Archive for the 'reconciliation' Category


On Interracial Churches and Rev. Rodney Woo

Rev. Rodney Woo

Rev. Rodney Woo

Interesting CNN cover story yesterday on interracial churches and “Why Many Americans Prefer Their Sundays Segregated.” Good read.

Some great highlights:
What was he was going to do if more of “them” tried to join their church?
The article cites Rev. Rodney Woo, who is partly Chinese, showing a very Third Culture approach on his part. There was fear that more Asians would flood the church because of his last name but according to the article it seems like that’s far from reality. I wonder if there are Asians in his church? My guess is that if they go or don’t go it probably has nothing to do with Woo’s last name. The reverend doesn’t look very Chinese to me. Not a knock on him but just a statement that perhaps the reason why people (Asians) go or don’t go has little to do with his last name but it may be an issue for non-Asians.

The Rev. Rodney Woo, senior pastor of Wilcrest Baptist Church in Houston, Texas, may be such a person. He leads a congregation of blacks, whites and Latinos. Like many leaders of interracial churches, he is driven in part by a personal awakening.

Woo’s mother is white, and his father is part Chinese. He attended an all-black high school growing up in Port Arthur, Texas, where he still remembers what it was like to be a minority.
“Everyone understands the rules, the lingo, the mind-set — except you,” he says. “It was invaluable, but I didn’t know it at the time.”

When he became pastor of Wilcrest in 1992, he was determined to shield his church members from such an experience. But an exodus of whites, commonly referred to as “white flight” was already taking place in the neighborhood and the church.

Membership fell to about 200 people. At least one church member suggested that Woo could change the church’s fortunes by adding a “d” to his last name.

“The fear there was people would think I was Chinese,” he says. “There would be a flood of all these Asians coming in, and what would we do then?”

Woo kept his last name and his vision. He made racial diversity part of the church’s mission statement. He preached it from the pulpit and lived it in his life. He says Wilcrest now has about 500 members, and is evenly divided among white, Latino and black members.

Woo doesn’t say his church has resolved all of its racial tensions. There are spats over music, length of service, even how to address Woo. Blacks prefer to address him more formally, while whites prefer to call him by his first name, (a sign of disrespect in black church culture), Woo says.
Woo tries to defuse the tension by offering something for everyone: gospel and traditional music, an integrated pastoral staff, “down-home” preaching and a more refined sermon at times.

But he knows it’s not enough. And he’s all right with that.

“If there’s not any tension, we probably haven’t done too well,” he says. “If one group feels too comfortable, we’ve probably neglected another group.”


my response to mark o

Dear Mark,
Like many who have already spoken, I thank you. I deeply appreciate your heartfelt contrition, your agonizing over the issue and prompt action. It helps more than many realize. I do believe that you understand some of the struggles of the plight of many silent voices and troubled hearts including my own. Those who know you and have spoken about your character in these comments only accentuates your integrity here.

We do need each other. Should we not be open to correction? Should we not make right what is wrong? Are we not to drop everything even the act of worship to make right what a brother may have against you – whether they deserve it or not? As painful as this has been I believe this was a step for all of us towards becoming a more redemptive community.
your brother,

Laurence Tom


youth specialties/zondervan apology

i have been trying to process the events surrounding youth specialties/zondervan and asian american ministry leaders like soong-chan rah. if you’re in the dark, there was a fairly offensive skit published in a popular youth ministry resource called skits that teach by eddie james and tommy woodard published by zondervan. furthermore, there’s an accompanying mp3 with answering machine voices that can be downloaded.

here’s an excerpt:

“Herro, Dis is Wok’s Up Restaurant calling to confirm your order. . . . I think that, yes, you total is 14 dollar 95 cent.”

“Herro? This is Wok’s Up Restaurant again. We have drive and drive, and we can’t find you house. We don’t find you house soon, you pu pu get cold. Pu pu good when it hot.”

(Hostile) “Okay, we drive for long time looking for you house. I tell you, you go outside and I look for you. I am driving a red Rincon (Lincoln) Continental. You pu pu still getting cold. Bye!

“Okay, I drive for long time and I stil not find you house. So I am eating you pu pu! Ruckiry it still warm. I was hungry, so I eat it. Mmmmm . . . this pu pu is good. (Smacks lips a few times) You on my bad rist. You don’t call us anymore. Bye!

zondervan/ys has shown some corrective responses, including a public apology from mark oestreicher that i believe was incredibly contrite and continues to outline further steps taken to make right what he can. i very much appreciate his response and the efforts taken.

i’ve tended to stray away from using many youth specialties materials of if possible as a youth minister because i found that it didn’t always connect with my students or myself. when i first started in ministry i used many of the materials but gradually i found that they for lack of better words were very “white.” i’m not saying that they’re bad materials at all. i think youth specialties does great things for youth ministry at large, particularly for more “american” youth. to be grossly general, asian american kids deal with different things. the needs are simply different especially when they find themselves more stuck between two cultures or more.

positively thinking, i think this will help zondervan move in a new direction to cater to or at the very least be more sensitive to an increasingly diverse audience. but this blindspot needed be brought to their attention. i do believe that this plays a role in God’s redemptive plan. i think that the process of this reconciliation between ys/zondervan and the aa community though painful has gone better than anticipated.

as for those of us who are asian american, i think if over the years prior to this incident if the lack of connection in mainstream youth resources hasn’t made us more creative to develop our own materials that it ought to encourage us to produce our own. now if this skit was produced by one of our own and it was clearly ours for our community…would it have been ok? perhaps.

[american born chinese pastor]
seeks to be that third place for those who are american born chinese [abc] in ministry.
here we may explore issues unique to the chinese church and doing ministry in that context
expand the intersection of asian american culture and christian faith
or simply expose what goes on in the mind of this abcpastor

this may be a bit ambitious or even naiive but i do hope that through the posts we can bring together different faith communities, passions for the advancement of the Gospel and the equipping of the body of Christ.

if you are an abc pastor or have any suggestions or would like to contribute to make this space evolve, just comment.


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