This posting grew out of the actions of the Executive Committee of the Presbyterian Missions Agency Board regarding the incorporation of a group outside of the oversight of the PMA. But it is not about that group, or the issues surrounding it. I have already written about several of the 1001 Worshiping Communities which I believe were formed with a disregard for biblical Christianity. On the other hand the men whose actions, regarding new worshiping communities, are being investigated, seem to me to be faithful Christians. I cannot say more than that because I have no knowledge of the events. On the other hand I was first surprised and then troubled when I saw one name on the list of members of the Executive Committee, that is Mihee Kim-Kort a Presbyterian Teaching Elder.
Kim-Kort is familiar to me because she started following me on Twitter. I did not know who she was, except she seemed nice as well as progressive. I followed her back which is usually (not always) my normal reaction. But with her name appearing on the Executive Committee list I started reading some of her material. She does bring to the PMA a particular view about racism but she seems to equate evangelicalism and biblical evangelism with racism and colonialism. I believe she has an extremely contemptuous and demeaning view of Asian evangelicals. And here I am using the definition of Asian evangelicals as those who hold to an orthodox view of the Christian faith.
In an article, “Killjoy Prophets, Asian America, Evangelicalism (Part 2),” written by Mihee Kim-Kort, Suey Park, and Emily Rice, Asian evangelicals are seen as being used by white evangelicals to further their own culture and privileges. Kim-Kort and other two authors write:
“The double-pronged missionary work abroad and in the US reinforced this evangelical culture – the music, the Jesus-language and just-prayers, and narrow theological view of humanity and God. In the US the impact of evangelicalism on Asian Americans served to essentially “white-wash” the communities so that their ministries mimicked white evangelical communities to a tee. This forces us to question whether or not becoming Christian is synonymous to becoming white.” (Italics mine.)
While there is and has been racism among both liberal and conservative Christians, it is not the driving force of evangelism, rather the call of Christ on the community and individual to go to the nations proclaiming Christ Jesus is the impetus. The complaint in the essay seems to be that too many Asians have become evangelicals. The writers hold up the statistics offered by Erica Liu who quotes Chang and states, “On many campuses, Asian Christian gatherings have even become a standard part of the undergraduate social experience. Not only have evangelical groups succeeded in bringing Asian Americans in their fold, but they have made them into one of their strongest groups of evangelizers.”
The number of Asians attending Urbana (a missionary gathering that many young people attend) and the number of Christian Asian groups on the Berkeley campus are part of the statistics used. The writers bluntly state “In other words, conversion is a tool of exceptionalism,” and go on to state, “Whether the conversion happens here or abroad it is analogous to (religious) colonization.”
Kim-Kort and the other authors suggest that the solution to Asians being assimilated into white Christian Evangelism is something called “Hybridity.” Quoting Kim Grace Ji-Sun, they write, “The way hybridity operates is by shifting “the conceptualization of identity because identity is no longer a stable reference point. It creates a new paradigm in which liminality, instability, impurity, movement, and fluidity inform the formation of identities ….”
Yes, there is racism among those in the white evangelical community, and it is a racism that needs to be addressed with repentance, but that is seemingly, not the focus of the essay. Kim-Kort and the other writers are in fact singling out a particular group, Asian evangelicals. Their Christianity, their love for Jesus is being questioned. Their view of God, is seen as too narrow. Their motivation is questioned as is their intentions. The writers are themselves intolerant of the faith of others. They are intolerant of Asian evangelical Christians.
So I was troubled when I saw Kim-Kort’s name among the list of the members of the Executive Committee of the Presbyterian Mission Agency Board. There are rules broken that have ethical and institutional consequences, there are also attitudes that have eternal consequences. Intolerance towards those who are brothers and sisters of Jesus pokes holes in both unity and mission.
The pastor who said the words that brought me to Christ (he didn’t know it) was intolerant of Asians. That was a long time ago and I pray he repented. One of the strong mentors in my life as a teenage Christian was an Asian Christian. He held a Navigators study in his home. That was so long ago, I don’t remember his name, but I do remember his kind face and his love for others and for the word of God. If we are in Christ we have an identity-Christ is our identity—for those who belong to Jesus there is nothing more—we are hidden in Him.