seminary. Previously, he taught intercultural relations at American University’s School of International Service (Washington, DC) and at Anhui Normal University (Wuhu, Anhui, China). He has provided training, lectures, and intercultural communication curriculum design for faith communities and nongovernmental organizations in both the United States and China. Formed in the tradition of Washington DC’s Church of the Savior, Law has also served as a residential chaplain with Georgetown’s Office of Campus Ministry and as an elder at Redeemer Grace Church, an international and non-denominational congregation in Geneva, Switzerland.
PhD Candidate, University of St Andrews

Gillian Chu

Ann Gillian Chu is a PhD (Divinity) candidate in the Centre for the Study of Religion and Politics, St Mary’s College at the University of St Andrews. Her doctoral research is tentatively titled 'Christian Perspectives of Civic Action under Non-Democratic Governments Based on Church Discussions in Post-Umbrella Movement Hong Kong.' Gillian's research interests cover the intersection between theological ethics, political theology, and theological anthropology in the context of contemporary Hong Kong. A Chartered Accountant by training, Gillian graduated from Regent College (Canada) with a Master of Divinity and from the University of Edinburgh (United Kingdom) with a Master of Arts (Honours) in English Language.
City Seminary of New York

Dr. Geomon George

Geomon George is the Associate Dean and a Core Faculty member of the City Seminary of New York. He provides leadership to the International Gospel Church, a mission organization involved with church planting and social transformation in India. A Ph.D. graduate of the University of Edinburgh, he is a pastor at the International Gospel Church of Connecticut. Geomon's book, "Religious Pluralism: Challenges for Pentecostalism in India", was published in India with the Centre for Contemporary Christianity. He and his wife, Reji, are both Ministry Fellows graduates.
Baylor University

Dr. Jonathan Tran

Jonathan Tran is Associate Professor of Religion at Baylor University where he holds the George W. Baines Chair of Religion. His forthcoming book Asian Americans and the Spirit of Racial Capitalism will be published Fall 2021 with Oxford University Press.

Schedule

Friday, April 23, 2021

Morning Session

Race, Justice, and Politics in Asian America

This session draws upon the leading and latest social science and historical research to frame our conference topic on the intersection of race, justice, and politics in Asian America. Where do Asian Americans fit into today’s race conversations? Why should Asian Americans care about this history and data? What are the implications for our lives as Christians?

Time (ET)

Session

Presenter(s)

9:15AM ET

Opening Remarks

Dr. David Chao

9:30AM ET

Asian American Churches in the 21st Century: A New Agenda in the Social Scientific Study of Religion

Dr. Jerry Park

10:00AM ET

The Asian American Movement and the Church

Dr. Jane Hong

10:30AM ET

Virulent Hate: Stories of Anti-Asian Racism and Asian American Resistance During Covid-19

Dr. Melissa Borja

11:00AM ET

Panel Discussion with Friday Morning Speakers and Questions from Audience

Lunch Break (12PM ET)

Networking & Lounge Discussions

Afternoon Session

Stories and Practical Strategies from the Field: Community Organizing on Race and Justice

What are some practical strategies for talking about faith and justice at church? What challenges do community organizers face in organizing Asian Americans around issues of race and justice? What are opportunities and challenges in organizing Asian American churches? How has COVID shaped community organizing?

Time (ET)

Session

Presenter(s)

1:00PM ET

Workshop Skills Training: “We Need to Talk: Religious Communities and Courageous Communication About Faith and Justice”

Dr. Melissa Borja

1:30PM ET

Conversation on Faith, Community Organizing, and Asian American Churches

Rev. Sung Yeon Choimorrow
Dr. Lucas Kwong
Dr. Melissa Borja

2:30PM ET

Fireside Chat with Jonathan Tran and Craig Barnes about Race, the Church, and Asian America

Dr. Jonathan Tran President M. Craig Barnes

3:30PM ET

Brief Closing Remarks and Announcements for Saturday

Dr. David Chao

Saturday, April 24, 2021

Morning Session

Lived Theology in Transpacific Context

This session delves into particular ethnographic case studies and demonstrates the utility of ethnography and oral history for doing Asian American theology. We highlight the voices, experiences, and faith of ordinary Asian Christians. We productively frame the transpacific connection of “Asia” and “Asian America” with basic questions such as: What is Asian American identity–how does our migration history and ongoing connections to Asia complicate the White-Black racial binary in the US? How does the transpacific context of Asian American identity challenge domestic notions of justice? How does Christian faith motivate Asian and Asian American civic engagement and political agency?

Time (ET)

Session

Presenter(s)

9:15AM ET

Opening Remarks

Dr. David Chao

9:30AM ET

Living Faith between Kingdoms and Empires: Pondering the Trans-Pacific Politics of Chinese/American Theologizing

Dr. Easten Law

10:00AM ET

A Hong Kong Ethnography in the Time of COVID-19: Analyzing Primary Qualitative Data in a Transpacific Context

Gillian Chu

10:30AM ET

Living in the Promised Land: Impact of Black Lives Matter Movement on the Indian American Christians Living in NYC Metropolitan Areas

Dr. Geomon George

11:00AM ET

Ethnography at the Ruins of Asian America

Dr. Jonathan Tran

11:30AM ET

Panel Discussion with Saturday Morning Speakers and Questions from Audience

Lunch Break (12:30PM ET)

Networking & Lounge Discussions

Afternoon Session

Best Practices for Theological Field Work: Collecting Our Practical Wisdom

Our conference speakers have a wide range of expertise and practical wisdom in doing field work with Asian and Asian American Christian communities. This conference features ethnographic field work as a promising avenue for doing Asian American theology. The first panel discussion brings together our speakers to share best practices for bringing ethnography and theology into conversation. The second panel discussion brings together our speakers to consider field work as a form of pastoral practice.

Time (ET)

Session

Presenter(s)

1:00PM ET

Panel Discussion on Field Work and Pastoral Practice

Dr. Jerry Park,
Dr.Jane Hong,
Dr. Melissa Borja,
Dr. Easten Law,
Gillian Chu,
Dr. Geomon George,
Dr. Jonathan Tran

Break

2:00PM ET

Panel Discussion on Best Practices for Doing Field Work

Dr. Jerry Park,
Dr. Jane Hong,
Dr. Melissa Borja,
Dr. Easten Law,
Gillian Chu,
Dr. Geomon George,
Dr. Jonathan Tran

3:00PM ET

Concluding Discussion Followed by Brief Closing Remarks

Dr. David Chao

Asian American Program

The newly expanded Asian American Program at Princeton Theological Seminary comes at a critical time in the life of Asian America. Asian Americans are the fastest-growing racial-ethnic demographic in the United States. The COVID-19 pandemic has revealed the persistence of anti-Asian racism. Moreover, minority and immigrant churches are poised to transform the face of Christianity in the United States in the next few decades. The Asian American Program seeks to equip and empower the next generation of Asian American leaders for service in church, society, and academy.

Princeton Theological Seminary has been a leading voice in Asian American theology and ministry through the work of Professor Emeritus Sang Hyun Lee, the Asian American Program, and the establishment of the Kyung-Chik Han Chair of Asian American Theology.

What We Do

The Asian American Program forms Christian leaders who serve Jesus Christ in ministries marked by faith, integrity, scholarship, competence, compassion, and joy.

We Co-Learn

We organize the Asian American Theology and Ministry Colloquium, which provides students with a forum for dialogue, support, and critical reflection on ministry by Asian Americans, especially in Asian American ecclesial contexts.

We Gather

We offer innovative conferences on Asian American theology drawing upon leading practitioners and scholars from Asian American studies and Asian American theology on topics relevant to Asian American churches.

We Care

We support and advocate for Asian and Asian American students through leadership development, mentoring, and pastoral care.

Steering Committee

Director of the Asian American Program

Dr. David C. Chao

Dr. David C. Chao is director of the newly expanded Asian American Program at Princeton Theological Seminary. He teaches courses on Asian American theology, organizes academic programs in Asian American theology and ministry, and mentors Asian and Asian American students. His research and writing focus on Asian American theology, the uses of Christian doctrine for liberation, the convergence and divergence of Protestant and Catholic dogmatics, and the theology of Karl Barth. His first book, titled Concursus and Concept Use in Karl Barth's Doctrine of Providence, is under contract with Routledge. He is grant co-author and project editor for the $300,000 translation grant awarded by the National Endowment for the Humanities to the Karl Barth Translator’s Seminar. He is also developing a multi-volume project on Asian American theology. Chao is a graduate of Yale University (BA), Regent College (MDiv), and Princeton Theological Seminary (ThM, PhD). He is a member of the American Academy of Religion and the Association for Asian American Studies. Chao has a wide range of pastoral experience with Chinese American, Korean American, and Pan-Asian churches and ministries and is an active member of the Presbyterian Church (USA).
PhD Candidate

Bonnie E. Lin

Bonnie E. Lin is a PhD Candidate in Practical Theology at Princeton Theological Seminary, where she earned an MDiv (Christian Education and Formation) and ThM (Pastoral Care). She also holds a BA in English and Religion (Christianity and Buddhism) from Amherst College. Her research interests include Christian discipleship and pastoral care, the learning sciences and culturally responsive pedagogies, conflict transformation and restorative justice, trauma recovery and interpersonal neurobiology, and Asian American Christianity. Bonnie has taught courses at Peking University and the National Tsing Hua University, cared for individuals and families as a crisis counselor and hospital chaplain, and served in the teaching ministries of several churches in New Jersey. A steering committee member of the Asian American Theology Conference at Princeton Theological Seminary, Bonnie also co-leads the Asian American Theology and Ministry Colloquium and recently developed an online learning tool (Look Again: Subverting the Model Minority Myth) for the inaugural Antiracism Design Lab of the Zoe Project, a Lilly-funded initiative. In addition, Bonnie is the Lead Researcher for the Trenton Design Incubator Program, which combines professional coaching and ethnographic research to investigate how young adults influence ministry innovation in urban churches. She has published in Pro Ecclesia, the International Journal of Practical Theology, and Bible Study Magazine on forgiveness, practical theological methodology, and Christian leadership in Asian contexts.
PhD Candidate

Darren Yau

Darren Yau is a graduate student in the Department of Religion at Princeton University, working in the subfield of politics, religion, and ethics. His current interests focus on political theology, religious ethics, and Augustinian politics. Darren also helps organize the Asian American Studies Faculty Graduate Group at Princeton University.