March 22, 2007
Written by C.N.
As my article on Religion, Faith, & Spirituality describes, religion — in its many forms — is a very important part of many Asian American lives and communities. Not only does religion give someone a sense of a higher purpose and understanding, but religious organizations can serve many important material and emotional functions for its members. In that context, as the Los Angeles Times reports, it might be a cause of worry to hear that many Asian American churches face a shortage of new, young clergy:
Asian American churches are going through a “crisis of leadership” because seminaries are not preparing a new generation of pastors to work in multi-generational and multicultural settings, Asian American Christian leaders say. The problem, the leaders say, affects churches throughout the country but is particularly pronounced in California.
At a time when Christian immigrants from Asia and Asian converts in the United States are fueling what a study calls “the most dynamic changes in American Christianity,” few U.S. seminaries offer courses designed to prepare pastoral leaders for the linguistic and cultural needs of Asian American congregations. . . .
Pastors, seminary professors and lay leaders said at the session and in later interviews that generational schisms in Asian American churches are causing clergy attrition and turnover among pastors born or reared in the United States. Some young pastors experience so much frustration that they start their own English-speaking, pan-Asian churches. Others become so disillusioned that they leave the ministry, experts said.
As an example of the kind of generational differences among Asian American clergy that can lead to conflict, the article describes that many Asian immigrants are drawn to churches as a way to demonstrate or show off the own personal prosperity or status that are normally denied to them in mainstream American society. However, many U.S.-born Asian American clergy become disillusioned with this emphasis on material success and strict hierarchical structures.
In other words, the generation gap is real and is likely to have real consequences in the religious life of many Asian Americans in years to come. If this shortage of U.S.-born Asian American clergy continues, we may end up seeing Asian Americans segmented into separate religious communities — one pan-Asian or largely integrated one where most U.S.-born Asian Americans attend, and one Asian-language one mostly for immigrants.
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Suggested reference: Le, C.N. . "Few Asian American Ministers in the Pipeline" Asian-Nation: The Landscape of Asian America. <http://www.asian-nation.org/headlines/2007/03/few-asian-american-ministers-in-the-pipeline/> ().
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