Welcome to the blog series celebrating the 2015 Asian Pacific American Heritage Month, inspired by the "Our New Day Begun" series celebrating Black History Month by the Rev. Tawnya Denise Anderson. This month, you will read profiles of Asian Pacific American Presbyterian leaders, spanning many generations and ethnicities. Check back throughout May for more profiles!
A look at other posts:
Presbyterians Celebrating Asian Pacific American Heritage Month
The Rev. Charlene Han Powell
The Rev. Phil Tom
The Rev. Bruce Reyes-Chow
The Rev. Yena Hwang
The Rev. Joann Haejong Lee
The Rev. Shawn Kang
Jim Huang of New Brunswick, NJ serves as the Senior Pastor of the Taiwanese/American Fellowship Presbyterian Church. Here he is with his wife KuanFen Liu and daughter Terilyn Huang.
Are you a “cradle Presbyterian,” or did you come to the tradition later in life?
I am a cradle Presbyterian, but from a different country. I was born in Taiwan, baptized as an infant in a church that belonged to Presbyterian Church of Taiwan, and confirmed at the Taiwanese American Presbyterian Church of San Jose, California. I guess you can call me lifelong and dedicated Presbyterian.
What do you most appreciate about this tradition?
The reason I continue to believe in the Reformed Tradition is because this tradition always reminds me to be on the lookout for the changes in our world. This tradition reminds me that we cannot afford to be comfortable and stagnant, because the world is changing, and so shall our ways of reaching the people.
I believe in the Presbyterian way of the Reformed Tradition because I believe in the role of the presbyter as an ordained office. It is a great responsibility to be an elder in a Presbyterian church; the ordination process and the subsequent ceremony are necessary parts of this discernment process.
What about it do you think needs to be changed or addressed?
I do not believe in change for change’s sake. What needs to be changed depends on the context of our ministry. What needs to be addressed is that each and every church needs to change from trying to be a prophet to becoming a healer, trying to be welcoming to becoming invitational, trying to do ministry to becoming ministers.
How do you think your perspective as an Asian Pacific American can enrich the denomination?
I am a 1.5 generation Taiwanese American. I was born in Taiwan, and subsequently immigrated here to United States with my family when I was eleven years old. That introduction alone can enrich our denomination because the label of “Asian Pacific American” encompasses so many vastly different cultures, subcultures, languages, political climates, and deeply rooted ways of life. Asian Pacific Americans come from a densely populated area with so many different kinds of people that our individuality in that world is important. We have found a way to carve out our individual identities.
I believe our world is becoming as dense and diverse as the Asia Pacific region, and people in this diverse world are always looking for identity, to find a place that they belong. Our denomination needs to become as diverse as our world is becoming, and I believe Asian Pacific Americans can enrich our denomination by providing a way for us to become diverse yet keep our individuality locally.
What led you to pursue ordination as a Teaching Elder?
This is a long story, so I will be brief.
Call – An invitation from a trusted source and a sense of responsibility to my identity as a Taiwanese living in America.
Affirmation – From my upbringing, to my role as an immigrant and how God shaped me as a Taiwanese American, and affirmation from my family led me to believe that the call indeed was from God.
Describe your current call. What is your role? What is the racial/ethnic composition of the place you serve?
I am currently serving as the Senior Pastor of Taiwanese/American Fellowship Presbyterian Church in New Brunswick, New Jersey. Our congregation is 95% Taiwanese, and 5% “Other.” Though our racial/ethnic composition does give an impression that we are not a diverse church, we are, in fact, very diverse.
I would say about 60% of our congregation are Taiwanese immigrants who have been here for about 30 years. They speak mostly Taiwanese, and worship in Taiwanese.
20% of our congregation members are also Taiwanese immigrants, but they are recent immigrants. They are mostly in their 30s, and though most do (some do not) understand Taiwanese, they mostly converse in Mandarin Chinese. They are different culturally than the previous group.
20% of our congregation members are English-speaking. They are either: 1) children of the first group; 2) spouses of the first or second group who only speak English; or 3) local community people who enjoy our community. They speak and worship in English only.
We don’t seem diverse from the racial/ethnic point of view, but we are diverse from a cultural point of view. The three groups have three different cultural backgrounds, and are nurtured three different ways.
I was called to be the “glue;” to bring these three diverse groups of people together, have them worship together, and function as a family of God.
How do you think our denomination can best benefit/be enriched by the perspectives of Asian Pacific American Presbyterians?
As you can see from my answer from above, I believe Asian Pacific American Presbyterian can enrich our denomination by demonstrating how to be unified with different cultural backgrounds, languages, theologies, or even worship styles. We live with diversity every single day, even on Sundays. Though we are mostly ethnically Taiwanese, we come together to celebrate that part we share. However, we celebrate it differently. We celebrate it by speaking different languages in our fellowships, we celebrate it by doing different things in our fellowships, and we celebrate it despite our differences in other areas. I believe this is something our denomination can learn from Asian Pacific American Presbyterians. We need to focus on what we share, not what sets us apart.