Honoring the Nestorian Christians

Saturday, October 31, 2015

The Future of Asia-America Partnership in Mission

EAM KOREA (2nd of a Series)


(Keynote speech of The Most Rev. Katharine Jefferts Schori, 26th Presiding Bishop and Primate of the Episcopal Church at the Episcopal Asia-America Ministry Consultation held on September 30-July 5, 2015 in the Cathedral of St. Mary and St. Nicholas, Seoul, Korea)
Presiding Bishop Katharine Jefferts Schori being welcomed by the Korean Folk Dancers
Presiding Bishop Katharine Jefferts Schori and Archbishop Paul Kim of the Anglican Church of Korea

The EAM Participants in Ganghwa Island, Korea where the Anglican Church of Korea first begun.
 If we’re willing to look back several millennia, we might recognize that the first witnesses of the gospel in the Americas had Asian roots.  The indigenous peoples of the Americas migrated there from NE Asia more than 20 thousand years ago.[1]  The first witnesses of an Anglican service in the Americas were Native Americans looking on as Sir Francis Drake’s chaplain held a prayer service north of San Francisco Bay in 1579.  One of the first two people baptized by Anglicans was Manteo, a Croatan chief, in 1587; the other was a baby, Virginia Dare, born to parents who were part of the “Lost Colony” off the coast of what is now North Carolina.[2]  The first recorded Chinese Anglican service held in North America took place in 1871 in Virginia City, Nevada.  Asian roots are deep and pervasive in The Episcopal Church, from Ah Foo who ministered to Chinese miners and railroad workers in Virginia City and Carson City in the 1870s,[3] to Hiram Hisanori Kano, who worked with Japanese immigrants in Nebraska beginning in the 1920s.  He was the only Japanese-American in Nebraska to be interned during the war, apparently because as a priest he was seen to be so dangerous!  We are giving thanks here for the first Hmong congregation in TEC, now served by Fr. Toua Vang.

            The Asia-American experience in TEC is not simply a history, but an unfolding and growing reality in North America.  While the Latino population has been the largest immigrant presence in recent decades, the latest census projections in the United States indicate that immigration from Asia will make that population the fastest growing by 2025.[4]

            What does this mean for TEC and for our varied contexts, and not only in the US?  What does it mean for the Anglican Communion?  Certainly the presence of various Asian cultures has been an expansive blessing for this church, and has offered other cultures a broader and richer understanding of what it means to love God and neighbor with all our heart and soul and mind and strength.  We learn that God is worshiped in ways that are broader and deeper than what we first knew:  the deeply quiet reverence of a traditional Japanese liturgy; the surprising vigor of an Igorot gong dance; the liveliness of a Chinese dragon dance welcoming a new bishop in San Francisco or Los Angeles; the feathered smudge, drum, and flute of Native Americans.  

            The gifts of migration move in both directions, from Asia to America, and back again.  We are slowly growing into the great dream of the last half-century, that we might become Mutually Responsible and Interdependent parts of the body of Christ.  I’m going to speak primarily of what I see as the gifts of Asian sending contexts for The Episcopal Church.  I hope and expect that others might speak of what is received here in Asia.

            The most powerful witness of the churches and provinces of Asia for their brothers and sisters in TEC is two-fold – the creative and contextual forms of ministry in those varied places, and the overriding focus on reconciliation and peace-making.  Yesterday we heard powerful accounts of the difficulties that early missionaries had evangelizing in several Asian contexts, particularly when there was a refusal or inability to recognize what God was already doing in those contexts.  Certainly one of the prophetic leaders in shifting that dynamic was Roland Allen, who in the early twentieth century claimed a missionary method like the apostle Paul’s.  Allen said he believed his duty was to bring the scriptures and the sacraments, and then get out of the way, encouraging the gospel to take root in native soil.[5]  The vigorous trees of life that have grown in varied Anglican-Episcopal contexts in Asia have borne fruit that when planted in other soil has begun to deeply bless that context.  That fruit looks and tastes a bit different than it does here – and we’ve heard some of the challenges that come of expecting it to be identical, particularly for new generations. 

            One of the gifts of the Anglican Communion in recent decades has been the focus on Five Marks of Mission, with an implicit expectation of variation in different contexts.[6]  That framework exemplifies the kind of theologizing we can do together, and it’s become an important marker in thinking about and acting on God’s call to reconciling the world.  I want to encourage you to learn to put these into your own language, and what I’m going to offer is only an example.

            Reconciliation is the foundation of God’s mission, and our response and partnership comes through deeply owning that vision of a healed world, giving our heart to the goal we call the Reign of God, by believing it and acting on it (Mark I).  We share that mission by forming others, and being formed ourselves, as students and disciples of that good news vision (Mark II).  We partner with others to relieve the suffering in this world, through concrete response to particular human pain and dis-ease (Mark III).  We come together to change the human systems of domination that sustain and permit human suffering, injustice of all kinds, and the particular evil of war and violence (Mark IV).  And as Anglicans, we are newly re-awakening to the original human vocation – tending the garden in which we’re planted (Mark V).  There can be no long-term hope for achieving that vision of peace and justice if the earth cannot sustain life, and life in abundance, for all its inhabitants.

            Each of the cultures and languages represented here is partnering in God’s mission in a variety of creative ways.  I’m going to note just a few of the very creative missional endeavors taking place across this hemisphere.  

            Proclaiming good news:  following the earthquake, tsunami, and nuclear disaster in Sendai, Japan, the NSKK responded by caring for particular communities in specific ways.  In one small community, relocated residents were housed in shelters built into shipping containers.  They were modest, and very functional, and church workers soon learned of residents’ deep hunger for the social and emotional support that people had known in their former homes.  For one thing, their housing didn’t have traditional soaking tubs.  Church members began to offer tea ceremonies in these communities – to people of varying religious traditions or none.  The NSKK stood in solidarity with a fishing village where most of the wives were Filipino immigrants, often isolated from the rest of the community – so they offered language courses and social support.  Yet another initiative hosted a bakery that employed mentally disabled and joyous young adults.  Reconciliation in that crisis recovery context reminded people of their basic human dignity and value, in ways that were specific to the need.  That walking together is a quiet and deeply authentic way of proclaiming good news in deed and word.

            Form new disciples:  The Episcopal Church in the Philippines and the Iglesia Filipina Independiente are clear about their desire to share resources, like a seminary.  The two traditions largely work in different geographic contexts – by choice, out of a theological and ecclesiological belief that they shouldn’t be competing.[7]  All human communities have something to learn from that witness, for the tense struggle between identity and collegial partnership is as old as Cain and Abel.

            Education efforts by Anglicans and Episcopalians everywhere help to form human beings for life in community that will lead to more abundant life for all.  Some of those disciples are overtly and avowedly Christian; others become stronger Buddhists, Hindus, Jews, and Muslims, and all have the lively experience of creative encounter in a diverse environment.  Rikkyo University in Tokyo; Nanjing Theological College in China; St. Andrew’s seminary, Brent School, and Trinity University in Manila; several bilingual kindergartens and St. John’s University in Taiwan; Ming Hua and other educational institutions in Hong Kong; and Songkunghoe University here in Seoul are all engaged in forming citizens to take their place as agents of change in their local communities, nations, and the world.  The vision of change they inherit and discover through these institutions is about abundant life for all. 

            Learning that vision, making it one’s own deeply enough to say that I believe it, and give my heart and soul and being to that vision, is the fruit of practice and habit.  We learn to love our neighbors as ourselves from guides who help to form habits for the journey.  It may look like sharing a meal with a lonely and frail elder, tutoring a school child, feeding a hungry person, or gathering for worship with people and in ways that challenge us all.  Those habits include the courage and will to reach across fear, difference, and violence in search of peace, knowing that justice is essential to peace.  I will come back to this, as I think it is the particular gift of many provinces in this part of the world.

            The last Mark of Mission has to do with caring for the earth.  The Church in the Philippines has been prophetic in working with farmers to rediscover and honor traditional agricultural techniques, and improve them without the use of seeds which require excessive use of fertilizers, pesticides, and herbicides.  The Kiyosato Educational Experiment Project (KEEP) and the Asian Rural Institute are other examples of long-standing mission work that seek to reconcile human beings with their environment.  Working toward the sustainability of fisheries and aquaculture is a hallmark of the Polynesian church’s mission; the church in Bangladesh challenges the world to address climate change and the coastal flooding they are increasingly suffering.  So, too, does the plight of the many island peoples of the Pacific, who are seeing their garden soils and drinking water become increasingly salty and their ancestral lands slowly sink beneath the sea.  Seafarers missions seek to sustain the life and livelihoods of those in peril on the sea.

            I want to return to the form of reconciliation held up in the 4th Mark of Mission:  challenging violence and seeking peace.  It’s worth noting that any concrete work that seeks to end violence always confronts unjust systems that lead to and sustain violence.  That confrontation can elicit violent response, as Jesus knew and experienced.  Human communities often descend into violence in the face of scarce resources, whether that scarcity is real or imagined.  The expansionist lust for power, territory, or the ability to impose a particular worldview are variations on that same theme of scarcity.  The wars that have been fought in this part of the world in recent centuries, the imperial and colonial adventures of regimes both local and foreign, and the ongoing and varied alliances of some powers against others all tell the same sad human story we know from Genesis, Exodus, the Roman occupation of Palestine, and more recent conflicts.  

            The Christian witness in Asia has had a checkered history, just as it has in other parts of the world.  Many of the early Christian missionaries came as part of colonial and imperial expansionism.  At the same time, many of those early witnesses to the power of God in Jesus Christ demonstrated what they professed by literally giving their lives, as white martyrs and red ones.  Their witness continues to change hearts, and to make reconciliation and peace-building more possible.  The peace-making initiative of TOPIK[8] seeks not only peace on this Korean peninsula, but an expanding possibility of peace throughout this region and the world.  When we see the selfless action of even a few, it gives courage to the many, and the cause of peace advances.  For the love demonstrated in the quest for peace does cast out fear.

            The world needs that confidence that peace is possible, particularly in this anxious and fearful season.  We know that the resolution of conflict in one part of the world gives impetus and confidence to its resolution elsewhere.  The current anxiety about economic conditions, the wanton and degraded violence of terrorism, and the storm clouds of climate change and potential food shortages are all contributing to the violence around us.  The world was in a similar state some 50 years ago, as people were building bomb shelters at home, hoarding food, and foreseeing the imminent end of the world.  The strong and faithful hearts of a few found the courage to draw back from violent response and seek peace.  We need the same courage now, and there is abundant example and leadership represented here.

            The work of TOPIK began by seeking to end the Korean War and to reunify families separated for more than 60 years by a suspicious ceasefire.  This province has brought together the churches of old enemies to make peace.  Those efforts continue to expand beyond Korea, Japan, and the United States, and the reconciling and truth-telling experience in South Africa and Ireland, and Canada’s reconciliation journey with First Nations peoples have energized the work and offered new and particular avenues for building a culture of peace.

            Those examples, and others yet to be shared or developed, are essential in the face of current territorial claims in the South China Sea, and the resulting fears of that expansionism are threatening the gains for peace in Article 9 of Japan’s constitution.  The same fears are prompting calls for a re-expanded US military presence in Subic Bay and Okinawa.  Christians know in their bones – those dry ones into which God continues to breathe life – we know that war is never the answer.  We cannot hope for peace by cutting off the ear of the empire’s servant, or through armed rebellion.  We can hope for peace through the painful work of seeking and offering forgiveness, and through loving those who appear to be former and current enemies.  The first TOPIK conference went to North Korea to celebrate Eucharist and to offer relief supplies to a flooded village.  The ongoing efforts of this province to feed the enemy are a profound gift and witness to the rest of the Communion and the world.

            There are other examples.  Anglicans and Episcopalians are offering lament in the face of seeing fertile ocean habitat destroyed by over-reaching commercial fisheries, coastal communities threatened by rising sea levels, populations nearby and far away threatened by changing weather patterns, forest clearing, mining and the ongoing rapacity of human hubris.  Our members are making lament, telling the truth of human and planetary suffering, and seeking concrete ways to respond to that suffering.

            The church in Pakistan continues to be a remarkable witness in the face of religious persecution and oppression, and their lament has begun to make a difference in the ruthless and sordid application of blasphemy laws.  The senseless violence of bombing seems to have increased the strength of the church – and their commitment to peace-making.

            God’s mission, and our response, seeks peace in all things, for all people, and all creation.  We seek a garden of harmony and abundance, yet we live in the midst of greed and violence.  The response Jesus teaches is about deep friendship, seeking the image of God in those who differ from us and those who oppose us.  That motivation to go seeking friends, and to love the neighbor, drives our part in God’s mission.  It is particularly evident in the opportunities for building friendships in Christ in the midst of communities of difference.  It is at the root of the experience of Episcopal Asiamerica Ministry.  Boundary and border crossing is the call of Jesus to find a friend in unexpected places, particularly in the face of enmity, difference, and “the other.”  The very experience of migration, and moving across a national border, is a witness to that kind of courage.  EAM communities bring that courage in abundance, and it can be contagious – contagious enough to plant a new virus in our DNA that disposes us to see the new person as friend rather than enemy.

            EAM’s congregations can be provocative pockets of counter-cultural courage in the face of difference, and that gift is urgently needed across the world today – certainly in the US, caught up as it is in anti-immigrant prejudice and fear in so many places.  That gift actually increases the resilience of communities where the settled folk begin to interact with the newer ones.  Communities become more hospitable to people from other states, cultures, nations, religious and economic backgrounds once they’ve discovered an unexpected friend.  That reality is certainly being played out in parts of Europe right now.  It is at work in schools in Israel and Palestine that insist that children of all three Abrahamic faiths be educated together and in one another’s languages.  We affirm that Jesus’ migration into human flesh made deep and reconciling friendship more possible between God and humanity, and among human beings themselves.  When the image of God migrates on earth and begins to develop deep and reconciling friendship, the same reality obtains.

            That creative reality is built into the nature of creation as well.  Biologists talk about hybrid vigor, as the greater health and adaptability of the offspring of slightly different parents.  It’s especially important in rapidly changing environments, or disrupted contexts.  The greatest diversity of biological communities tends to occur along the borders between more stable environments.  If we really believe that God is beyond our full knowing, then we might reflect on the diversity of the human images of God.  Befriending a greater variety of humanity can only show us more of who and what God truly is.  

            The violence of this world is born of scarcity and a desire to control resources for the sake of one nuclear community.  The weapons of mass destruction we seek to eliminate are thus aptly and ironically named.  The threat they pose makes us all part of the same nuclear community.  Peace-making is about befriending the other for the sake of the One who has made us all, and for the sake of the One of whose body we are all a part.  That is our vocation as followers of Jesus – who calls us friends, who laid down his life for his friends.  The continuing surprise for most of us is that he included the whole of the human race, and the whole of creation.  We live in hope that we might imitate that kind of friendship.  Arigato, kam samida, she she, thank you, Jesus, for making us friends.

[7] Charles Henry Brent, on discovering the work of the IFI in cities, proclaimed that he would not “set up an altar against an altar” and moved to the highlands to proclaim good news.

Friday, October 30, 2015


 EAM KOREA 2015: First of a Series


(The Rev. Canon Dr. Winfred B. Vergara, missioner for Asiamerica Ministries in the Episcopal Church at the Opening Eucharist of the EAM International Consultation held at the Cathedral of St Mary and St. Nicholas, in Seoul, Korea, October 1, 2015. EAM Consultation of September 30-October 5, 2015 was held in South Korea in celebration of the 125th Anniversary of the Anglican Church in Korea)

I was a bit concerned when Bayani asked me to preach because the Lectionary for October 1 is on St. Remigius, Bishop of Reims, a Roman Catholic Archdiocese in France. I would have a hard time relating him Episcopal  Asiamerica Ministry. Fortunately, Bayani said that the liturgical committee had chosen the alternative Lectionary readings for mission. I was relieved!

Bayani and I are graduates of St. Andrew’s Theological Seminary in the Philippines, and the Lectionary played an important part of in our priestly formation.  We believe that “the whole counsel of God,” is not found in one or two proof texts, but in the whole Lectionary. The Lectionary is a series of interconnected Bible lessons called “pericopes,” which are arranged systematically into years A-B-C. If you attend Church every Sunday, you will hear the entire Bible in three years!

So important is the Lectionary that there was a story about a huge, run-away asteroid hurtling from outer space and was about to hit the earth. It would mean the end of the world as we know it. Since there was very little time for evacuation to other planets, it was deemed that humankind would just have to prepare for their imminent death. A group of clergy in Manila gathered to share what they would preach for their last sermon. They asked, “From what portion of the Bible would you preach from?”

The Baptist preacher immediately replied, “Of course, I will preach from John 3:16.There is nothing more important than to remind people that God so loved the world that He gave his only begotten Son that whoever believes in Him will not perish but have everlasting life.”

The Roman Catholic priest said, “I will preach from Matthew 16:18. There is nothing more important than to remind people what Jesus said, ‘You are Peter and on this rock, I will build my church!’”
The Pentecostal pastor said, “I will preach from Acts 2. There is nothing more important than to remind people that the Holy Spirit came down on Pentecost and rested on the disciples and they spoke in tongues.”

At this point, all eyes were now fixed on the Episcopal priest. “And you, Apo Padi, from what portion of Scripture will you preach from?” The Episcopalian replied, “I’ll check out the Lectionary!”

Mission of the 70 (Luke 10:1-9)
So our Lectionary gospel for mission says in Luke 10: “After this, the Lord appointed 70 others and sent them on ahead of him in pairs to every town and place where he himself intended to go. He said to them, ‘The harvest is plenty but the laborers are few; therefore ask the Lord of the harvest to send out laborers into his harvest…Carry no purse, no bag, no sandals and greet no one on the road... Whenever you enter a town and its people welcome you, eat what is set before you; cure the sick and say to them, The Kingdom of God has come near you.”
There are three points I like to emphasize. (By the way, you who know me, also know why I am a three point preacher. Well, three reasons: first, I am a Trinitarian; second, I am the third child in my family; third, because as I grow older, there are three things I begin to lose. First, my hair; second, my memory; and third, I can’t remember.)

First thing I wish to emphasize is that mission is community work.   
 Mission is partnership. Jesus sent the 70 in pairs, two by two. Ecclesiastes 4:9 says, “Two are better than one because they have a good return for their labor; if either of them falls down, one can help the other up.”

The beginnings of the EAM happened in the 1970’s when the mark of mission in the Anglican Communion was MRI---“mutual responsibility and interdependence.” The Church as the Body of Christ was a powerful metaphor: “When one member suffers, all suffer together; when one member is honored, all rejoice together” (1 Corinthians 12).

It was also the birth of the Lausanne Covenant where the great Anglican evangelical leader, Dr. John Stott defined evangelism as “the proclamation of the whole gospel, by the whole church, for the whole man, in the whole world.”

In the Episcopal Church, it was the time when the national level started VIM- Venture in Mission. Emphasis was on congregational development and advocacy. Dioceses raised funds and engage in partnership with the Domestic & Foreign Missionary Society (DFMS) in funding start-up churches and creating new ministries.

In the U.S., it was a period of rapid immigration. The passage of the Immigration Act of 1965, abolished the restrictive quotas and ushered an influx of new immigrants from Asia, Africa and Latin America. The 1882 Chinese Exclusion Act, the 1930 Filipino anti-miscegenation law, the 1940 Japanese internment Act and other discriminatory and racist policies against Asians were now seemingly-forgotten as the nation braced to welcome Asian immigrants. Some Asian countries suffered “brain drain,” because their doctors, nurses, engineers, etc. went to America.

The Asian congregations in The Episcopal Church at that time were few and far between. And so the Asian priests experienced loneliness and isolation especially in dioceses where they found themselves the only Asian or person of color. Canon James Pun from San Francisco said “I am lonely;” Canon John Yamasaki from Los Angeles said, “I am lonely;” the Rev. Albany To from New York said, “I am lonely;” the Venerable Lincoln Eng from Oregon said, “I am lonely.”

Out of that loneliness, they reached out to each other and began to build community. They met to map out their mission. It was simple, just a newsletter to connect themselves with one with another. When the whole meeting was over, their proposal evolved into a resolution. At the 64th General Convention in Louisville, Kentucky of September 29-October 11, 1973, that resolution was submitted, deliberated and approved. The Episcopal Asiamerica Ministry was established, with substantial funding. In the immortal words of Canon Pun, “We asked for a bicycle but they gave us a bus. Now we need a driver.” The driver was the Rev. Dr. Winston Ching, the first EAM Missioner!

Today, we continue to see the fruit of this partnership, collaboration and community. This EAM Consultation in Korea today is a shining example that when we work together, there is nothing we cannot accomplish. When we are in partnership with God and each other in Christ, there is no such thing as mission impossible! In the words of our Latino colleagues: Si puede; yes, we can!

2. The second point I want to emphasize is that renewal and evangelism are inextricably intertwined. 

The sending of the 70 disciples in Luke 10 cannot be divorced from the sending of the original 12 apostles in Matthew 10.  In Matthew 10, Jesus sent the 12 apostles with the same mission but their mission field was limited. The 12 apostles were not to go among the Gentiles or the Samaritans but only go only to the lost sheep of Israel. However, when he sent the 70 others, the scope of the mission field was broadened. They are now to go into every town or city where Jesus intend to come.

It was the prophet Jeremiah who first called Israel “the lost sheep.” The prophets Ezekiel and Micah would later prophesy the hope that the coming Messiah would gather the lost sheep. Ezekiel’s vision is a valley of dry bones coming back to life by the breath of God.

So when Jesus the Messiah came, it seemed that his first priority was the renewal of Israel as the People of God.  Israel was chosen by God to be “a holy nation, a royal priesthood, God’s own  people.” They were given the law and the prophets. They were called to a higher standard of morality and spirituality but somehow along the way, they forgot who they were and became like any other nation. It was crucial they be reminded of who they were, so they can again speak with credibility about the amazing things God has done.

The point I am driving at is that renewal comes before evangelism. If we, the Church, the New People of God, must become effective in proclaiming the Kingdom of God to the world, then it is important that we will first be renewed. We need the fresh anointing of the Holy Spirit to empower us, once again "to preach the Good News to the poor, to proclaim release to the captives and recovery of sight to the blind, to liberate the oppressed and to proclaim the year of the Lord's favor" (Luke 14:18).

The early Church received the renewal of the Holy Spirit at Pentecost before they were able to evangelize the Graeco-Roman world. Before renewal, Peter preached 3,000 sermons and converted only one soul, his. After the renewal, Peter preached one sermon and converted over 3,000 souls!

But it was not just the preaching of Peter and later of Paul that made the early Church grow from Jerusalem, to Judea, to Samaria, to the ends of the world. It was the quality of the lives they led and the relationships they created. They devoted themselves to the apostles’ teaching and fellowship, to the breaking of the bread and to prayers. They ministered to the sick and did many good deeds. They celebrated the Eucharist with glad and sincere hearts. They worked together and shared their gifts to others in the power of the Spirit.

There was no lobbying or competition in their assemblies. No politicking in their polity. They were not motivated by selfish ambitions. They did not exhibit the “siege mentality” or the “scarcity mode” to guard their turfs or to protect their interest. Their wisdom came from above and not from beneath. They simply did what pleases the Lord---and the Lord added to their number daily, those who were being saved.

Yes, our 42-year-old EAM Bus needs a tune-up from the Holy Spirit. Maybe the Korean Hyundai can give us a lift. We need a renewal within to evangelize without. The whole Church needs renewal of its Body Life, to be able to touch the world, once again, with the love of Christ. Jesus prayed for his disciples, “that they maybe one, so the world may believe” (John 17:21).  For if we cannot be one in sharing a cup of Starbucks, so to speak, how can we truly be one in sharing the Body and Blood of Christ?

Perhaps, this is what Pope Francis is hoping to accomplish with the Roman Catholic Church, that their clergy and people would be inspired and renewed, so that they could speak with credibility of the Kingdom of God, or the “Reign of God,” as what our own Presiding Bishop Katharine Jefferts Schori would say.

3. The third point I wish to emphasize is that hospitality and mission are interrelated.

Jesus said to the 70, “Carry no purse, no bag, no sandals.” Whenever Westerners preach about this text, they always emphasize “travel light.” But I would like to look at this scripture with Asian eyes. I imagine that Palestine at the time of Jesus was similar to an Asian village where people are extremely hospitable. When you enter an Asian village, you do not need anything, if you are vulnerable enough to receive what people give. In fact, be careful of saying “no,” because it is an insult to reject their hospitality. So eat what is set before you, and if you are offered to sleep in their bedroom, and they sleep in the living room, just try to sleep soundly because that is exactly what they want for you. They would feel honored if you accept their hospitality. It is by being vulnerable that you will be received like an angel in disguise.

Western Christian mission in Asia has not made much headway because it assumed a position of invulnerability, of power, of triumphalism. It has assumed that its heavy baggage of Western civilization was superior to that of Asia’s. Because it came in the form of a superior culture, it failed to accept Asian hospitality. Why must the Asian name be changed when he becomes a Christian? Why must he burn or throw away his ancestral tablets? Does the moment of baptism become the moment he becomes a stranger to his own people?

Chinese people used to say, “One more Christian, one less Chinese.” Except for the Philippines, South Korea and East Timor, Christianity is still a minority religion in Asia. Because it rejected Asian hospitality, Christianity continues to be a foreign religion.

One of the shining examples of inculturation that happened in the Anglican Church of Korea was the attempt of the early missionaries to adapt Korean architecture in church building. Tomorrow we are going to Ganghwa Island and you will see some of these early church buildings. In China, the great Jesuit missionary Mateo Ricci enculturated Chinese ancestral tablets into the funeral rite and the Chinese were beginning to accept it. It was unfortunate that in 1704, the Vatican sided with the Dominicans in the infamous “Rites Controversy” and prohibited the Jesuits from adopting Chinese culture. The prohibition was lifted two hundred years later, in 1938, but it was a little too late. I hope that our Asia-America Theological Exchange Forums would help in this dialogue of contextualization. I hope that our Young Adult Service Corps, who are here today, are learning from their mission in Asia.

In America, where peoples from all over the world have come, mission takes on a new form. Being a missionary is no longer confined to Anglo-European descent. As a matter of fact, Korea is now the largest mission-sending country. And what about the Filipino domestic workers in diaspora? I say they are “cryptic missionaries” because they can enter the homes of Muslims in Saudi Arabia or Buddhists in Singapore and HongKong where conventional missionaries could not. As nannies and care givers, they can pray for their charges or sing “Amazing Grace” and other Christian songs as  lullabies to the babies or elderly they care for. In so doing they unknowingly sow the seeds of the gospel of love and peace.

Being a missionary from America or Europe is no longer confined to those who are sent to Africa, Asia, Latin America or Eastern Europe. Being a missionary in America is simply opening the doors of our hearts and the doors of our churches to the peoples around the world who have arrived on our doorsteps. To be a missionary is to be hospitable.

America, predominantly a nation of immigrants, has become a huge mission field. There are now more than 300 Buddhist temples in Los Angeles. Muslims number more than Episcopalians or Presbyterians. Majority of the youth are “unchurched.” They call themselves “spiritual but not religious.” They now have a category called "nones."

In 1990 in Silicon Valley, a survey was made on how many go to church on a given Sunday. Out of its 2 million people, only 8% go to church. (I could just imagine the result of a similar survey in New York City.) In that same year in Silicon Valley, the Census revealed that the ratio of population was 60% white/40% Asian and Hispanic. Ten years later, in 2000, the ratio was reversed: 40 percent white/60 percent Asian and Hispanic. Recent projections say that in 2050, the Latino/Hispanic would start becoming the new majority; but by 2065, the new majority would be predominantly Asians. Asians comprise 2/3 of the world’s 7 billion people. With an open immigration from China and India and with the birthrate in Asiamerica population, that projection is not far-fetched.

Of course, many of us won’t be here in 2065 (I know I won’t), but even now, we must open our eyes to the mission field. “The harvest is plenty but the laborers are few; pray to the Lord of the harvest to increase the laborers into his harvest.”

In May 2005, a year after I became the second “driver of the EAM Bus,” the Rev. William Bulson invited me to preach at Holy Apostles’ Church in St. Paul, Minnesota. It was Pentecost Sunday and it was the welcoming of the Hmong to the Episcopal Church. Later that year, I preached at the Cathedral in Minneapolis where the Hmong were confirmed and received. It took three hours for three bishops- Bishop Jelinek, Bishop Swenson and Bishop Chang to lay hands on over 300 Hmong Episcopalians. Yes, the Hmong are now among us.

But the story of Church Growth does not end with Asians reviving declining parishes with their presence. The “re-peopling” of Episcopal churches should move on to the discipleship of the new Episcopalians as the next missionaries. This is what the Rev. Toua Vang, our first Hmong priest is hoping to accomplish through the Missionary Enterprise Zone (MEZ). This is what many Asian clergy in Long Island are doing. Once we were in the margins; now we are moving in the mainstream. Once we were no people; but now we are God’s people.

One of the things I learned during my recent cancer treatment was to be reflective about my life and ministry. My radiation therapy lasted three months and during that period I had more time to read, to pray and to reflect. Funny how a bad thing can turn out to be a good thing.

I was inspired by MSNBC Sportcaster Stuart Scott who said, “You beat cancer by how you live, why you live and in the manner in which you live.” I said to myself, how can I inspire others by my life, even in my small sphere of influence? I am missioner for Asiamerica Ministries; how I can encourage my sisters and brothers in our common mission? How can I inspire before I expire?

Then I read some words that describe a community. A community of sheep is a flock; a community of cows is a herd; a community of lions is a pride; a community of ants is a colony; a community of larks is an exaltation ----and this is what I like best---a community of eagles is a convocation!

The community of eagles is a convocation! The EAM is an umbrella of six ethnic convocations. I once was asked, “What is an Asiamerican Episcopalian?” My answer, we are a combination of Chinese inscrutability, Japanese inventiveness, Korean resourcefulness, South Asian spirituality, Southeast Asian versatility, Filipino sense of humor---and a little bit of Anglican stiff upper lip!

If therefore, EAM is convocation of eagles, then there is hope we can soar in mission and evangelism. One of the characteristics of eagles is their keen vision. They are so focused they can see the goal from 10,000 miles above the sky. So in the midst of confusions and uncertainties in the world and in the church, our Eagle Eyes should always be focused on Jesus who alone can truly answer the deepest human need, who alone can truly mend broken hearts, who alone can truly wipe the tears from human eyes---and who alone can truly heal, renew and empower us for mission.

Bishop-elect Michael Curry in his address at the recent General Convention challenged us to join afresh in the "Jesus Movement." He challenged us to "GO" in obedience to the Great Commission (Matthew 28: 16-19). So let us seek renewal in this Consultation and go forth "to make disciples of all nations." So let us, by the power of the Spirit, "heal the sick, raise the dead, drive out demons and proclaim "the Kingdom of God is near!