Asiamerica Ministries

Asian American or “Asiamerican” describes both Asian immigrants in the United States as well as Asian Americans born in the United States – Chinese, Filipino, Korean, Japanese, Southeast Asian (Vietnamese, Laotian, Hmong, Burmese), and South Asian (Indian, Pakistani, Bangladeshi, Sri Lankan). It also describes the relationship of Asians in the United States with the Asian Episcopalians and Asian Anglicans in the global Asian community. The office of Asian American Ministries offers resources on mission work, church revitalization, and racial justice – among and beyond Asian communities in the United States. It assists dioceses to start new Asian congregations and strengthen existing ones, and advocates for Asian empowerment at all levels of the church: among seminarians, women, youth, clergy, and lay leaders. 

Today we commemorate St. Columba, the Abbot of Iona. He was a monk, an abbot and missionary credited to have spread the gospel in Ireland and Scotland. He founded several  monasteries, the most important being the abbey in Iona which became  a dominant religious and political institution for centuries. The patron saint of Derry, he is remembered today as one of the three chief saints of Ireland, along with Saint Patrick and St. Brigit.
 
St. Andrew's Theological Seminary in MetroManila where I first preached about St. Columba.
Come to think of it, “St. Columba” was the topic of my very first homily as seminarian at St. Andrew’s Theological Seminary in the Philippines.The reason why I can’t forget was that I was called to the Dean’s Office right after that sermon and was not given another chance to preach in the chapel again. 
 
In that homily, I spoke highly of Columba as an ascetic. At that time in the early ‘70’s, there were some faculty members in our seminary (as in the whole Philippines) who were chain-smokers and heavy drinkers and their examples were being emulated by seminarians. (Not anymore. I think SATS is now a non-smoking zone)
 
So after having defined an ascetic as “a person who dedicates his life to the pursuit of contemplative ideals and practices self-denial or self-mortification for religious reasons,” I added in a snide remark. I said, “St. Columba never smoked and was not fond of drinking alcohol---unlike some of our faculty members!” 
 
There was a brief but deafening silence in the chapel and the amiable Dean Charles Clark, motioned me to follow him to his office. I was a rookie and a wet-in-the-ears preacher and learned a lesson or two on how not to offend your hearers…and not to pontificate on your professors---if you wish to receive a “faculty award,” which of course I did not get. 
 
But on the other hand, I might have saved some from lung cancer and liver disease, if they followed my advice. But that’s another matter…
 
Columbarium
Another reason I can’t forget Columba is because of “columbarium,” a structure of vaults lined with recesses for cinerary urns holding the cremains of the dead.
Columbaria had been a fixture in many cemeteries and now also in many churches since cremation has become a popular alternative to burial. 
 
Columba which is the Latin (as well as Irish) word for “dove” and columbarium is derived from “dovecote,” a compartmentalized housing for doves and pigeons. Columba’s original name was Crimthan, meaning “Fox” and for some reason, change into “Dove.” 
 The name "Dove" speaks not only of his disciplined, abstemious and ascetic character but also of his life, a sinner saved by God’s grace and thereafter, a life lived in the power of the Holy Spirit---a far-cry from the meaning of "Fox."
 
Born and raised in Ireland, Columba was a striking figure of great stature and powerful build, with a loud but melodious voice which could be heard from one hilltop to another. He used that gift to enhance his evangelistic and missionary skills which covered the multitude of his sins.
 
Tradition says that sometime around 560, Columba became involved in a quarrel with Saint Finnian of Movilla Abbey over apsalter. Interesting how ancient saints quarrel over a psalm as modern saints quarrel over a laptop.  
Saint Finnian disputed his right to keep the copy that eventually led to the pitched in battle, during which many men belonging to each of their clans were killed. 
 
The second grievance that led him to incite the clan Neill to rise and engage in battle against King Diarmait at Cooldrevny in 561 was the king's violation of the right of sanctuary. Prince Curnan of Connaught, who happened to be Columba’s kinsman, had fatally injured a rival in a hurling match and had taken refuge with Columba, was dragged from his protector's arms and slain by Diarmaid's men, in defiance of the rights of sanctuary. Another battle ensued and again many men died. 
 
synod of clerics and scholars threatened to excommunicateColumba for these deaths, but St. Brendan of Birr spoke on his behalf, pleading that he be exiled instead. Columba was bothered but on advice from an aged hermit, Molaise, he pledged to expiate his offences by going into exile voluntarily and win for Christ as many souls equal or more in number as those that had perished in the battles he was involved in. 
 
He left Ireland and traveled to Scotland with twelve companions in a wicker currach (Irish boat) covered with leather. 
 
According to legend he first landed on the Kintyre Peninsula but he could still see Ireland (just as Sarah Palin could see Russia from Alaska, just joking) so he moved north to the west coast, where the island was given to him as his headquarters. 
 
It was in Iona that his abbey was established to become the “mission center” where monks and missionaries would be trained, empowered and sent all over Scotland and Ireland.
ABBEY OF IONA
Aside from the missionary and literacy services his abbey provided, his reputation as a “holy man” led to his role as a diplomat among the tribes. There are many stories of miracles which he performed during his work among the Scots and the Picts, the most famous (and outrageous) was his supposed to be victorious encounter with an unidentified animal that some equated with the “Lock Ness Monster!”
 
Aside from his physical prowess, Columba was a renowned man of letters, having written several hymns and having transcribed300 books.
 
Columba died in Iona and was buried in 597 by his monks in theabbey he founded. In 794 the Vikings descended on Iona. Columba's relics were finally removed in 849 and divided between Scotland and Ireland. 
 
Today St. Columba is venerated all over Christendom particularly in Ireland, Scotland and Canada which until 2011 has the largest ethnic group coming from Scottish ancestry. 
 
The name “St. Columba” became attached to many Roman Catholic, Anglican, Episcopal, Presbyterian and even Orthodox churches worldwide. Not a bad legacy from the man whose name transformed from a “fox” to a “dove.”  Amen.
Today we commemorate St. Columba, the Abbot of Iona. He was a monk, an abbot and missionary credited to have spread the gospel in Ireland and Scotland. He founded several  monasteries, the most important being the abbey in Iona which became  a...
1st Century Israel: It was evening of the day of Jesus’ resurrection. Two disciples of Jesus were walking from Jerusalem to Emmaus. One was named Cleopas and the other was not identified. Emmaus was seven miles from Jerusalem so it was quite a long walk. What happened to them on their way would warm their hearts, transform their lives and revolutionize their ministry.
 
What exactly happened on their way to Emmaus? Three things happened: A stranger walked with them; the stranger broke bread; the stranger turned out to be Jesus!
 
21st Century New York: What is the significance of Emmaus to our own lives today? Where is our Emmaus? How do we walk with God in this new world?
 
A stranger walked with them
 We live in a world where we are taught to fear the strangers. We tell our children not to talk to strangers. We are wary of strangers. They may bring us harm. They may bring us disease. They may bring us burdens. They may disturb our peace. They may be a threat to our security.
 
The history of immigration in this country was in some way tainted by this fear of the stranger. “These new immigrants will take away our jobs and will become a burden to our economy.” So we build walls, we barb wire  our fences,  we strengthen our borders. We tighten our immigration policies.
 
Some of our fears of the stranger issued itself in the form of racist laws and discriminatory policies. On May 6, 1882, the U.S. government issued the Chinese Exclusion Act. Signed by then President Chester Arthur, it was one of the most notorious restrictions in United States immigration history. The Act not only prohibited immigration of Chinese laborers but also deported many who were already here. After they helped America to develop their mining industry and built its transcontinental railroads, the Chinese immigrants were branded as “yellow peril” and sent back to China.  The Act was initially intended to last for ten years but continued for many years until repealed in 1943.
 
On February 19, 1942 following the bombing of Pearl Harbor and the outbreak of the War in the Pacific, U.S. President Franklin Delano Roosevelt issued Executive Order 9066. It was known as the “the Japanese Internment Act.”  On May 3, 1942, General DeWitt ordered all people of Japanese ancestry to be incarcerated in various Internment Camps in remote areas in the country. Overnight, 110,000 Japanese immigrants--- 62% of them American citizens--- were removed from their homes and herded into concentration camps.
 
America used to be known as a “Christian country” but because of fear, we forget what the Bible says in Exodus 22:21:"Do not oppress a foreigner; you yourselves know how it feels to be foreigners, because you were also foreigners.” Because of fear, we forget the inscription written on the Statue of Liberty, a poem from Emma Lazarus:
 
 “Give me your tired, your poor, Your huddled masses, yearning to breath free, the wretched refuse of your teeming shores. Send these, the homeless, tempest tost to me,I lift my lamp beside the golden door.”
 
2. The Stranger Broke Bread
So it is a credit to the disciples of Jesus that they welcomed the stranger to walk with them. At this point of their lives, they felt they had nothing to lose. Their leader Jesus had died and they were lonely. This man whom they looked as the deliverer was rejected, arrested, crucified, died and was buried. They felt empty, their hearts forlorn and their hopes droop. What they needed most was a companion on the journey. They forgot their fears; they become vulnerable and they opened their lives to the stranger. Not only that they allowed the stranger to walk with them; they sat down at table and shared their food.
 
Asian theologian D. T. Niles wrote, “Evangelism is a beggar telling another beggar where to find bread.” When Jesus saw the crowd, he had compassion for they were harassed and helpless, like sheep without a shepherd (Matthew 9:36). When Christianity was introduced to India, the first ones who responded were the Dalits or the “untouchables.” They were the oppressed, the massa perditionis, the marginalized, the outcast of society.  It is when you feel vulnerable that you are open to the move of the Spirit. It is when you feel you are a stranger that you are kind to strangers; it is when you are wounded that you care for the wounded. Because you remember that you were a foreigner once, that you are also kind and welcoming to the foreigner.
 
Not only that the disciples listened to his story; they also invited the stranger to dinner.  And the miracle happened! As this stranger broke bread, their eyes were opened and they recognized him as the risen Christ! In the past, their ancestors had welcomed the strangers who turned out to be angels; now, they had welcomed a stranger who turned out to be the Christ!  
 
As the risen Jesus vanished from their sight, they said to themselves, “Did not our hearts burned within us as while he talked with us on the road and opened the scriptures to us?” Unable to contain this joy, they hurried back to Jerusalem and told the other disciples that Jesus had risen from the dead.
 
3. The Stranger turned out to be the risen Christ
The experience of the two disciples on the road to Emmaus, the lessons they learned from the stranger and the Holy Communion they partook from the risen Christ, were the rewards they received for being open and welcoming to the stranger. Their ears heard the Good News because they were open; their hearts were warmed because they were not hardened; their eyes recognized Jesus because they were ready to see the miracle.
 
As they shared the Good News, they were willing to enter a new world, a world they have not known before. The Bible would later say that the risen Christ took them as far as Bethany to be a witness to his ascension into heaven. Jesus commissioned them to go and make disciples of all nations and to believe that He will be with them to the ends of the world (Matthew 28:19). Jesus summoned them to live a life without fear, to enter a world where death has no more dominion, a world where all things are possible ----and to a new life can be lived in all its fullness.
 
Conclusion
Let me now stretch your imagination and ask: What is this new world in our context? What is our road to Emmaus? For me it is the world of the internet. It is a world that for a long time, I had ignored. I grew up in the world of manual typewriters and rotary phones; of transistor radios, sewing machines and black and white TV’s.  In my over sixty years of life, I have experienced that has evolved: from an agricultural era, to industrial era and now the computer-internet era.
 
The Emmaus that we are in is changing very rapidly. When I came to New York in 2004, I rode in the subway train and there were still people still looking at me. But now, nobody is looking at each other---because everyone is busy with their iphones or smart phones: talking, texting, twitting or checking their Facebook and other social networking.
 
Steve Jobs, the inventor of Apple’s iPhone is now dead but the revolution he started continues. He had invented the iPhone; IPod; and iPad. And I invented the iSleep; iSnore and iIgnore. But now, I can no longer ignore it.
 
In fact, I am already addicted to this little thing, and so with millions of other people as well. And I am also addicted to Facebook, which is now the second largest population in the world!
 

This little iPhone has now become my constant companion, my significant other. It is with me when I sleep and when I rise. It goes with me when I fly 36,000 feet on the plane; it is with me when I go to the deepest part of the earth, like Death Valley, California; it is with me when I fly to the uttermost part of the sea, which is Sabah, Malaysia. 

 
My wife should get jealous with my iPhone Girlfriend, but she does not mind, because she also has Mr. Smart Phone, the Galaxy 5, Android. The smart phone can do things equally, like the iPhone. It can find us friends via Facebook; it can give us community via Google+; it can excite us with news and trivia via Twitter; it can connect us with family and friends via Skype; it can put us into group discussion and meetings via Zoom or webex.
 
This, now, is the world in which we live. We can hate it or love it; we can curse it or bless it; we can reject is or embrace it; but we can no longer ignore it!
 
So how should we live in this new world? How do we deal with this stranger in our midst? Do we reject it like the Pharisees and call for its crucifixion? Or do we welcome it like what the disciples did on the road to Emmaus?
 
Today, our Senior Warden will show us our new Virtual Classroom (our partnership with the Asiamerica Ministries and the Diocese of Long Island of The Episcopal Church). This classroom is equipped with the latest of technology. Through this classroom, we can reach people not only inside but outside the walls of the church.  We can teach, proclaim and share our faith to people abroad as well as receive teaching from abroad. This is our classroom without borders!
 
It was in 1739 when Anglican clergyman (who founded Methodism) John Wesley uttered this famous phrase, “the world is my parish.” Today, this prophecy has become a reality.  The world parish has no physical boundary. Through the internet revolution, we can be both a local church and a global church; both a real and virtual church; a physical church and a digital church-reaching the uttermost part of the earth.
St. James Multicultural Parish in Elmhurst, New York  stands today as an example of a church for the world. We shall have congregations within and without. We shall have congregations in Queens as well as in cyberspace. Like the disciples on the road to Emmaus, we shall walk with the stranger, offer hospitality to all foreigners, and break bread within and beyond time and space. In this openness and willingness to learn to live in this new world, we will discover new tools that will revolutionize our ministry, revitalize our church and move us forward to the Kingdom of God.
 
Brothers and sisters: Welcome this new world and expect a miracle! Amen.

 

1st Century Israel: It was evening of the day of Jesus’ resurrection. Two disciples of Jesus were walking from Jerusalem to Emmaus. One was named Cleopas and the other was not identified. Emmaus was seven miles from Jerusalem so it was quite a long...
Tagged in: Human Trafficking
SUMMIT ON HUMAN TRAFFICKING: COMMUNITIES MOBILIZING AGAINST MODERN DAY SLAVERY (OPEN TO PUBLIC)
 
Saturday, May 10, 2014 (10am - 5pm) 
Registration Opens at 9:30 A.M.
St. James Episcopal Church   
 84-07 Broadway 
Elmhurst, New York 11373 
 (Accessible by Queens Subway, Trains M & R and Bus Q53) Call   New York 11373
Registration begins at 9:30am or you can register online to reserve your ticket at https://summitonhumantrafficking.eventbrite.com
 
WHAT IS HUMAN TRAFFICKING:
Human Trafficking is a form of modern-day slavery and is a pertinent issue in New York, in the United States, in Asia and the world. The United States is one of the destination countries for transnational trafficking networks that bring foreign nationals for purposes of both sexual and labor exploitation. Migrants from all over the world are trafficked. A major form is “labor trafficking” in which individuals are made to perform labor or services through use of force, deception, fraud, or coercion.

Jointly organized by Asiamerica Ministries of the Episcopal Church (TEC) and the National Alliance for Filipino Concerns (NAFCON) and open to the public, this Summit will bring together members of the religious and civic communities to gain awareness, strategize and get involved in the fight against human trafficking. 

 
Survivors of human trafficking, community organizations, church groups, and service-oriented groups who work on cases of human trafficking will gather to share their experiences, struggles, and victories.

A part of the conference will highlight the case of the Philippines, being one of the top countries of human trafficking and a speaker from Gabriela Women's Partylist in the Philippines --- who works directly with families and also legislation on anti-trafficking—has been invited. 

 
The 76th General Convention of the TEC approved resolutions calling for the “protection of all victims of human trafficking, particularly women and children…support legislation and actions” against human trafficking.”
 
GOALS:
The goals of the Summit are three-fold:
1.    To raise awareness on Human Trafficking especially in Asia-America context;
2.    To help heal and empower survivors of human trafficking;
3.    To start conversation towards an “Asiamerica Coalition Against Human Trafficking” drawing from various churches and community organizations.
 
SPEAKERS AND WORKSHOPS
Keynoting on “What is Human Trafficking?” will be the Rev. Raynald Bonoan, Rector of Holy Spirit Church in Safety Harbor, Florida who, along with celebrated rescuer, Anna Rodriguez of Florida Coalition Against Human Trafficking, rescued several victims of Human Trafficking.
 
New York State Senator Jose Peralta will lead government officials in giving remarks while the Rev. Charles Mc Carron of Episcopal Services will speak on behalf of Bishop Lawrence Provenzano of the Diocese of Long island.
 
DJ Arucan from the Gabriela Women’s Party List of the Philippines will speak on the women’s situation and root causes that lead to trafficking in the Philippines.
Candice Sering, Chair of GABRIELA New York will moderate a Q&A with the panel of trafficking survivors and speakers to highlight the case of the Philippines as one of the top countries of human trafficking and to emphasize the transnational reality of the problem.
GABRIELA is a global activist women’s rights organization working directly to serve the survivors and the families of victims as well as working to effect meaningful legislation in the Philippines.
 
The Rev. Dr. Fred Vergara and Cris Hilo will coordinate the program and serve as emcees. Other speakers and workshop leaders include:
 
Ms. Lelanda Lee of the Episcopal Church Executive Commission, who will share about the resolution passed by the TEC General Convention;
 
Monique Wilson of the “Miss Saigon” Broadway Musical and current Global Director of “One Billion Rising for Justice”, will discuss worldwide efforts for global justice.
 
Atty. Cristina Godinez and Fr. Julian Jagudilla of St. Francis of Assisi Migrant Center, who will speak on Comprehensive Immigration Reform and TPS (Temporary Protected Status) Philippines.
 
The Taiko Drummers from Metropolitan Japanese Ministry (MJM) will conclude the event with “call to mission” drumming. 
 
WORKSHOPS:
Workshops include: “Breaking the Chain of Internalized Oppression & Empowering Survivors”; “Building an Asiamerica Coalition Against Human Trafficking Using ABCD Approach”; and “TPS Philippines and Comprehensive Immigration Reform.”
Government officials in New York working on the issue of Human Trafficking such as State Senator Jose Peralta, Congresswoman Grace Meng and Councilman Daniel Dromm have been invited to make brief remarks and assist in advocacy.
 

  

SCHEDULE OF THE PROGRAM
9:30-10:00 A.M. – Registration and Ushering at St. James Hall & Church Door
10:00 A.M. – Welcome & Opening Prayer – Rev. Dr. Fred Vergara, TEC-EAM         Introduction of Representatives: Ms. Cris Hilo, NAFCON 
Remarks from the Episcopal Church Executive Council – Ms. Lelanda Lee
Remarks from the Diocese of Long Island –Rev. Charles Mc Carron
Remarks from the UN Commission on the Status of Women –Lynnaia Main
Remarks from the Philippine Ambassador to the UN – Hon. Lebron Cabactulan
Remarks from New York State Senator Jose Peralta and other Officials 
10:30 A.M. – Keynote: What is Human Trafficking – The Rev. Raynald Bonoan 
  
11:15 A.M. – Musical Presentation –Bayanihan Cultural Collective 
 
11:30 A.M. – Panel Presentation: Candice Sering, Moderator                                Panelists : Djay Arucan, Elma Manliguez and Trafficking Survivors
12: 15 NOON – Open Forum ( Q & A) – Candice Sering
12:30 -1:30 P.M. – LUNCH & WORD FROM OTHER SPONSORS
-       HEALTHFIRST HEALTH & GIDEON SCIENCES, INC.
-       Elmhurst Neighborhood Block Association (ELMNBA)
GOVERNMENT OFFICIALS & OTHER LEADERS
COMMUNITY ANNOUNCEMENTS

          1:30-1:45 P.M. – WORKSHOP ORIENTATION – Zarah Vinola

2:00 – 3:00 P.M. – Workshops in Various Rooms
1: Breaking the Chains of Internalized Oppression – Virtual Classroom              (Facilitators: Lelanda Lee with Human Trafficking Survivors)
2. Building Coalition Using ABCD Approach- Choir Room                                 (Facilitators: Fred Vergara, Djay Arucan, Ray Bonoan)
3. TPS Philippines & Immigration Reform – St. James Hall                                  (Facilitators: Atty. Cristina Godinez & Rey Canz)
3:15 P.M. – GROUP REPORTS- St. James Hall – Fr. Fred & Cris Hilo
4:00 P.M. – Concluding Speaker: Monique Wilson
4:30 P.M. – Taiko Drums – Metropolitan Japanese Ministry (MJM)
5:00 P.M. – Closing Prayer – Rev. Noel Bordador
 (Note: After the Closing Prayer, there will be a meeting of Organizing Committee, Trafficking Survivors to organize the “Asiamerica Coalition Against Human Trafficking-East Coast USA” from 5:30 P.M. – 6:30 P.M.)
 
 
ORGANIZING COMMITTEE
The Rev. Dr. Fred Vergara, Coordinator 
Ms. Cris Hilo, Assistant Coordinator

Members:  Lynnaia Main, Candice Sering, Zarah Vinola, Rev. Noel Bordador, Cristina Hing, Tetchie Mercado, Bob Wong, Elizabeth Mui, Charles Martellaro

SPONSORS:                                                                                                                                              
THE EPISCOPAL CHURCH-Office of Asiamerica Ministries 
TEC Office of Government Relations 
TEC Office of Global Relations
 Episcopal Migrations Ministry  (EMM)
NATIONAL ALLIANCE FOR FILIPINO CONCERNS (NAFCON) 
STJAMES EPISCOPAL CHURCH, Elmhurst, New York                                           
Episcopal Asian Commission of Diocese of Long Island 
Episcopal Asiamerica Commission of the Diocese of New York
St. Francis of Assisi Migrant (Catholic) Center, New York 
HEALTHFIRST HEALTH 
GIILEAD SCIENCES, INC.          
Elmhurst Neighborhood Block Association (ELMNBA)  
 
PARTICIPATING ORGANIZATIONS                                                                     
GABRIELA, New York
Anakbayan, New York
Anakbayan New Jersey                                                                                  
NYCHRP 
Kinding Sindaw
Kalusugan Coalition
Philippine Forum 
New York Asian WomenCenter                                                                                                                                                                                     
Pakistani Noor Alam Memorial Church
Elmhurst Korean Methodist Church

 

SUMMIT ON HUMAN TRAFFICKING: COMMUNITIES MOBILIZING AGAINST MODERN DAY SLAVERY (OPEN TO PUBLIC)   Saturday, May 10, 2014 (10am - 5pm) Registration Opens at 9:30 A.M.St. James Episcopal Church     84-07 Broadway Elmhurst, New York 11373   (...
Is there a place for doubt in the understanding of faith?
 
A tight rope walker set out to walk above the Niagara Falls. He called out to the crowd that gathered. “Do you believe I can walk on this tightrope and cross the border of USA and Canada?” (As you know, one bank of the Niagara is in New York and the other in Ontario.) The crowd said, “Yes, we believe!” So he walked successfully to the cheers of the crowd. He asked the second time “Do you believe I can carry a chair while walking on tightrope from one end of the Falls to the other?” the crowd again said, “Yes, we believe!” So he did so successfully, to the cheers of the crowd. So he asked the third time, “Do you believe I can carry a person on my shoulders while walking on tightrope from one end to the other?” The crowd again said, “Yes, we believe!” At this point, the tight rope walker said, “Now who wants to volunteer?” There was complete silence.
 
The Gospel this morning seeks to address this question: Is there a place for doubt in the understanding of faith? Or is faith a blind faith? Is it alright for a Christian to express doubt or skepticism?  
 
The context of this gospel of John 20  is the evening of that day of Jesus’ resurrection. The apostles were meeting in a room and the doors were locked for fear of the Jews. Suddenly Jesus stood among them and said, “Shalom, peace be with you.” He showed them his hands with nail marks and his side spear marks, breathed on them the Holy Spirit and empowered them to forgive.
 
Now it so happened on that evening that Thomas, one of the twelve disciples, were not with them. Please note that at this time, there were only 11 disciples left, because Judas already hanged himself. So when Thomas rejoined them a week later, his comrades were excited to tell him, “We saw the Lord.” The reaction of Thomas? “Unless I see the marks of the nails in his hands, and put my finger in the mark of the nails, and my hand in his side, I will not believe.”
 
Now, let me remind you at the outset, that in the company of the apostles, it is not only Thomas who had expressed doubt about Jesus.  There was Philip who said, “Lord, showed us the Father and we shall be satisfied,” and to which Jesus said, “How long have I been with you, Philip that you don’t know me? How can you say “show us the Father?” If you have known me, you have seen the Father.” There was Peter who doubted Jesus when he was walking on water; and there were the rest of the apostles who doubted whether Jesus can feed five thousand people, with only five loaves and two fish.
 
Some years ago, I heard the testimony of the late Rev. Alan Watson of the Church of England. He suffered from terminal cancer and went through the “stages of dying” such as described by psychiatrist Elizabeth Kubler Ross. When he was on the “anger stage” he wrestled with the question, “is it alright to be angry with God?” His answer was written in a book he wrote before he died, “Fear No Evil.” In short, his answer basically said that “it is alright to be angry with God---because God can take it.” His wife could not take his anger, his children could not take his anger, but his God can!
 
In like manner, Jesus understands our questioning and so he indulged Thomas. He appeared out of the closed door and said to Thomas, “Put your finger here and see my hands; reach out your hand and put it in my side. Do not doubt but believe.” And what was the reaction of Thomas? He made a remarkable confession, a “leap of faith!” Thomas exclaimed, “My Lord and my God!”
 
From the starting point of doubt, Thomas would lay the foundation of the Christian faith. “My Lord and my God” is an ontological, Christological and soteriological confession. Jesus is not only the messiah of God; Jesus is not only the Son of God. Jesus is God! 
 
The confession of Thomas would become the foundation stone of this eternal mystery, this extraordinary theology that is God is One in three Persons: Father, Son and Holy Spirit.
 
I have therefore three things to say about the place of doubt in the faith of Thomas:
 
First, It is alright to doubt if it leads to a deeper knowledge of God. St. Anselm of Canterbury said, “faith seeks understanding.” Our faith is not blind faith. Our faith is anchored on the pillars of  "scripture, tradition and in reason," the three-legged stool of Anglicanism. To paraphrase St. Paul: If Christ had not risen from the dead, we are of all people to be pitied. But the truth of the matter is that Christ rose from the dead. His tomb was empty; his skeleton was not there; his ashes were nowhere to be found.” If one day, Jesus’ DNA will be found through the advances of science and technology, we will remember Jesus only as a great prophet--but not God who is co-equal with the Father and the Holy Spirit.
 
Second, it is alright to doubt if leads you to good works.  Between St. Paul and St. James, there is an interesting discussion about faith and works. St. Paul expressed in his letter to the Romans that we are saved by faith alone (Romans 3:28, 5:1) and in  Ephesians 2:8, he wrote “for by grace you have beensaved through faith; and this is not your own doing, it is the gift of God." St. James on the other hand, wrote that “faith without works is dead.” So if your doubt leads you into “working your salvation with fear and trembling,” then it is alright to express doubt.
 
It is alright to doubt if it ultimately leads to mission. Thomas’ doubt turned to genuine faith and ultimately led him to mission. Driven by this sense of mission, Thomas moved “from Jerusalem, to Judea to Samaria and to the ends of the world.” He traveled as far as India to proclaim the risen Christ and planted churches, until he was martyred in Madras in 53 A.D. Today, the age-old churches in India, such as the Mar Thoma Church, stand as a legacy of the doubting Thomas who was so convinced of the faith that Jesus is "both Lord and God.”
 
May your own questioning lead you towards a deeper knowledge of God, towards doing good works in Christ and towards fulfilling your mission of reconciliation. Amen.
Is there a place for doubt in the understanding of faith?   A tight rope walker set out to walk above the Niagara Falls. He called out to the crowd that gathered. “Do you believe I can walk on this tightrope and cross the border of USA and Canada...

The following are the opening comments from the Rev. Winfred Vergara, the Episcopal Church’s missioner for Asiamerica Ministries, at the Asia-America Theological Exchange Forum held Feb. 3-6 in the Philippines.


In the 1960s and 1970s, there was a flurry of theological activities in Asia centered on the contextualization of theology. As many Asian countries struggled for nationalism, selfhood and decolonization from Anglo-European influence, Asian theologians were also struggling to deconstruct theology. They reckoned that theology “was made in Germany, corrected in England, corrupted in America” and exported to Asia. Asian theologians struggled to liberate Christian theology from its Teutonic captivity. Sri Lankan theologian, D.T. Niles wrote:

The gospel is like a seed that must be sown. But our temptation is to bring along not only the gospel seed but our own plant of Christianity, flower pot included. The need now is to break this flower pot and let the seed grow as it should be in its own soil.

What D. T. Niles was referring to was that both catholic and reformed theologies that developed in Asia were largely products of Western and European theological thinking that have their own times and their own frameworks. Asia (and for that matter Africa and Latin America) were arenas of Western (Europe, England, the United States) colonialism and missionary expansionism. Many countries in Asia learned about Christ through the Cross and the Sword, reminiscent of the Constantine era when the Holy Roman Empire was at its triumphal stage. When German and English Reformation competed with Roman Catholicism in the 16th century, Asia became also a target for missionary enterprise and a theater for Roman Catholic and Protestant theological debacles. In the competitive atmosphere of colonial and imperialistic church planting, Asians themselves have lost sight that the Christian religion had already reached Asia even before this faith had been embraced in Europe and the Americas. (Read “The Lost History of Christianity”)

Literally tens of thousands of Western missionaries have lived and died in Asia and millions of American dollars were spent for Christian evangelism in Asia but they have not dug and cultivated the soil of early Christianity such as the Nestorian Christians who reached China in the 7th century) or followed the trails of the apostle Thomas who reached India in 33 A.D. and was martyred in Madras. Instead, Christian theology that came to Asia was garbed in the medieval Europe, the English Enlightenment or American evangelicalism. As a result, many Asians rejected the claims of Christ and looked at Christianity as a foreign religion and its missionaries as “foreign devils.” While it is true that catholic Christianity has made headway in the Philippines and East Timor and reformed Christianity in South Korea and Singapore, the vast Asian continent remains largely un-catholicized and un-evangelized. It is a demographic fact that Christianity is still a minority religion in Asia.

The crucial challenge to theology in Asia is to incarnate the full gospel and imprint the marks of Christ in the life and culture of Asia and how theology can become a tool for explicating and sharing the love of God in Christ Jesus.

Asian Contextualization

Broadly defined, “contextualization” simply means to being able to respond meaningfully to the Holy Scriptures within the framework of one’s total context. Theology cannot exist in a vacuum. It comes out from the theologian’s particular historical, cultural, social and religious situation. The late Japanese American theologian, Kosuke Koyama, referred to a theologian’s “particular orbit theology.” The task of Asian Christian theologians is how to present the Gospel in context, taking into account the Asian indigenous culture, art forms and values and press beyond indigenization to include the struggle for total human liberation and development.

I was a graduating seminarian at St. Andrew’s Theological Seminary in the Philippines when the resource called What Asian Christians Are Thinking was first published in 1978. It became my second bible when I was taking my graduate studies at the Southeast Asia Graduate School of Theology at Trinity Theological College, Singapore in the 1980s. Edited by one of our SATS professors, Dr. Douglas J. Elwood, “WACAT” (as we called it,) is an anthology of various and diverse articles written by Asian theologians made possible by the Fund for Theological Education of the World Council of Churches. It seems to me that the late 1970s and the early ‘80s (with such theological greats as M.M. Thomas from India, D. T. Niles from Sri Lanka, Shoki Coe from Taiwan, Kosuke Koyama from Japan, Won Sol Lee from Korea and Emerito Nacpil from the Philippines) were the “golden era” of Asian contextualization. I hope that it will be repeated in our own time.

One of the major contributions of that “golden era” was the description of what is Asia from the perspective of Asians. Won Sol Lee, noted the various “definitions” of Asia, thus:

Asia means different things to different people. For geographers, it is a term delineating the vast land mass stretching from the Middle East to Northeast Russia. For historians, it is the cradle of civilization. For economists, it is an area comprising of many underdeveloped countries. For political scientists, it consists of newly emergent nations struggling to modernize their societies. For most Westerners, Asia means a way of life antithetical to that of the West. (Lee, 1979,9)

The Association of Theological Education in South East Asia (ATESEA) and the South East Asia Graduate School of Theology (SEAGST) formulated in 1972 what they called the “Critical Asian Principle” as their framework in describing Asia. This principle consisted of seven features which were characteristics of Asia during that time. These features included:

  1. Plurality and diversity of races, people, cultures, social institutions, religions and ideologies are distinctively Asian.
  2. Most of the countries in Asia have a (Western) colonial experience.
  3. Most of the countries in Asia are now in the process of nation-building, development and modernization.
  4. The peoples of Asia want to achieve self-identity and cultural integrity in the context of the modern world.
  5. Asia is home to the world’s living and renascent religions which have shaped both the cultures and consciousness of the vast majority of Asians.
  6. Asian peoples are in search of forms of social order beyond the current alternatives.
  7. The Christian community is a minority in the vast Asian complex.

Doubtless these seven features of the critical Asian principle needs updating in light of the contemporary times when many Asian countries have successfully modernized and are competing with the European and Western world in the realm of global economy and geopolitics.  In the theological arena, however, there remains the need for more serious theological reflections and continued wrestling for Asian theological direction. It is my hope that this Asia-America Theological Exchange Forum will help revive the interest for contextualization like its golden years in the late ‘60s and early ‘70s, but would press on towards global context.

The global context that we are working on is the term “Asia-America.” We believe that significant theological discourses in the 21st century will happen more and more across the Pacific than across the Atlantic partly because of the significant population in Asia and partly because Asian peoples have been in diaspora all over the world. Asians comprise almost 2/3 of the world’s population and by immigration, overseas work and refugee movement, they have scattered across America, Europe and the Middle East. If we view Christianity in its global dimension and ensure the growth of the Church for the 21st century, we must include serious theological and missionary reflections in Asia-America context. Towards this end, the “Asia-America Theological Exchange Forum” was conceived.

The Rev. Dr. Winfred B. Vergara, Missioner
Asiamerica Ministries, The Episcopal Church

The following are the opening comments from the Rev. Winfred Vergara, the Episcopal Church’s missioner for Asiamerica Ministries, at the Asia-America Theological Exchange Forum held Feb. 3-6 in the Philippines. In the 1960s and 1970s, there was a...
The 77th General Convention of the Episcopal Church (July 5-12, 2012) was by far, the most significant convention to me. For the first time, the Hmong language was included in one of the morning liturgies and six Asian American young adults participated in the Convention. There was a Hmong delegation from Holy Apostles in St. Paul, Minnesota. Our note on why we chose Hmong as alternate language in the liturgy was written in the Worship Bulletin. It was a proactive advocacy of one of the most marginalized communities in the United States as well as one of the ethnic congregations that stands at the edge of mission in the 21st century.  
On the eve of our Convention, we were shocked by the news that our first Asiamerica Missioner, the Rev. Dr. Winston Wyman Ching died in Guam while en route from Hong Kong to Honolulu. We were interviewed by the Episcopal News Service and took part in the planning of memorial services. A resolution recognizing his role as pioneer of Episcopal Asiamerica Ministry was adopted by the House of Bishops.
Our Asiamerican deputies, particularly Warren Wong and David Ota showed great leadership, as Chair of Nominations Committee and Section Chair of Program Budget and Finance, respectively.  Bayani Rico, Mimi Wu and Irene Tanabe of the EAM Executive Council were also present along with other EAM volunteers in the DSE (Diversity Social & Environmental Ministries) Booth. Lelanda Lee, Hisako Beasley, Keith Yamamoto, Sunil Chandy, Winnie Varghese and Ryan Kosumoto, among others, were also notable as deputies from their dioceses.
I was particularly amazed at the conduct of the Convention. As Mission staff, I was assigned as liaison that week to the Standing Committee on “Prayer Book, Liturgy and Church Music.” Some resolutions it tackled were the hot button issues such as the rite of blessing of same sex relationships. I followed the legislative process from committee meetings, public hearings and presentations at the Houses and was impressed by the high level of discourse. There were disagreements but the debates were civil and respectful of each other’s dignity, which made me proud of being Episcopalian.
The hallmarks of democracy include “the majority decides;” “the minority have rights.” The final decision on same sex liturgy provided a “conscience clause,” to respect the feelings of others. The Presiding Bishop, the Most Rev. Katharine Jefferts Schori, explained that the use of this rite (PB Letter of Aug. 3, 2012), which will start on Advent 2012, is not compulsory but optional. “Like private confession…the principle is: ‘all may, some should, none must,’” the PB wrote. 
The “Asiamerica Lunchtime Conversation” sponsored by the Asiamerica Office, Partnership for Asia and the Pacific, and EAM Council brought together Asian deputies, primates and guests from Asia and a number of Episcopal bishops. We shared with them about the proposed Asia-America Theological Exchange in Manila on February 2013 and the EAM National Consultation on June 20-24, 2013 in San Francisco, California. We invited the primates and the bishops to be part of the EAM 40th Anniversary Thanksgiving Eucharist on June 23, 2013 at 3:00 p.m. at Grace Cathedral. We shared with them about the diverse programs of Asiamerica Ministries and particularly the partnership with Episcopal Divinity School in the Doctor of Ministry Program on Asian American Studies and the partnership with the Anglican Church of Korea in U.S. missionary church planting, among others.
We also shared our continuing collaboration with other ethnic offices and ministries. The Indigenous Ministry and the Black Ministry are proactive in the socio-economic issues and people’s advocacies while the Latino/Hispanic Ministry continues to be evangelistic. The Jubilee and Environmental Ministries make inroads in domestic poverty and stewardship of the earth. I am glad to be part of the team.
The budget approved for the next triennium (2012-2015) was based on the five marks of mission, namely:
~ To proclaim the Good News of the Kingdom
~ To teach, baptize and nurture new believers 
~ To respond to human need by loving service 
~ To seek to transform unjust structures of society 
~ To strive to safeguard the integrity of creation and sustain and renew the life of the earth.
 These 5 Marks of Mission, developed by the Anglican Consultative Council between 1984 and 1990, have won wide acceptance among Anglicans. It should provide us all with an easy to remember "checklist" for how we should design our program and mission activities. I will be willing to serve as Resource when your parishes re-envision your ministries. This will certainly be one of the topics at our EAM Consultation 2013.
The call for structural change also dominated the debates in the GC 2012. The need for change in church structure is imperative. As we experience revolutionary changes in the world, Christian institutions must either “change or die.”  A special committee will be formed to study and propose change in Structure and we hope there will be representation from Asian and other ethnic groups.
The triennial budget (2013-2015) of the Church is affected by the drop of revenues, decline in membership and the continuing economic recession. In the Church Center, we saw some staff lay-offs, though not as dramatic as the day following the 2009 General Convention. 
A slightly reduced budget will affect but not alter our scheduled plans for 2013. We will have our EAM Consultation in San Francisco but we call upon everyone to be creative and resourceful and aspire to become better stewards of God’s generosity. After my lecture on “Ethnic Stewardship” at the New Community Gathering in San Diego last March 2012, I received requests for similar seminars from our EAM constituencies and dioceses. The Stewardship Officer, Laurel Johnston, maintains a website in the Episcopal Church Center which provides resources for study. The Episcopal Network on Stewardship (TENS) awarded the Rev. Charles Chen from the Diocese of Taiwan, as an “Apostle of Transformation” for inspiring his parish to become good stewards and to build twelve mission churches in the Philippines. Asian churches have missionary legacies from missionaries Henry Venn and Roland Allen who popularized the “three-self movement” (self-supporting, self-governing and self-propagating) of ministries. We hope that our Asiamerica churches will also be models of the three-self and beyond.
In times like these, we need to lift up some heroes of our past and learn from them. I just returned from North Platte, Nebraska where the Presiding Bishop led in the celebration of the legacy of Hiram Hisanori Kano. Kano distinguished himself as an immigrant rights advocate, Japanese American internee and Episcopal priest. In the context of economic depression in the 1930’s, he was an agriculturist; in the unjust internment camps in World War II, he was a prisoner-teacher-evangelist; as an Episcopalian priest, he was a lover of God’s Word and disciple of Christ’s ministry of reconciliation. 
We also remember the life and work of Winston Ching, the pioneer and first missioner for Episcopal Asiamerica Ministries. Like Kano, he was also a bridge builder, establishing networks of relationship and persistently working for the Kingdom of God.  His life, just like Kano’s will serve as one of our sources of inspiration and strength as we go about doing God’s work in our own generation. 
At the time of this writing, we heard that news that Peter Ng, President Emeritus of the EAM Council and Partnership Officer for Asia and the Pacific has been conferred honorary canon by the Episcopal Church in the Philippines. He was cited as being instrumental for the close relationship between TEC and ECP. ECP is formerly a missionary district of TEC but became an autonomous province in the Anglican Communion a few years ago. In the same week, our Hmong youth leader, Longkee Vang has organized an EAM Youth Camp in Minnesota. Named YE@H (Young Episcopalians at Horizon), this grassroots movement promises to be a fresh renewal of our Asian American youth and young adult ministry.
I am indeed glad in the new developments in our church and the way the Asiamerica Ministries do its part in the building of the Reign of God. May the risen Lord, who continually works wonders, inspire us to do His mission in the context where we find ourselves.
The 77th General Convention of the Episcopal Church (July 5-12, 2012) was by far, the most significant convention to me. For the first time, the Hmong language was included in one of the morning liturgies and six Asian American young adults...

[Episcopal News Service] While imprisoned in four World War II internment camps in four years the Rev. Hiram Hisanori Kano led worship, ministered to and taught those around him, including his jailers, other internees, and German POWs.

The Nebraska priest’s life and ministry are the stuff of legend, so much so that the state legislature adopted a resolution recognizing his contributions and Gov. Dave Heineman has designated July 29 as “Father Hiram Hisanori Kano Day.”

Presiding Bishop Katharine Jefferts Schori will officiate at a 4 p.m. festival Eucharist in Kano’s honor July 29 at the Church of Our Savior in North Platte, Nebraska.

“Fr. Kano’s life and ministry offer a remarkable witness to the transformative power of loving one’s enemy,” the presiding bishop said.

Recently, the 77th General Convention of the Episcopal Church in Indianapolis approved preliminary steps to include Kano in Holy Women, Holy Men, the church’s calendar of commemorations.

Cyrus Kano, 91, a retired mechanical engineer, said his father turned adversity into fertile mission territory.

“He said, well, God put me here, what does he want me to do?” Kano recalled during a recent telephone interview from his home in Cape Cod, Massachusetts. “He saw in one of the camps that his fellow prisoners were many of the leaders of the Japanese community — many professors, doctors, lawyers, dentists and other professional people — and he organized a camp college and he invited all the people in the camp, including the guards, to attend these classes as they saw fit,” Kano said.

“My father also did nature studies and took groups of people out into the swamp in Louisiana and explained about the leaves on the cypress trees and the animals — the water moccasins, the alligators,” he added.

Adeline Kano, 84, agreed, adding that although their father “was interned, he was still a very busy man, trying to continue to do his work as a priest, as a human being, trying to help other people.

“These were all men incarcerated and it was difficult, you know, for them to keep focused on staying calm and cool and positive. So some of the things my father did while he was in these camps was … to teach the prisoners about nature. It could help keep their minds off the fact that they were incarcerated and away from their families.”

Kano also conducted worship services while incarcerated. “Even the Air Force, the prisoners would talk to him. There were some German prisoners there. He always tried to give everybody hope because that’s what our belief is in.”

Kano emigrated to the United States after a youthful encounter with William Jennings Bryan in his native Japan stirred his sense of adventure, according to his daughter, Adeline Kano.

“My grandfather was the governor of the prefecture of Kagoshina,” explained Kano, 84, during a recent telephone interview from her Fort Collins, Colorado home.

“When Papa came to the United States in 1916 he went to Bryan’s home,” she said.

Initially, Kano earned a master’s degree in agricultural economics at the University of Nebraska, and just as quickly became an activist and leader among the Japanese “Issei” or the first-generation community, many of whom had come to farm or to work on the railroads.

The Rt. Rev. George Allen Beecher, then bishop of the missionary Diocese of Western Nebraska, heard about Kano’s activism in 1921, when state lawmakers were considering legislation that would preclude Japanese immigrants from owning or inheriting land, or even leasing it for more than two years. Nor would they be allowed to own shares of stock in companies they had formed.

Kano and Beecher met and traveled together to the state capitol to address lawmakers, who eventually passed a less restrictive measure, according to Kano’s memoir, “Nikkei Farmer on the Nebraska Plains.”

The Rev. Hiram Kano

The Rev. Hiram Kano

Beecher persuaded Kano several years later to become a missionary to the Japanese community, estimated at about 600. In 1925, Kano complied and the family moved to North Platte. He was ordained a deacon three years later and served two mission congregations, St. Mary’s Church in Mitchell and St. George’s Church in North Platte. He was ordained to the priesthood in 1936.

Rose Yamamoto, who translated Kano’s memoir from Japanese into English, said, “If Fr. Kano hadn’t been with us we wouldn’t be Episcopalians now. He led the Christian community in Mitchell and North Platte.”

Roy S. Yanagida was just a boy but he remembers Kano as “being very instrumental in providing leadership, especially education. He provided the leadership for my parents, along with a lot of others to receive citizenship to the United States.”

Like a lot of other immigrants, his father Toshiro Yanagida arrived in North Platte to work on the railroad, and later became a sharecropper. “North Platte was quite the city for Japanese immigrants,” he recalled.

The churches Kano pastored were “a gathering point for many of us,” Yanagida recalled. “We also had a Japanese school at the church where we studied the Japanese language.”

He also remembers the shock and sorrow that flooded the community after the Dec. 7 attack on Pearl Harbor. FBI agents arrested Fr. Kano later that day; he spent the next four years in various concentration camps.

“They took him immediately because he was the leader of the group,” Yanagida recalled. “The rest of us didn’t have to go to an interment camp because they told us we were inland enough — that if we had been on the west coast we would have had to go.”

Busy is the way Adeline Kano remembers her father. That he was always working, whether caring for others, or studying, or preparing sermons.

Even so, she didn’t realize the tremendous impact of his ministry upon the community, she said. “I just knew that he was busy, and that the went back and forth, wherever we lived, whether in the panhandle of Nebraska or in North Platte.”

Often, it was a team ministry, she added. “At that time we didn’t have babysitters,” she recalled. “We would all go to visit the families. We’d get in the car and go.”

A lot of it was accomplished with the support and assistance of her mother, Aiko Ivy Kano, she added.

She feels humbled about the upcoming celebration, which both she and her brother plan to attend.

“I knew he did a lot, but I just didn’t realize the magnitude of it,” she said. About the possibility of her father being added to the church calendar, she said: “It’s awesome. It is a humbling experience.”

The Rev. Winfred Vergara, Asiamerica missioner for the Episcopal Church, agreed. “Giving this honor would vindicate Fr. Kano and the thousands of Japanese Americans who were wrongfully herded and placed in the internment camps during World War II.

“Kano’s pastoral ministry among his fellow Japanese internees and pastoral care extended to Caucasian soldiers who were imprisoned for being AWOL and deserters, and earned him the sobriquet as ‘saint of Nebraska’ and a credible agent of the ministry of reconciliation,” said Vergara.

There will also be a celebration of the two mission congregations Kano led, St. Mary’s in Mitchell and St. George’s in North Platte. Eventually the two were folded into other congregations, like Church of Our Savior, said Steve Kay, a parishioner who organized the celebrations.

“He was an amazing man,” Kay said of Kano during a recent telephone interview.” He devoted his life to helping immigrants, he taught them. He was an agricultural advisor.

After he retired, Hiram and Aiko Kano moved to Fort Collins, Colorado, where Adeline Kano lives. He died in 1988, just shy of his 100th birthday; she passed away in 1997, two months before her 100th birthday.

— The Rev. Pat McCaughan is a correspondent for the Episcopal News Service.

[Episcopal News Service] While imprisoned in four World War II internment camps in four years the Rev. Hiram Hisanori Kano led worship, ministered to and taught those around him, including his jailers, other internees, and German POWs. The Nebraska...

Missioner for Asiamerica Ministries in the Episcopal Church based in New York City.

Married to former Angela Vinluan, former school teacher. Born in Philippines, served as priest in the Iglesia Filipina Independiente (1978-1980); as missionary in the Anglican Church of Singapore (1980-1986); as Canon Asian Missioner in the Episcopal Diocese of El Camino Real and founder of Holy Child Episcopal Church in San Jose, California (1988-2004). As church wide missioner of The Episcopal Church since 2004, I also served as Priest-in-Charge of St. Michael & All Angels in Seaford Long Island, NY (2009-2013) and currently at St. James's church in Elmhurst, Queens, NY.

Missioner for Asiamerica Ministries in the Episcopal Church based in New York City. Married to former Angela Vinluan, former school teacher. Born in Philippines, served as priest in the Iglesia Filipina Independiente (1978-1980); as missionary in...

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