Honoring the Nestorian Christians

Tuesday, September 15, 2015



Homily by The Rev. Cn. Dr. Winfred B. Vergara , 9/13/2015 at Church of our Savior, 48 Henry Street, New York

We are here gathered today in the name of God and in God’s presence to give thanks for the life and work of Alfred Pucay.  Florence, his widow and Peter Ng, one of his best friends will give the eulogies. Some of you may also give words of remembrance.

But there is something about Alfred that I must tell you. Before I followed The Rev. Dr. Winston Ching as missioner for Episcopal Asiamerica Ministries (EAM), I first followed Alfred as managing editor of a publication in the Philippines known as The Christian Register. It was a publication of the Philippine Independent Church whose editor-in-chief was no less than the Obispo Maximo of the PIC. In that capacity, the managing editor also served as recorder of the Supreme Council of Bishops and sometimes speech writer of the Obispo Maximo. So Alfred, even before coming to the Episcopal Church Center in New York had already experienced being in the Obispado Maximo or Central Office of the Philippine Independent Church.

Now Alfred as you know was an Episcopalian. How did he ever get to work in the Philippine Independent Church? This is the story:  Alfred, as some of you know, graduated for Dentistry but later realized he did not enjoy cleaning other people’s teeth. So he studied Journalism and that’s the first reason why he landed a job as managing editor. 

The second reason is connected to the Concordat of Full Communion between the Philippine Independent Church and The Episcopal Church (TEC) signed in 1961 (following its return to the Catholicity by virtue of the bestowal of apostolic succession bestowed by the TEC way back in 1948).

At that time, TEC was known as PECUSA or the Protestant Episcopal Church in the Philippines and so there was a coordinating body known as the Joint Council PIC-PECUSA.  It existed to implement the terms of the concordat which basically included sharing of personnel and funds while maintaining the independence and integrity of each denomination.

It was in the decade of the 1970’s when Alfred got involved in the PIC-PECUSA and Philippine Society was in ferment.  Marcos was in power and political activism was in the air. There was an emerging anti-American sentiment and the activists were clamoring to oust the U.S. military bases and any vestiges of American imperialism.

In the church, particularly among the PIC, some youth activists in Manila were picking on the Joint Council as a symbol of American interference to a nationalist Church. The PIC or (Iglesia Filipina Independiente) was a product of the Philippine Revolution of 1896-1898 and they were questioning the congruency of its revolutionary history and connection with an American Church. The ultra-nationalists were also worried that the PECUSA might swallow-up the PIC.

The Obispo Maximo at that time was The Most Rev. Isabelo Delos Reyes, Jr. , son of the illustrious Don Isabelo Delos Reyes, Sr. who, along with Gregorio Aglipay, was the founder of the PIC.  He had to contend with the critics of the Concordat and deal with threats of schismatic groups.

It was a hard time to lead the church. The Joint Council offered hope for the PIC in the renewal of its churches by providing funds and personnel for its national programs, in addition to St. Andrew’s Theological Seminary which included both Episcopalians and “Aglipayans” (other name for PIC members),  but the resistance from the militants provided quite a challenge. And while the Joint Council had to deal with the critics from the PIC,  some clergy and lay leaders belonging to the Philippine Episcopal Church, which at that time was still a missionary district of the PECUSA, were also clamoring that the funds and resources coming from USA should be given directly for the growth of the Episcopal parishes and missions and not to Joint schools and projects.

It was in that period of animosity and misunderstanding about the Concordat that Alfred played a part in the work of reconciliation. As managing editor of The Christian Register and having his feet grounded in both PIC and PEC (his father-in-law, The Most Rev. Benito Cabanban, Sr. , was also the Bishop of the PEC at that time), he helped foster a better communication and understanding of the relationship that must exist between the two churches. He was a great help to the Obispo Maximo as well as his father-in-law.

So first, and foremost, Alfred was a reconciler. 

When Alfred went to the United States and after the death of Obispo Maximo Delos Reyes, Jr.) I took over Alfred’s job as managing editor (Bishop Emerson Bonoan was the Editor-in-Chief and The Most Rev. Macario V. Ga was the Obispo Maximo).  It was a smooth transition for me because Alfred had already helped to take off the heat.

Fast forward to the late ‘80’s and 1990’s, my wife and I came to the United States and became involved with the EAM, mainly through Alfred’s encouragement. I became Canon Missioner for Asian Cultures in the Diocese of El Camino Real and founded Holy Child Church and became convener of the EAM Filipino Congregation.

In 2001, after serving for 27 years Alfred retired from the Episcopal Church Center. A year later, in 2002, Winston Ching also retired.  In 2004, I was appointed by then Presiding Bishop Frank Griswold to be the next Missioner for Asiamerica Ministries to take over Winston job. I came to 815 on May 2004 and who was there to meet me? Alfred Pucay! It turned out that even though he retired in 2001, he graciously returned to 815 as special assistant to Asiamerica Ministries under Bishop Arthur Williams, who was then Director of the Ethnic Congregational Development. 

Again as it was in Manila, so it would be in New York. It was a smooth of transition for me because Alfred was there to mentor me and to facilitate that transition. 

So secondly, Alfred was to me, an enabler.

Alfred was a reconciler, an enabler and finally---an encourager.  
Alfred did not draw people to himself but he drew them to God and to God’s mission. One of the members of the EAM Network wrote to say “Alfred has done so much to so many people in such a quiet and humble way.” Another one wrote that Alfred was “such a wonderful man, always ready and willing to help.”

Presidents of the EAM Council, past and present wrote to say that the memory of Alfred will linger in their minds because “he was as much a pioneer as Winston was.” Dr. Jim Kodera wrote, “What I remember most is a wonderful, disarming sense of wit, with which he greeted and worked with so many of us.” Dr. Fran Toy wrote, “Alfred was special. As a recipient of Alfred always-cheerful help, I could only echo what so many friends have expressed.” 

Current  EAM Council President Bayani Rico wrote, “We will always remember  Manong Alfred for his dedication in the early years of the EAM helping out the late Winston Ching. “ Someone also recalled that Alfred often went beyond the call of duty, by spending after-office hours in New York and communicating with EAM members from the West Coast, because Pacific Time is three hours behind Eastern Time.

I believe so many of us here today, could say the same thing about Alfred.

During my sabbatical in 2010 in Hong Kong, I spent some time with the late Winston Ching. We talked a lot about EAM and about Alfred Pucay and Winston said, “Frankly. I could not have done what I have done, had it not been for Alfred.” With his clear communication skill, managerial efficiency and administrative ability, Alfred almost became indispensable to the EAM. 

 In the Bible, we have a parallel between St. Paul and St. Barnabas. St. Paul was always the one in the open, always on the limelight, but Barnabas was the one working in the background. While Paul was preaching on stage, Barnabas was going around the room, in the back rows, in the side aisles, encouraging the marginalized, lifting up those who are downtrodden, and inspiring those who are lonely and forgotten. If Winston was Paul, surely Alfred was Barnabas. Alfred was an encourager.

As we say goodbye to Alfred today, let me remind you of some thoughts which Alfred and I shared. From the book, “Seven Habits of Highly Effective People,” the author Steven Covey wrote: “Each one of us should have a personal mission statement and it is a four-fold mission and that is To live; To love; To learn; and to leave a legacy.”

First, we must live life to the full. No matter how long or how short our life is, our first mission is to give meaning to the life that is borrowed. As one writer puts it, “sing like nobody’s listening, dance like nobody’s watching and live like it’s heaven on earth.” Methuselah lived to be 969 years old but nothing much had been written about him; Jesus of Nazareth died at the age of 33 but so much had been written about him because he lived life to the full!

Second, we must live to love. Love, in all its protean forms, is the greatest motivator. God’s agape love, unconditional love is what holds us together. If God takes his love from me, my lips shall turn into clay. God loves us so much and showed us how to love and care for one another. As Christ has loved us, so we must also love.

Third, we must learn continuously.  Alfred did not settle as a dentist; he did not settle as a journalist; he did not settle as a secretary of Asiamerica Ministries. He moved on to learn. He even wrote the lyrics of the song we have just sung, “You Gave Us Light To See.” Our world has so much mystery to unravel; our faith has so much theology to discover; and our lives has so much meaning to understand.. Though he did not look young to me, the great genius Albert Einstein said, “People like you and me never grow old. We never cease to stand like curious children before the great mystery into which we were born.” When Alfred’s obituary was published on my Facebook, many people asked me, “So Alfred was past 80 years old? He certainly did not look like he was 80! He looked so boyish!” Well, because at 82, he was still a learner!

Finally, we must leave a legacy. I was once walking in a beautiful park and I saw this sign, ”Take nothing but photographs; leave nothing but footprints.” Yes, as mortals, we are but visitors in this earthly park. We cannot take anything with us. Naked we come into this world and naked we return to our Maker. We can only take memories, and sometimes even our memories fade. But we can leave something in this world: the legacy of our deeds, the example of our virtues, the prophecy of our lofty dreams.

Alfred was endowed with such humility and grace and has left us with a legacy of a reconciler, an enabler and an encourager.  The psalmist says: “Precious in the sight of God is the death of his faithful servants”(Ps. 116:15). And wisdom says: “The souls of the righteous are in the hand of God, and no torment shall touch them” (Wisdom of Solomon 3:1). 

By the life he led, by the relationships he made and by his faith in Jesus Christ, Alfred  is an inheritor the promise:  “Let not your hearts be troubled. In my Father’s house are many mansions. I go to prepare a place for you and then I will come again, and bring you with me, so that where I am, there you may be also” (John 14:3). Yes, yes, in that place where there is no more pain, no more sickness, no more death, but only life of everlasting peace. Amen.


Friday, August 14, 2015



(Editor's Note: This is the 3rd and final installment of  Series of 3 articles on Asiamericans in the Episcopal Church. The first part is about the history of Asian immigration to the United States;  the second part is about the birth and growth of the Episcopal Asiamerica Ministries; and the third part is visualizing the challenges and hopes for the 21st Century.)

Asiamerican Missioner Fred Vergara and Presiding Bishop Katharine Jefferts Schori "waking up the dragon" at the 40th Anniversary Celebration of Episcopal Asiamerica Ministries held at Grace Cathedral, San Francisco in June 2013.

At his installation as the second Asiamerica Missioner in 2004, the Rev. Dr. Winfred B. Vergara wrote an article. “Asiamerica Ministries in the 21stCentury.” He predicted that the “the 21st century is going to be the Asia-America Century.” By that, he meant that Asia will join the United States of America as a partner in the global search for a truly free, humane, just and peaceful world community.
Here is an excerpt from Vergara’s article:

"The Asia-America Century will alter the way we do politics, religion and theology. My faith statement is not without basis. Over thirty years ago, as a Filipino missionary priest serving in the Anglican Church of Singapore, I listened to a lecture from a noted economist, Gunnar Myrdal, author of a celebrated book, The Asian Drama. When asked why he wrote Asian Drama and not African Drama or Latin American Drama or European Drama, he replied, “I got impressed with this idea that the destiny of humankind will come to be decided in Asia because it is such a tremendously large part of humanity.”

“That Asia and Asians dominate the geographic and demographic milieu is a statement of fact. Asia covers 29.4% of the Earth’s land area and has a population of almost 2/3rd of the world’s seven billion people. Together, China’s and India’s populations alone are estimated to be almost three billion. The majority languages of the world are Mandarin, Hindi, English and Spanish in that hierarchical order.”

"China and India also complement each other (yin yang) as the via media of Asian pragmatism and wisdom tradition. Chinese pragmatism is exemplified by Deng Xiaoping who opened China to globalization. As China’s foremost leader in 1978-1992, Deng instituted China’s “open door” policy and introduced free enterprise into China socialist economy with such words “It doesn’t  matter if they are black cats or white cats, so long as they catch mice, they are good cats.” On the other hand, India’s wisdom tradition is expressed by one of its many sages, Mahatma Gandhi, who saw God in everything, has an advice to Christian evangelists: “To a hungry person, God appears in a loaf of bread.” 
Deng Xiaoping: Asian Pragmatism Tradition
Mahatma Gandhi: Asian Wisdom Tradition

“Today, both China and India are leading the world in reaping the fruits of globalization. China with its manufacturing industry saturates the world’s retail shops with its products. Someone jokingly said, “In the beginning God made the world. After that, everything was made in China!” India, for its own distinction, has greatly improved its computer industry. It is a fact that when Silicon Valley in California had its computer glut in Y2K (Year 2000), the savvy American computer engineers turned to their counterparts in Bangalore, the technopolis of India.”
Theology and Ministry
Vergara relates the secular phenomenon to the spiritual realm. He said, “It is my belief that whenever something new happens in the external world, what follows is something new in the internal world. Religion often precedes science but sometimes it is the other way around. The spirit often precedes the flesh but sometimes it is the other way around.”

“In the Christian world, whenever there is a spiritual awakening, there also follows material prosperity. As a nation seeks the kingdom of God, “all these things are added” (Matthew 6:33). But sometimes the reverse is true. When the world awakens to the truth and expresses it in arts and literature, the church also experiences revival of its own understanding of God. The Church often prophesies to Society but sometimes the reverse is true; Society also prophesies to the Church.”

“Church is oftentimes the avant garde for social change; sometimes the opposite is true; Society can also lead the Church to change. There are prophets in both sides.”

“One example was the renaissance and the religious reformation in Europe. When Italian arts awakened to the works of Michelangelo, Leonardo Da Vinci, Donatello, Botticelli and the Medici family, the religious realm of Europe also brought the German Reformation of Martin Luther and the English Reformation of Henry VIII and Bishop Cranmer. “ 

It is therefore my belief that the Asia-America Century will bring forth a new revival of humanities and the arts as well as new doing of theology. Already, there are more important discourses happening across the Pacific than across the Atlantic, presenting new possibilities for Asiamerica Ministries of the Episcopal Church.

Last June 2013, the Episcopal Church celebrated the 40th Anniversary of the Episcopal Asiamerica Ministries with the theme, “Remember the Past, Celebrate the Present and Visualize the Future.” 

It was in 1973 in 1973 when the first missioner, The Rev. Dr. Winston Ching founded the infrastructure on which the Asian ministries would be established. It was in 2004 when second missioner,  the Rev. Dr. Winfred Vergara strengthened the foundations and enabled ministries to flourish. As the bible says, “Paul planted, Apollos watered, but it is God who gives the growth.”   

We remembered the life and works of the pioneers, including Ah For of Nevada, the railroad worker who became the first Chinese missionary in the United States until the Chinese Exclusion Act; and the Rev. Hiram Hisanori Kano, the first Japanese American priest ordained in the United States and who figured as priest, pastor and evangelist in the Japanese Internment Camps. At the recent 78th General Convention of the Episcopal Church held in Salt Lake City (June 23-July 3, 2015), the Rev. Hisanori Kano was approved to be included in the Calendar of Holy Women Holy Men.

With Kano's inclusion, there are now four Asian "saints" in the Episcopal Church calendar: The Rev.Florence Li Tim Oi, the first woman to be ordained in the entire Anglican Communion; the Rev. Daniel G.C. Wu, the first missionary priest of True Sunshine Church in San Francisco & Church of our Savior, Oakland; the Most Rev. Gregorio Aglipay, the founder and first Obispo Maximo of the Iglesia Filipina Independente which is in concordat of full communion with TEC; and the Rev. Kano, from the Diocese of Nebraska, the saint among the internees and prisoners of the Internment camps during World War II.

Today, there are over a hundred churches and ministries in the Episcopal Church that identify themselves as ethnic Asian, pan-Asian or Asian-led multicultural churches. In some dioceses, there are diocesan Asian Commissions whose task is to assist the bishops in understanding the needs and hopes of the Asian community; to promote collegiality among Asian clergy and lay leaders; and to advise the Asiamerica Missioner on program priorities. 

Asiamerica Ministries features the following programs and activities:
(1) Planting new churches and strengthening existing ones;

(2) Leadership training through Consultations and Convocations;

(3) Collegial fellowships through EAM Diocesan Commissions;

(4) Online Ministry training through Asiamerica Virtual Classroom; 

(5) EAM-EDS (Episcopal Divinity School) Partnership Doctor of Ministry Course; 

(6) Asia-America Theological Exchange Forum in partnership with the Partnership Office for Asia and the Pacific (Canon Peter Ng, Officer); 

(7) Hmong and Southeast Asia Church Planting Enterprise (The Rev. Toua Vang, Hmong Missioner);   

(8) Asiamerica Mission to End Modern Slavery (AMEMS) (based in Queens, New York, with Ms. Bern Ellorin, Consultant) in partnership with the Episcopal Diocese of Long Island in building coalition with grassroots organizations in the campaign against Human Trafficking.
In his message to the 40th EAM anniversary celebration held in San Francisco in 2013, Missioner Vergara summarized the endeavors of Asiamerica Ministries into three acronyms: 

ARISE which means “Asiamerica Renewal In Strategic Evangelization.”We shall prioritize discipleship, evangelism and witness by planting more Asiamerican and Pacific Islanders churches and making new missionary inroads to new immigrants as well as established ethnic communities;

2.     AFIRE which means “Asiamerica Focus on Immigrant Rights and Education.” We shall find new ways to advocate for the immigrants including the millions of undocumented immigrants who are “harassed and helpless like sheep without a shepherd.” One lesson we learned from Chinese Exclusion Act and the Japanese Internment is that “congregational development and leadership advocacy” are inextricably intertwined. If the church welcomes and advocates for the immigrants, the church will flourish. But if the church is hostile and apathetic to immigrants, the church will decline.

3.     ATONE means “Asiamerica Theology Online Networking and Exchange.” We shall continue to emphasize new ways of sharing our voice in the complexities and pluralities of faiths, cultures and ideologies in Asia Pacific Basin. Through Asia-America Theological Exchange Forums and other media, we will continue to connect with Asia and the Pacific. As a network of congregations and ministries, we shall continue to promote mutual responsibility and interdependence in pursuing the Christian mission of reconciliation, drawing wisdom from the past and celebrating the present gains.

Quo Vadis Episcopal Asiamerica Ministries?
As the time of this writing, we are informed by our colleagues in the Anglican Church in Canada that a similar structure like the EAM is being formed through the ACAM – Asian Canadian Anglican Ministries. We hope that similar structures can happen in Europe and the England among the Asian clergy and lay leaders.

If leadership is “influence,” then we at EAM shares the credit. Starting with EAM in Hawaii, we are also hoping to extend our ministries with the Pacific Islanders, something which we actually began in the early work of EAM from 1973. 

On September 30-October 5, 2015 the EAM Churchwide Consultation will be held in Seoul, Korea. Set to coincide with the celebration of the 125th anniversary of the establishment of the Anglican Church of Korea, the theme of the EAM gathering is “Celebrating our Partnership; Uniting our Missions.”  

With God’s help and the leading of the Holy Spirit, Asiamerica Ministries will continue to help build the Kingdom of God among Asiamericans and Pacific islanders in North America, Asia and the world.

Asiamerica Missioner: The Rev. Canon Dr. Winfred B. Vergara
EAM Council (2015):
Executive Committee:
President: The Rev. Bayani D. Rico
Vice-President: Mimi Wu
Secretary: The Rev. Irene Tanabe
Treasurer: Inez Saley
Ex-Officio: Canon Peter Ng
Ex-Officio: The Rev. Canon Dr. Winfred Vergara
Convocation Conveners:
Chinese: The Rev. Ada Wong Nagata and the Rev. Peter Wu
Japanese: Dr. Gayle Kawahara and Dr. Malcolm Hee
Korean: The Rev. Aidan Koh
Filipino: The Rev. Leonard Oakes and Evelina Fradejas
South Asian: The Rev. Anandsekar J. Manuel & The Rev. John Sewak Ray
Southeast Asian: Teng Lo and Hanh Tran
Youth & Young Adults: Longkee Vang
EAM Advocates:Warren Wong

Thursday, August 13, 2015



In history, The Episcopal Church is the first Anglican Province outside of the British Isles. The Church of England which the early English settlers established in the original colonies would be  drawn into the American Revolution of 1776. As the American Independence was achieved, the U.S. Anglicans assembled in Philadelphia in 1789 and unified all American Anglicans into a single national Church, the Protestant Episcopal Church of the USA (PECUSA). They adopted a Constitution and revised the 1662 English Book of Common Prayer by removing the prayer for the English monarch.

Samuel Seabury was subsequently ordained in Scotland as the first American Bishop of the independent American Church in an independent American Nation. The Episcopal Church was born and nurtured in the cradle of American Independence.

The Episcopal Church in Asia

As a part of the young and emergent superpower which is the USA, The Episcopal Church would thereafter become involved in the American missionary enterprises in Asia. Particularly in the Philippines, Korea, Okinawa, Vietnam, Laos, and Cambodia, American Protestant missions came alongside American political and military imperialism. Motivated by “manifest destiny” and “the white man’s burden,” American missionaries would go along with military and political agents to evangelize in Asian countries, establish missionary outposts, and build missionary dioceses, hospitals, seminaries, and colleges.
The Episcopal Church made particular missionary successes in Philippines, Taiwan and Micronesia. The Episcopal missionary district which began at the advent of American neo-colonization in Philippines would eventually grow and developed into an independent province, the Episcopal Church in the Philippines (ECP). The Episcopalians in Taiwan on the other hand, would become a significant diocese in Province VIII of the Episcopal Church. The Church in Micronesia (Guam and Saipan) would become part of the Diocese of Hawaii.

Today, the Episcopal Church is present in over seventeen countries all over the world. It has become a global church.

The Episcopal Church also made ecumenical alliances with Asian indigenous churches such as the Iglesia Filipina Independiente in the Philippines and the Mar Thoma Church in India. Charles Henry Brent, the first Episcopal missionary bishop in the Philippines was one of the pioneers of the World Council of Churches in general and the Philippine ecumenical movement in particular. The Church of South India and the Church of North India were “uniting churches” of former Anglican, Methodist, Presbyterian denominations and products of ecumenical ventures in unity.

How did Asians navigate into the Episcopal Church? As Filipino and Taiwanese Episcopalians and Concordat partners immigrated to the United States, they would seek the familiarity of the Episcopal Church that they knew back home. And because the Episcopal Church is part of the worldwide Anglican Communion, Anglicans from such countries as Japan, Korea, China, India, Hong Kong and Singapore would also look for The Episcopal Church, as the equivalent of the Anglican Church back home.

The Beginning of Asian Ministry in North America

In the North American context, the earliest recorded Asiamerican Episcopal Church dates back to 1870, when a Chinese railroad worker named Ah Foo was converted by the American Tract Society. Although he was baptized in the Presbyterian Church, for some reason, he decided to serve as a lay missioner for the Episcopal Diocese of Nevada.

Fired up with zeal for the gospel, Ah Foo (Ah For) evangelized to his friends working in the transcontinental railroads in Nevada. In 1870, he organized the Good Shepherd Chinese Church in Carson City. In 1874, he founded another mission in Virginia City. With funds collected from his fellow railroad workers and a grant from a Caucasian sympathizer from New York, Ah Foo constructed the House of Prayer Chapel. He translated the Episcopal liturgy into Chinese, led Bible Study and provided pastoral care among the Chinese workers.

Ah Foo grew the Chinese congregation to about 150 members. Unfortunately, the chapel was destroyed in the great fire in Virginia City in 1875. The loss of the chapel, the lack of moral support from the mainstream Anglo diocese and the emerging hostility of the nativists against the Chinese immigrants greatly discouraged Ah Foo. Finally as the racist Chinese Exclusion Act of 1882 was implemented, Ah Foo disbanded the congregation and left the area. The fledgling Chinese Episcopal mission came to an abrupt end.

The Revival of Asian Ministry by the Japanese

After 1882, there was no recorded Asian presence in the Episcopal Church. But in 1895, the Rev. Masaichi Tai, the first Japanese priest ordained in the Nippon Sei Ko Kai in Japan, was sent to California by the Rt. Rev. John McCain, missionary Bishop of Kwanto Province in Japan.

The Rev. Tai started his ministry among Japanese laborers, meeting them at his living quarters in 421 Powell Street, San Francisco. Overcome by homesickness, Tai returned to Japan in 1896 and was replaced by the Rev. Kumazo Mikami. Mikami served at Advent Episcopal Church and succeeded in evangelizing and presenting at least five candidates for confirmation in the Diocese of California. He resigned in 1899 and was replaced by the Rev. Daijiro Yoshimura, who became the first canonically resident Japanese priest in the Diocese of California and the United States.

With the assistance of Miss Mary Patterson, a former missionary in Nagano Prefecture, the Rev. Yoshimura was able to convince the diocese to provide for a new worship space in 1001 Pine Street, San Francisco. Because of her familiarity with Japanese language and culture, Miss Patterson was able to effectively advocate for the Japanese mission and to serve as a bridge between Japanese clergy and the diocese. The fledgling Japanese congregation was officially recognized as an Episcopal mission in 1902. In 1915, under the administration of Deacon Paul Murakami, the first Japanese graduate of the Church Divinity School of the Pacific (CDSP), the mission became Christ Church Sei Ko Kai, registering a membership of 25 adults and 20 children, with a budget of around $500.

Christ Church in San Francisco is the acknowledged mother church of other Japanese churches, such as St. Mary’s Mission, Los Angeles, in 1907; St. Peter’s Mission, Seattle, in 1912; Epiphany Mission, Portland, Oregon, in 1935; and St. George’s Mission, Scottsbluff, Nebraska, in 1938.

Most of these Japanese Episcopal churches flourished for many years. In 1941, the U.S. joined the Pacific War, following the Japanese bombing of Pearl Harbor. The Japanese-Episcopal churches were abandoned as many Japanese-Americans were sent to internment camps in remote places of the country. After the war, returnees from the internment camps revived their churches, but their vitality was adversely affected by the negative experiences of American war hysteria. One of those who figured as heroes among the internees was the Rev. Hiram Hisanori Kano, the Japanese Episcopal priest who ministered to his fellow Japanese in their internment camp as well as to German prisoners of war. Kano’s legacy was celebrated in the Diocese of Nebraska where he served and his name is being considered in the “Holy Women, Holy Women” liturgical calendar.

Chinese Missions in 1900

After the untimely demise of the first Chinese mission in Nevada City in 1874, a new Chinese mission was started in San Francisco in 1905. Organized by Emma Drant, a deaconess from Hawaii who was tutored in Cantonese, this mission grew into a sizable congregation.

In 1906, the great earthquake of San Francisco left 4,000 residents dead, over 300,000 homeless, and 80% of the city destroyed. The Chinese congregation evacuated to Oakland as the city underwent redevelopment. When the city’s restoration was over, only half of the original congregation returned to San Francisco, while the other half remained in Oakland. The congregation that returned to San Francisco was named True Sunshine Church, and the one that remained in Oakland was named Our Saviour’s Church.

From San Francisco and Oakland, Chinese congregational development moved to Los Angeles (St. Gabriel’s Church); Seattle (Holy Apostles Church); Manhattan, New York (Our Savior, Chinatown); Flushing, New York (St. George’s Church); Brooklyn, New York (St. Peter’s Church); and the Chinese mission in St. Paul’s Cathedral in Boston, among others.

Korean and Filipino Missions

The Korean Episcopal Ministry in Hawaii was first planned in 1906, but became visible in 1907 with the establishment of St. Luke’s Episcopal Parish in Honolulu, which ministered among Korean immigrants. St. Luke’s Korean Ministry had its years of fecundity, but by the latter part of the 20th century had evolved into a multicultural church, as with most parishes in Hawaii. Many original Korean members of St. Luke’s and their offspring also moved to the U.S. mainland and would later help establish Korean missions in California, New York, New Jersey, Virginia, Illinois, Texas, Florida, and Tennessee.

Most Filipinos who came to the U.S. in the early 1900s as farm workers in Hawaii and California were Ilocano males of Roman Catholic background. There was an attempt by The Episcopal Church in San Francisco to to reach out to the Filipino Manongs in the 1940's during the War (WW II) years. A missioner named Mondejar from Iloilo City worked in Christ's Church and made outreach in Stockton, California but it did not prosper. It was after the Concordat of Full Communion with the Iglesia Filipina Independiente (IFI) in 1961 and the formation of the Episcopal Asiamerica Ministry in 1973 that the Filipino congregational development  began first in Hawaii and later in New York and California.

Establishment of Episcopal Asiamerica Ministry

The American Immigration Reform of 1965 relatively eradicated the overt and structural racism and hostility of the Chinese Exclusion Act, the anti-miscegenation laws against the Filipinos, and the Japanese internment camps. It also increased the quotas of immigrants from Asia. As the United States rose as a super power, it became a magnet for many immigrants from Asia seeking a better future and escaping the grinding poverty in their home countries. As Asian immigrants began to settle in the U.S., they sought spiritual communities. It was a perfect environment for Christian evangelism and church growth.

The few Episcopal Asiamerican churches, which were mainly Chinese and Japanese, were not only recuperating from the nightmares of their past but were also struggling to find their places in the largely white American mainstream. Meanwhile, the unparalleled positive impact of the American civil rights movement led to the emergence of advocacies among the black, Native American, and Hispanic caucuses within the mainstream Episcopal Church. The Asian Episcopalians were few and far between.  

So it was providential that in 1973, Canon James Pun was called to serve as priest of True Sunshine Church in San Francisco. He had just come from Hong Kong and understood the sense of isolation of Asian clergy. He saw the need for a national Chinese ministry in the Episcopal Church to reach out to the increasing number of Chinese immigrants moving into the various parts of the country from Hong Kong, Taiwan, and China. Pun began to communicate his sense of loneliness, reaching out to other Asian clergy.

In their first meeting, in March 1973, the Rev. Canon John H.M. Yamasaki, rector of St. Mary’s Japanese Church in Los Angeles and representative of Province VIII to the Executive Council of the General Convention of the Episcopal Church, affirmed the sentiment of James Pun and proposed an ad hoc committee to study the matter. It was agreed that Asian clergy should not only serve as chaplains to Asian Episcopalians, but that they should develop a strategy to enable mission and evangelism among the Asian peoples who were immigrating in record numbers to the United States. It was also imperative that a national plan to develop “Asian and Pacific Island Ministries” be recommended to The Episcopal Church.

The members of the ad hoc committee were the Rev. Canon John Yamasaki, who took the recommendation to the Executive Council and then to the General Convention of the Episcopal Church; the Venerable Lincoln Eng, who was then rector of St. Bartholomew’s Church in Beaverton, Oregon, and served as executive secretary of the ad hoc committee; the Rev. Winston Ching, who was vicar of St. John the Evangelist in San Francisco and chair of the ad hoc committee, and who presented the proposal to the executive committee in Louisville, Kentucky, just prior to the General Convention. Other members included Mrs. Betty Lee, a lay leader from the Diocese of California; the Rev. Victor Wei, who was then the executive administrator of the Diocese of California; and Canon James Pun.

The ad hoc committee drafted and finalized the resolution and submitted it to the 64th General Convention of the Episcopal Church, which met in Louisville, Kentucky, September 29 - October 11, 1973. The resolution called for the establishment of “Episcopal Asiamerica Ministry in order to deepen and strengthen the existing ministries of the Episcopal Church involved with Asian and Pacific Island peoples as well as to establish new ones.” The word “Asiamerica” was invented to include both American-born as well as foreign-born (immigrant) persons of Asian ancestry.

The response of the General Convention was overwhelming. The resolution was unanimously adopted with a corresponding initial budget of $50,000 to fund the development of Asian ministries and to hire a staff officer. At the first meeting of the Episcopal Asiamerica Ministry in San Francisco, following the General Convention, Canon James Pun declared, “I only asked for a bicycle; but they gave us a bus and hired a driver!”

Congregational Development and Advocacy
The Episcopal Asiamerica historical experience demonstrates the truism that congregational development and political advocacy are inextricably intertwined. Where there is hostility and lack of advocates for their inclusion, immigrant faith communities will not survive as in the case of the first Chinese Episcopal Church (Ah Foo) during the Chinese Exclusion Acts of 1882 and the many Japanese Churches during the Japanese Internment era. But where there is hospitality and advocacy for their inclusion, as in the establishment of Episcopal Asiamerica Ministry, the  immigrant churches will survive and flourish.

The correlation of congregational development and political advocacy is acutely true with Asian immigrant churches in the United States. Asian immigrants are generally passive-aggressive and do not show their displeasure openly. Their wheels seldom squeak, they hide their tears and are experts in self-deprecation. In churches, they do not often self-volunteer but are quick to comply with ministry when asked to serve. They vote with their feet, that is, when they sense hospitality and welcome, the stay but when they sense hostility and racism, the quietly leave. With the history of Chinese Exclusion, Japanese Internment and Filipino anti-miscegenation, these reactions to the attitudes of the mainstream church is understandable.

This is another way of saying that in many cases, the Asian immigrants would gladly have joined the mainstream white and black Episcopal churches. But having Ethnic Asiamerican churches provided them with a safety net to work out their faith in their own languages and cultures as well as to shield them from being rebuffed in the mainstream and dominant American churches.

Since its establishment by the General Convention in 1973, the Asiamerica Ministries office has been actively involved in planting, strengthening and expanding ministries of The Episcopal Church among the Asian and Pacific Islanders.  In the west coast, the Dioceses of Hawaii, California, El Camino Real, San Joaquin, San Diego, Los Angeles, Olympia, Nevada, Arizona and Colorado have been active. In the east coast, the dioceses of New York, Long Island, New Jersey, Newark, Pennsylvania, Virginia, Massachusetts and Maryland have been active. In the midland, the dioceses of Chicago, Fond Du Lac, Georgia,Forth Worth, Texas and Minnesota have been active.
In its earlier years, the Episcopal Church ”Venture in Mission had provided “seed grants” for the planting of congregations. In the ensuing years, grants have been given for the translations of the Book of Common Prayer in some Asian languages such as Chinese, Korean, Japanese, Vietnamese, Cambodian and Hmong.

Models of Asiamerica Congregational Development
The development of congregations serving Asiamerica communities has taken many forms depending on local contexts. The following are some models of Asiamerica congregational development:

Classic Ethnic Church:  This congregation grows to acquire a building for worship and staffed by at least one priest. It features a clearly defined ethnic or cultural identity, financial independence and adequate building and property.  The True Sunshine Episcopal Church in San Francisco for instance, started up as a Chinese mission congregation in 1905 and attained parish status in 1973. This is true in many Asiamerica ethnic parishes such as Church of our Savior, New York Chinatown; Church of our Savior, Oakland; One in Christ Church in Chicago; St. John’s Episcopal Church in Flushing, New York and many others.

Rented or Shared Facility: Two separate congregations sharing common facility, oftentimes with an Anglo congregation who “owns” the building and an ethnic church renting. This feature is less expensive for the ethnic congregation and a help to the Anglo congregation who earns from the rental. It also allows for an “intercultural fellowship.”   St. Benedict’s  Filipino Church, established in 1988, first rented the facilities  of St. Martha’s Episcopal Church in West Covina. In 1991, they moved to Holy Trinity in Alhambra, California and became “yoked” or ”merged”with the Anglo Church. 

Yoked or Merged Church: A new Asiamerica congregation is yoked to a declining Euro-American congregation with a single ethnic priest serving both constituencies under one church name or identity.  Although the priest is Asiamerican, the ownership and control of the building often belong to the declining congregation, thus the ethnic priest suffers the difficulty of navigating leadership in both congregations, especially when the ethnic priest does not have proficiency in the English language.  After a certain period, either the “merging” is dissolved or the ethnic group outgrow the declining Anglo congregation. Examples of this merging are St. Francis (Korea-Anglo) in Norwalk, California; Holy Child-St. John’s (Filipino-Anglo) in Wilmington, California; Holy Child-St. Martin’s (Filipino-Anglo) in Daly City, California; and Trinity-St. Benedict’s (Filipino-Anglo) in Alhambra, California.

Fellowship:  A loose affiliation where participants are also members of existing parishes or congregations in nearby parishes or dioceses. The primary focus is language or cultural fellowships. It provides low cost maintenance as participants gather only weekly or monthly and without organizational structure. Example of this model is the Metropolitan Filipino Fellowship (MFM), which meets in Good Shepherd Church in Manhattan, New York.

Open-Ended Fellowship/Church With No Walls: Similar to Fellowship, the feature of this ministry is providing activities that draw together ethnic communities coming from various regions. Faith formation, spiritual development and pastoral care happen in host congregations coordinated by a regional lay or clergy missioner. Example of this model is the Metropolitan Japanese Ministry (MJM) which currently meets at St. James Church in Scarsdale, New York.

Asian Congregation in a mainstream parish:  An Asiamerica congregation flourishing even in the context of a mainline parish led by a non-Asian rector. The ethnic group is often led by a church growth ethnic curate” who grows the congregation in both finances and membership, often more than the traditional congregation. Example of this model is the Chinese congregation of St. George’s Episcopal Church in Flushing, New York.

Asiamerican-led Bi-lingual, tri-lingual church: An Asiamerican clergy who speaks English, Spanish aside from his/her ethnic language is assigned to a congregation and develops bi-lingual services. Example of this model is St. Luke’s Church in the Diocese of Arizona (Tagalog-Spanish-English).

Asiamerican-led bi-cultural, multi-ethnic or Pan-Asian Ministry: Asiamerican rector or priest-in-charge develops multiracial English-speaking congregation and several Asian language services in one single parish or mission. This “one church, many cultures” model has a Vestry or Bishop’s Committee which represents the various ethnic groups and services. Example of this model is St. James Episcopal Church in Elmhurst, New York and St. Ambrose Episcopal Church in Foster City, California.

Covenant churches: Two or more churches with clergy leaders signing a joint covenant of mutual encouragement and sharing of resources in administration, pastoral care and evangelism renting a common facility and neighborhood outreach. Example of this model is Holy Child (Filipino) and St. Joseph’s (Anglo) churches in Milpitas (Silicon Valley), California.

Concordat and Ecumenical parish: A congregation established and maintained by a clergy of the Episcopal Church but drawing membership from concordat or ecumenical churches. Examples of this model are St. Paul’s Episcopal Church in Woodridge in the Diocese of Newark (Episcopal and Church of South India) and St. Paul’s Church in Honolulu, Hawaii (Episcopal and Iglesia Filipina Independiente.)

To assist the Asiamerica Missioner who is employed by the Episcopal Church Center based in New York City, the Episcopal Asiamerica Ministry Council was formed in 1955. Over time, the EAMC served as “partners-in-mission, advisory council, and advocate” to the Asiamerica Missioner in connecting and coordinating the national consultations and the various Ethnic Convocations.
Members of the EAM Council are the elected conveners of the EAM Ethnic Convocations, the EAM Youth & Young Adults and the EAM Advocates. At some point, it also included liaisons from the Dioceses, Diocesan Commissions, Executive Council, EAM Women, as well as representatives from the Iglesia Filipina Independiente and the Mar Thoma Church. Due to decreasing funding, current membership to the EAM Council has been limited to EAM Ethnic conveners and conveners of youth and EAM Advocates. The Asiamerica Missioner and the Partnership Officer for Asia and the Pacific are ex-officio members. 

In addition to the EAM Council, several dioceses have also formed diocesan commissions which further assist the Asiamerica Missioner in coordinating congregational development and advocacy in their specific dioceses. ( TO BE CONTINUED)