Over the past half dozen years the Church of the Brethren has received informal inquiries and formal overtures from numerous non-aligned congregations and persons interested in exploring denominational affiliation. While often representing an ethnic, cultural, or historical background that is different from the majority of Brethren, those inquiring have expressed deep interest in and enthusiasm for Brethren values and practices.
In several instances districts of the Church of the Brethren have, after study and mutual exploration, received whole groups into membership, recognizing them either as congregations or fellowships. The result has been spiritually and culturally enriching.
At the same time there has been a discernible lack of guidance on how to achieve integration and unity in a way that upholds the integrity, traditions, and mission across a wide range of diversity in background and experience. Therefore,
BE IT RESOLVED that the district board of the district of Illinois and Wisconsin, meeting at the Oakley Brick Church of the Brethren, Oakley, Illinois, August 23, 1986, petition district conference, meeting at Boulder Hill Church of the Brethren, Montgomery, Illinois, September 27, 1986, to request Annual Conference at Cincinnati, Ohio, June 30–July 5, 1987 to offer counsel in the inclusion and integration of ethnic persons and groups into the life of the Church of the Brethren.
Action of the Illinois and Wisconsin district conference, meeting at the Boulder Hill Church of the Brethren, Montgomery, Illinois, September 26, 1986: Passed the query to Annual Conference.
Phyllis Hunn, Moderator
Jeanette Lahman, Clerk
Action of the 1987 Annual Conference
Samuel H. Flora, a Standing Committee delegate from the district of Illinois and Wisconsin, presented the recommendation from Standing Committee that the 1987 Annual Conference approve the concern of the query and refer that a concern to the General Board for counsel in the inclusion and integration of ethnic persons and groups into the life of the Church of the Brethren.
The delegates amended the recommendation and then voted for the amended recommendation that the 1987 Annual Conference approve the concern of the query, INCLUSION OF ETHNICS INTO THE CHURCH OF THE BRETHREN, and refer that concern to an Annual Conference committee of five (5) members for study and for bringing learnings and recommendations to Annual Conference for consideration. The committee is to include persons from a variety of ethnic groups so as to provide understandings from various perspectives. A report is expected at the 1988 Annual Conference.
The committee of five (5) members elected by the 1987 Annual Conference were: Roger E.L. Cruz, Guillermo Encarnacion, Kwang Suk (Dan) Kim, Stephen B. Reid, and Mary Spessard Workman.
1988 Report of the Study Committee on Inclusion of Ethnics Into the Church of the Brethren
Charge of the Committee
The committee was instructed by the Annual Conference of 1987 “. . . to offer counsel in the inclusion and integration of ethnic persons and groups into the life of the Church of the Brethren.”
Background for the Committee’s Study
We found that counsel involved issues of theology, policy, and polity. The committee seeks to explore the theological foundation for an ethnically and culturally diverse church. Once such a foundation exists the committee will explore policy such as the lack of professional leadership in the highest levels of Church of the Brethren administration such as the General Offices and Bethany Theological Seminary. Further, the committee in order to accomplish its task will need to examine the polity issues of the process for the inclusion of new congregations, in this case ethnic minority congregations, as well as the polity process regarding ordination.
Plan of Study
The key metaphor for our work thus far has been participation. We have discovered that inclusion requires participation in power and ministry.
We have started the process of gleaning information from across the denomination about our history of participation of ethnic minorities. We will continue this with sessions at Bethany Theological Seminary, the General Offices as well as an Information Gathering session at this Annual Conference. We will add this data to the written material we have already received as the resource material for the paper. This process seems unavoidable to us. The participation of ethnic minorities to be successful requires a broad base of denominational support. Therefore any paper dealing with such a topic must go through a process of getting information from a broad base of sources.
The topics of the paper will include: the theological foundation for participation of ethnic minorities in the life of the Church of the Brethren; a policy concerning leadership development in the ethnic minority Church of the Brethren communities; and suggestions concerning the polity process for ordination and inclusion of ethnic minority churches.
Request for Additional Time
The challenge “to offer counsel . . .” demands a process that has made it impossible for us to complete our work according to the schedule outlined by the 1987 Annual Conference. Therefore with this progress report before you we ask for an extension of one year, to bring you the full report.
Stephen B. Reid, Chairman
Roger E. L. Cruz
Kwang Suk (Dan) Kim
Mary Spessard Workman
Committee’s expenses related to travel, lodging, and meals from 1987 to March 15, 1988 total, $1,974
Estimated additional expenses, $2,000
Action of the 1988 Annual Conference
The report from the Annual Conference committee, Inclusion Of Ethnics Into The Church Of The Brethren, was recognized by the moderator and presented by Stephen B. Reid, chair. With no objections from the delegate body, the moderator granted an extension of time of one year to the committee for its work.
1989 Committee Report
A Vision of Participation
We find our unity in Christ. We likewise find our ability to cope with the diversity of the church in Christ. We are strangers no more. We speak the truth in love (Eph. 4:15).
II. History And Background Of The Paper
The 1987 Annual Conference approved a query on the inclusion of ethnics into the Church of the Brethren. Two issues arise from the query. First, what appropriate polity and procedures should be adopted for the inclusion of ethnic minority non-aligned congregations? Second, what strategy would best nurture our ministry with the ethnic diversity in our midst? This paper deals with both of these concerns.
III. Principles for Participation: Unity and Diversity
Unity. Jesus challenges the church to unity. The theme of unity in Jesus’ teaching includes participation of all peoples of the world (Matt. 28:19). The theme of unity is a christological message recurring in the New Testament as evidenced in the image of the Body of Christ as a model for “the church” (1 Cor. 3:1-9; 12:12-13).
Participation. Jesus challenges us to be more than mere viewers of salvation history. We have a picture of Christ’s commandments and now can do nothing less than participate in the life of the church. This means being involved in leadership at every level of the denomination. We strive for participation not out of any desire for prestige but because God has chosen each of us (John 15:16), including ethnic minorities.
Vision. Like the writer of Habakkuk, we have faith in a vision. “For still the vision awaits its time” (Hab. 2:3). However, the Church of the Brethren lacks a vision of participation of all the peoples of the world, or even the United States. Scripture tells us that where the dream and vision have faltered the people die (Prov. 29:18).
The vision of greater ethnic participation in the life of the denomination is a church growth issue as well as a justice issue. Church growth, evangelism, and greater ethnic diversity resonate with the Goals of the ’90s. The Church of the Brethren needs to take concrete positive steps to develop a new vision.
The need for a new vision is acute. Scripture alerts us to the danger of life without vision. Where there is no vision (hazon) (the Revised Standard Version translates this as “prophecy”), people are “let loose” (yippara) (Prov. 29:18b). The new vision (and the accompanying law) is one of unity and diversity. Our future as a people depends on it.
The vision is more than something outside of us. Rather the vision empowers us. The best example of this is found in the Pentecost story (Acts 2). The ethnic diversity and the challenge for inclusiveness were a witness to the work of the Holy Spirit then as today. We strive for a denomination with passion for the gospel to all people. Pentecost without passion is not Pentecost. Diversity without passion will not happen. The Pentecost story tells us prayer and study will help, but it does not give a guidebook to inclusion of ethnic diversity.
The United States is changing. In years past the vast majority of American immigrants were from various parts of Europe. Today more than 82 percent come from Latin America and Asia. The American church is changing. Denominations such as the American Baptists, the United Church of Christ, and the United Methodist Church report that the bulk of their church growth is occurring in ethnic minority churches (statistics taken from C. Wayne Zunkel, Strategies for Growing Your Church).
After reading the study of the Church of the Brethren done by Carl Bowman (see monthly excerpts in Messenger in 1986), we asked ourselves if there could be life for ethnic minorities in the Church of the Brethren. Bowman’s study indicates that the Church of the Brethren is largely a Mid-Atlantic and Midwest phenomenon, with 50-59 percent of the adult members still living in rural areas. Nonetheless, according to Bowman, there is considerable flux on identity issues such as beliefs of pacifism, and the meaning of the simple life. Despite the flux and the demographics of the denomination, we affirm a basic belief that we can find guidance for an ethnically diverse church in scriptures such as Ezekiel 34 and Acts 2.
Flux or no flux, concerns for greater ethnic diversity must attend to basic identity stances the Church of the Brethren has taken over the years. We recognize that the Church of the Brethren has had a commitment to and tradition of peace, reconciliation, justice, and simple living. We affirm these as so central as to not be at stake when we talk about ethnic diversity. When we have a vision of participation, we do not lay down the gospel which has fed us with the traditions of peace and simple living. Rather we share them with cultures that may not have these, and celebrate them with cultures that already have them.
We recognize that some traditions have a view of women’s participation in the leadership of the church that is at odds with the Church of the Brethren position on the inclusion and celebration of women as a force for leadership in sharing the gospel of Jesus Christ. However, we affirm that this too is a place where the Church of the Brethren can instruct persons from some cultures about the biblical tradition of women as religious leaders. And the church shall be instructed by cultures that have invited women’s leadership in a more substantial way that we have heretofore.
There can be no double standard. The Church of the Brethren lifts up peace, simple living, reconciliation, and justice as essential in the gospel of Jesus Christ. We cannot dodge those issues for inclusion. Inclusion of ethnic minority does not require that we lapse in our commitment to these basic tenets of our life in faith.
IV. Patterns of Thought and Practice
We recognize that the Church of the Brethren has sectarian roots. The theological insights of the sectarian heritage of the Church of the Brethren should never be lost. Nonetheless, sectarianism in twentieth-century United States pulls us into the grasp of sin through racism. The subtlety of this racism makes it all the more effective as sin.
We recognize the traditional values of the Church of the Brethren to affirm them. Sometimes our claims to traditional values mask blocks to inclusiveness. We need to be careful that middle-class ideology does not replace the gospel, which is for all people despite their ethnic background or social class.
The challenge before the Church of the Brethren includes the need to speak the gospel eloquently. God calls us to be in communion with all believers, not only those who share a common European heritage. Our eloquence though is not enough. The statement requires certain polity and programmatic considerations.
We recognize that the challenge of program in these days of austerity in the denominational offices represents a source of fear for many of us. Nonetheless, the vision of the denomination is reflected in the educational materials, the training of the pastors at Bethany Theological Seminary, as well as the composition of the denominational staff, the district offices, and congregations.
Models of Inclusion. Two models of inclusion mark the history of the Church of the Brethren work with ethnic minorities. The first is the ethnic model, with ethnic churches as separate and independent congregations. It is a model derived from the idea of a church as many parts, with different functions held together through Christ (Rom. 12:4-8; 14:12-13; 1 Cor. 12:12-31).
The second model is the multi-ethnic model, which derives from the Pentecost experience (Acts 2). During the civil rights movement, the Church of the Brethren led the fight to have churches embrace the integration model. However, for a number of reasons—from “the black power movement” to the fear of the changes an integrated church might bring—the model of ethnic churches was adopted by denominations such as the United Church of Christ, the United Methodists, and the American Baptists.
As noted above, the Church of the Brethren has a tradition and practice of using both models. We can see ethnic minority churches such as Kang Nam in Pacific Southwest. We also see integrated congregations such as First church in Chicago, First church in Baltimore, and Lower Miami in Southern Ohio.
Each model has something to commend it and is rooted in scripture.
The Ethnic Model. “Church growth” literature encourages the model of ethnic churches. The literature on the whole maintains that people like to worship with people who are ethnically, culturally, socio-economically, and theologically like themselves. Language does not present a problem because all the people share a common worship language. The nature of conflict is substantially less intense with this model. The parent or sister congregation can adopt a “live and let live” policy on a number of things that ordinarily would prompt major church fights.
The Multi-ethnic Model. This integration model often creates struggle over power in the congregation and the changing of church traditions. Church conflict in this model gets substantially more intense. The “live and let live” way of dealing with church conflict becomes almost impossible. In some cases language also will be an issue. However, this model prepares ethnic minority persons for the life of the denomination at the district and national level.
Language. Where the church especially needs to discuss and pray about these models is around the issue of language. In the life of churches there are two languages: the language of worship (liturgical language) and the language of decision making (legislative language). Currently in our denomination these two languages are more or less the same. But in a more inclusive church, these languages will no longer be the same.
Worship has some of the most difficult and technical terminology no matter what the language. Therefore almost all people require worship language to be in their own native tongues. Many persons who are able to understand the English of the workplace are unable to penetrate the English of worship language. Therefore the denomination must make available worship and Christian education resources in the native tongues of the larger ethnic minority languages of the denomination—in this case, Spanish, Korean, Filipino (Tagolog), and Haitian/Creole.
Legislative language of the Church of the Brethren comes not so much from Annual Conference as from the myriad of committees and boards that help do the work of the church on the every level. It seems unlikely that these settings will become multilingual. Therefore we must devise a way so that ethnic minority leadership understands that while English is not required for worship it nonetheless orients the decision-making of the denomination.
Leadership, Ordination, and a Seminary Education. The Church of the Brethren has struggled to promote an educated clergy. As a result, ordination and education often are seen as going hand in hand. Ethnic diversity challenges that model in places. The ethnic minority church often has bi-vocational pastors, as many smaller churches have less money for pastoral support.
Like the issue of language, the short-term and local solutions may not work as effectively over the long term at the district and national levels. One can argue that formal seminary training is not always the solution. The denomination provides programs for persons who choose a different path. However, the ethnic minority persons seeking ordination and a profession in the Church of the Brethren will find the lack of a seminary degree a severe handicap. The education and socialization that take place at seminary, especially a denominational seminary such as Bethany, are an important part in the professional life of clergy. Therefore the church must maintain a policy on seminary education comparable to the one on language. We encourage ethnic minority theological education at Bethany or another accredited seminary, while at the same time providing educational opportunities for the ethnic minority pastors who find such a path onerous.
Power and Polity. Every denomination has pattern of participation and leadership. However, in most denominations, including the Church of the Brethren, must of the preparation for participation in leadership of the church takes place in informal ways. Ethnic minority Brethren are cut off from this by culture and the traditional Brethren network. Many ethnic minority persons and congregations are accustomed to organizational structures different from those used in the Church of the Brethren. Therefore, particular patience and education are required on matters of polity. Two examples that immediately come to mind are the role of the pastor, and polity and church property.
Many ethnic minority congregations view the pastor as having high status. Church of the Brethren congregations have moved away from a hierarchical model to one of power-sharing church leadership. The movement away from that model has been so strong that the encounter between the ethnic minority churches and other Church of the Brethren congregations is particularly jarring.
The Brethren understanding of church property as held “in trust” on behalf of the district is not always understood even by long-established congregations. The issue does not come up very often in the life of a congregation. Ethnic minority congregations new to the denomination, especially if they have been non-denominational before, will need significant help in understanding this part of polity.
We commend nominating committee for a tradition of seeking to include all members of the denomination. However, the challenge for the denomination is to improve the talent search for ethnic minority persons. Many persons on nominating committee do not know many of the ethnic minority persons in the denomination. Having a few ethnic minorities on the nominating committee will not solve the problem, since ethnic minority Brethren do not know the Korean Brethren and vice versa. Somehow the pattern for the talent search should be improved at every level of the Church of the Brethren.
V. Nurture: Recommendations and Challenges
The recommendations in this paper underscore the Goals for the ’90s passed at the 1988 Annual Conference, particularly as the Goals relate to evangelism, witness, and leadership development.
At the congregation level experts tell us that if a denomination can win one ethnic leader to its faith it then often gains entrance into that cultural group. However, we recognize that this model works more often in certain types of cultures than in others.
As the ethnic minority church comes into the fellowship, it is important that it have someone from an older congregation (or the district) to walk with it every step of the way. While much of Church of the Brethren tradition on theology, ethnics, and polity are clearly delineated, much of the social customs, as well as leadership and power remain unwritten and often unspoken. Without a mentor, these unwritten and unspoken parts of church life are cut off from ethnic minority Brethren.
The mentor also acts as an advocate. The mentor is someone who understands the cultures of the ethnic minority as well as the district. The gospel mandates inclusiveness, but does not indicate that it will be easy. The early church struggled with the Gentiles. Paul was not only a mentor to the Gentiles, he was also an advocate for the Gentiles. In the struggle before us, there will be conflicts where ethnic minorities cannot be the only ones who voice their needs.
Our recommendations consistently come out of the scripture and heritage concern of the Goals for the ’90s. “We are called to embody the spirit of the Scriptures . . . to celebrate Brethren identity as informed by scriptures . . .” The mentor studies the Scriptures and prays with the congregation and the district on these matters of inclusiveness.
At the district level: Employment of ethnic minority staff and programming has much room to grow in many districts. Leadership in the Church of the Brethren is developed primarily at the congregational and district levels. We applaud the Council of District Executives for discussing the recruitment, training, and placement of ethnic minority leaders for the Church of the Brethren. The role of district executives is a crucial one, as a pastor to pastors and a resource to congregations. District ministers/executives have to help congregations catch a vision of a more inclusive church and then develop plans for district boards and congregations.
At the national level: Employment of ethnic minority staff at the management and programming level at Bethany Theological Seminary and the denominational offices shows plenty of room for growth.
Shantilal P. Bhagat represents the only culturally ethnic minority presence at the management level in the denominational headquarters. (It should be noted that the General Board does represent ethnic diversity that is missing in the staff.) Fumitaka Matsuoka is the only ethnic minority person on the Bethany Theological Seminary faculty and staff. Further, that selection is new and controversial. Functionally it would be incorrect to say that we have an affirmative action program in place at either institution. While we do comply with federal law, the hiring practices indicate that the church is not yet committed to ethnic inclusion. We yearn for more in-depth visioning of an ethnically diverse denominational staff. Programming for ethnic minorities is also weak. The programs of Training in Ministry, Church Development, and Hispanic Ministries have excellent staff but insufficient support to be a catalyst for the Church of the Brethren turning the corner toward being an inclusive denomination.
In order to implement a vision of an inclusive church, we offer specific recommendations for congregations, districts, and the General Board and seminary.
Recommendations for congregations:
1.) Where feasible, every Church of the Brethren congregation is challenged to develop an ethnic minority congregation using its facilities while maintaining cultural identity of its own. These new ethnic congregations most likely will be reached through worship services they understand and in a language with which they feel comfortable. The older congregation becomes a friend, a shelter, a brother and sister to help nurture the new group in our common life and faith. The establishing congregation remembers the time when the Brethren were immigrants in a new land that was not always hospitable. They offer friendship in Christ.
2.) Every Church of the Brethren congregation is challenged to develop a multi-ethnic congregation. Though the multi-ethnic model may present greater challenges, benefits are realized in a more cohesive and stronger denomination overall.
Recommendations for district boards:
3.) We request that every district ministry or evangelism commission develop a network of mentor advocates in dialog with ethnic minority congregations. The mentor acts as a bridge builder and interpreter between the congregation and the district. The mentor knows and has the trust of both the congregation and the district.
Recommendations for the General Board and the electors of Bethany Theological Seminary:
4.) We request that the General Board and the electors of Bethany Seminary in their reports to the 1990 Annual Conference and every year for the next 10 years help us as a denomination to understand how they are developing ethnic leadership and hiring ethnic minority persons in keeping with a vision of participation and inclusiveness.
5.) We request that the General Board develop for the predominantly white congregations an educational program on church growth and inclusion of ethnic minorities.
6.) We request that the General Board explore the feasibility of making all Christian education and worship resources of the Church of the Brethren available in Korean, Filipino (Tagalog), Haitian/Creole, and Spanish.
7.) We request that the General Board and Bethany Theological Seminary develop programs for nurturing ethnic minority leadership. Such programs may use the Mission Twelve model, the youth leadership laboratory model, or a newly created model.
8.) We request that Bethany Seminary develop curriculum that will enable the Euro-American Bethany graduate to deal more effectively with the issue of cross-cultural ministry. This may require every Bethany student to take a course on this subject. Further we recommend that every person seeking ordination in the Church of the Brethren be asked to demonstrate ability to work in the area of “Ministry in a Multi-Racial and Multi-Cultural Setting.” Such could be accomplished through appropriate course work.
9.) We recommend the following additions to our polity.
a) “The congregation shall send delegates to those official conferences of the Church of the Brethren in which it is entitled to have representation.” (This is from the 1987 revisions to the polity.) Add to that: “The organizers of said conferences will seek to provide adequate translation of the process for the non-English speaking delegates.”
b) Under the topic of organization of new congregations: “A body of members or the district board through its appropriate commission may call for organization when, in the judgment of said commission, conditions of the place from which the call comes justifies such organization.” Add to that: “Normally this follows a year-long study of this history, theology, and polity of the Church of the Brethren in consultation with a district representative.
The letter to the church at Ephesus holds out a vision that we should take for ourselves, an image used by the National Council of Churches at its first national assembly, in May 1988: “We are no longer strangers.”
Appendix: An Introduction to Ethnic Minorities Among Us
The image of the Church of the Brethren as a group of German families has not been the whole picture for some time. However, all too often we as a denomination have been content to allow this perception to protect us from the challenge of ethnic diversity and evangelism to persons of different cultures.
In many cases, the idea that there are no ethnic minority persons near our congregations does not bear up under careful scrutiny. On the contrary, many Church of the Brethren congregations are set in communities with some ethnic diversity. The inclusion of ethnic minorities means the inclusion of persons who are literally outside our doors.
We must ask about the decline in participation of Japanese-Americans. After World War II, because of Brethren working with Japanese-Americans in internment camps, we had a significant group of Japanese-American Brethren. Today there is barely a remnant of that community in our midst. We celebrate Fumitaka Matsuoka as dean of Bethany Theological Seminary but hope for a larger Japanese-American Brethren population 10 years from now. In addition to the decline of Japanese-Americans in the Church of the Brethren, there has been a nearly complete loss of Chinese-Americans in the Church of the Brethren, even though there were many “Chinese Sunday School” missions in the Church of the Brethren at the turn of the century.
The Church of the Brethren has some ethnic diversity now. In fact there has been some ethnic diversity in the Church of the Brethren for the past two centuries. It has always been accidental. However, grace abounds. Of the 1,100 or so congregations in the Church of the Brethren, there are around 160 which Parish Ministries classifies as “urban.” Most of these congregations are in touch with ethnic groups in their communities interacting with them in different ways.
The districts most seriously attempting to promote and incorporate ethnic minority ministry are Atlantic Southeast District, Atlantic Northeast, Illinois-Wisconsin, Western Plains, and Pacific Southwest. Other districts are at work on this as well. Oregon-Washington recently received a Korean congregation. Southern Plains has a vigorous ministry in Falfurrias, Texas. Western Plains has three projects: 1) a Navajo congregation, 2) new church development with Hispanics in Denver, and 3) a strong Cambodian ministry at the Antelope Park church in Lincoln, Nebraska. Northern Indiana has two projects: 1) a new church development project for Hispanics (in cooperation with the Mennonites) in South Bend, and 2) Communion Fellowship in Goshen, which has strong ties to Filipinos and Hispanics.
The new church in Cranberry Township, Western Pennsylvania, has a black pastor from Guyana and strong American black leadership among its laity. The Good Shepherd church in Blacksburg, Va., is an international congregation with Asian and African members. Southern Ohio and Mid-Atlantic districts have significant black membership in one or more congregations.
There are no fewer than 16 congregations involved in Hispanic ministry. The subdistrict of Puerto Rico is Spanish-speaking and immersed in the culture of the island. June 1988 saw the second Hispanic assembly organized by the Comite de Enlace Hispano of the Church of the Brethren.
We should also realize that some denominational materials are published in Spanish and Korean as well as English. The Ministry Training program developed a Spanish-language version of the Three-year Reading Course prospectus in 1988. Also a Spanish translation of The Church of the Brethren Yesterday and Today is in process. Bethany Seminary faculty has joined denominational staff in the training of Hispanic leadership under the direction of Estella Horning.
The Church of the Brethren obviously has much to give thanks for God has been so good to us. On the other hand there is much to do. The following introductions to some of the ethnic minorities in the Church of the Brethren are written by members of those groups of people.
The first thing to notice is the diversity of ethnic minorities.
We, as the Hispanics in the Church of the Brethren, are a product of hundreds of years of mixture producing a truly cosmopolitan people. Among ourselves we find many hues—white, black, and brown. We have blue eyes, green eyes, black, and brown eyes. We are rich and poor, tall and short. We are a people, but also diverse. The Protestant church has written us off too often, saying, “Hispanics are Catholic. There is nothing we can do.” However this tired stereotype does not hold up under scrutiny. The Protestant (we often use the term “evangelical”) tradition is an old and respected one among our people.
We have different American experiences. The experience of Chicanos and Puerto Ricans has included discrimination and at times a less than optimistic view of the so-called “American dream” and the “melting pot” that seems always to exclude us. The Cuban experience involves a more optimistic view of the “American dream.” And, the refugees of Central America experience not only discrimination but also fear that the wars we have sought to escape might find us there or that we shall be returned to face political oppression and possibly torture and death. As you can see, Spanish may be our language, but we speak with many voices.
We are a growing part of the US scene. We strive to maintain our cultures. The US represents a decline in many of the family values that we hand down in our culture. The culture includes the matter of language. The number of Spanish radio and television stations, and newspapers make this point. Hispanics will soon be the largest ethnic minority in the US.
Christianity is a new religion in Korea. But in a country whose history dates back to 2333 B.C., even a new religion such as Christianity has been in Korea for well over one hundred years. The Protestant church in Korea celebrated its centennial in 1984. The Roman Catholic presence in Korea celebrated its bicentennial. The Korean Christian community is still a religious minority in Korea, but it is a growing one. Traditionally Korea has strong Methodist, Korean Evangelical, and Presbyterian presences among the Korean Protestants. The Korean Presbyterian church is the largest Protestant group.
Korean immigration to the United States went through three phases. The first wave consisted of laborers for the plantations of Hawaii (1882-1904). The second wave began in 1905 and continued until 1945. Here the mainland population changed significantly. The third stage consists of 1946 to the present.
In March 1979 Kwang Suk (Dan) Kim contacted the Panorama City Church of the Brethren in Los Angeles. A small group of Koreans, then worshipping in his home, was exploring a new more suitable meeting place. Thus began the Valley Korean use of the facilities. The two congregations would from time to time worship together, singing hymns in English and Korean and translating the sermon. The Panorama City Church of the Brethren and the pastor, C. Wayne Zunkel, invited the Valley Korean Church to become a Church of the Brethren. A procedure was developed, with the help of Merle Crouse, for receiving the congregation in 1981.
Two years later, in November 1981. Kim and some Korean pastor seminarians took part in study sessions on Brethren life and thought at Fuller Theological Seminary, led by Robert Earhart and C. Wayne Zunkel. Ick Won Kim, formerly a Methodist pastor in Korea and a student at Fuller, joined the congregation and joined in the pastoral leadership. Abe Nho Park led his congregation in Laguna Hills to join the Church of the Brethren. Kim invited his friend Dal Hee Kang to unite his congregation in North Hollywood with Valley Korean in Panorama City. Joon Su Gang became the pastor of the Kang Nam (formerly the Valley Korean church) church in Panorama City.
There are 1,700 Korean congregations in the United States: 570 congregations in southern California, 164 in New York and New Jersey, 131 in the Chicago area, and 78 in the Philadelphia area. (These statistics come from The Korean Church Developed by Teak Young Kim. Growth in the Korean church is so substantial that the figures are probably significantly higher now than at the time of the writing of the paper.) More than half of the congregations in southern California are not identified with any American denomination. It is the hope of the emerging Korean Brethren that there will not be simply a handful of Korean Brethren congregations as has happened with some ethnic groups heretofore in the denomination.
Ralph McFadden, then Parish Ministries executive, invited Kim and 18 other Korean pastors from across the United States to a conference at Bethany and Elgin in 1985. This introductory conference led some of these pastors and their congregations to pursue uniting with the Church of the Brethren.
The Pacific Southwest District named Kim as part-time “Korean consultant” in 1986. The job description includes cultivating Korean pastors for the Church of the Brethren.
The Korean connection to the Church of the Brethren is still tenuous and fragile. While there is great interest in the Church of the Brethren, deep discouragement sets in when Koreans sense resistance to their being part of the Church of the Brethren. Korean Brethren despair at the slowness of the church to make decisions and the lack of a forceful plan for reaching out to ethnics.
The Church of the Brethren’s commitment to justice and sense of mission has characterized the impetus of black participation in the denomination once known as the German Baptists. The history of blacks in the Church of the Brethren requires substantially more space than available here. We have not been able to present all the Annual Conference papers or persons who participated in black Church of the Brethren history.
The relationship between the Church of the Brethren and blacks takes three forms: leaders, congregations, and programs.
The first black member of the Church of the Brethren joined in January 1770 in South Carolina. The first black pastor and elder was Samuel Weir of Ohio in the nineteenth century. He had been a slave to a family that became Church of the Brethren and then released him.
Black leaders have shown a commitment to education. One of the first students at the new Bethany Bible School was Mattie Cunningham Dolby, a black woman from Indiana. She served the Arkansas mission after graduation. A black graduate of Bethany Seminary, Tom Wilson, was pastor at First church, in Chicago. He went on to become the first and only black Elgin staff member at a program level. After his time in Elgin he decided to pursue further studies leading to a doctorate.
Black leaders have even been able to reach leadership positions by vote. After a distinguished career as a member of the General Board, as well as a prominent pastor at First church in Baltimore, William Hayes became the first black moderator of the Church of the Brethren in 1987.
The history of black congregations spans two centuries. Early black congregations began in Ohio and Colorado. The Frankfort congregation had its first converts in August 1865. Harvey and Martha Carter are reported to have had an estimated one thousand persons at their baptism. The witness to diversity in the nineteenth century really drew a crowd. Later Harvey Carter was ordained and installed February 9, 1881. Samuel Weir, pastor of the congregation and later elder, officiated. William Rhodes was the first black pastor of the Denver congregation in 1911. Both of these congregations eventually disappeared.
But today the predominantly black congregations such as First church in Baltimore, First church in Chicago, Imperial Heights church in Los Angeles, and Lower Miami church in Dayton, Ohio, are experiencing renewal. In fact there is a new mission opportunity in a new black community, the Haitian community. The Church of the Brethren is already at work bringing the gospel and providing a church home to Haitians in the United States.
The Annual Conference papers and General Board programs of ethnic inclusiveness come from a context of turmoil. The racial tension in the United States from 1950 through the end of 1979 produced prophetic preaching and programs. The Church of the Brethren is mentioned in several histories of the church in the United States based on the powerful statement “The Time is Now.” passed by the Champaign-Urbana Annual Conference in 1962. In this paper the Church of the Brethren promised never to have Annual Conference in a city that discriminated against people on account of race. During this period the church was energetic about the gospel message and sought to include blacks. A number of the currently prominent black churches in our denomination integrated with enthusiasm. Where there previously had been a few black members, the numbers grew substantially before the 1980s.
Two programs organized by the Church of the Brethren coming out of Annual Conference were the Fund for the Americas in the United States (FAUS) and the SHARE program. The purposes of these programs were twofold—mission and nurture. The mission wing provided grants for ethnic minority groups in self-help projects. The other part of the program was race education for the white members of the Church of the Brethren. While one might question the success of the race education program, we should note that after these programs the numbers of persons of color on the General Board and Bethany board of electors increased.
The recession of 1970 and the ensuing drop in giving and loss of membership meant a loss of funding for FAUS and SHARE programs. Even today programs that focus on inclusion of ethnic minorities do not exist.
The Christian church in the Philippines goes back to the sixteenth century. Originally the Christian church there was Roman Catholic. However, an independent Filipino church arose. When the country became part of the US orbit in 1899, American Protestant mission work through the Spanish American War came with it. To this day there is a strong United Methodist presence.
Filipino culture is a distinctive blend of Malay, Spanish, and American cultures. It represents diversity of its own. For instance there are 80 dialects. Approximately 15 percent of the people speak Ilocano. The national language is Tagalog, though the educational system is thoroughly English speaking.
The twentieth century marked the arrival of significant numbers of Filipinos to the United States. Two groups arrived in the period from 1903 to the Second World War, including Filipino university students to the mainland and Filipino workers for Hawaiian plantations. After World War II, Filipino service men came to the United States. Another group of Filipino immigrants came later. From 1965 to the present there has been an influx of professionals such as doctors and nurses.
In the 1970s the Philippines sent more immigrants to the United States than any other Asian community. By August 1981 Filipinos comprised the largest Asian ethnic group in California—up by 158 percent from the 1970 figures. Likewise in Illinois, the Filipinos comprise the largest Asian immigrant population. Nationwide the Filipinos represent the second largest group of Asian immigrants for the United States, second only to Chinese.
The Church of the Brethren encounter with the Filipino community began at Bethany Seminary. In 1984, Roger E.L. Cruz, a Bethany student, was drawn to the Church of the Brethren by articles by Brethren writers such as Kermit Eby and through the nurture of the Baugo Church of the Brethren in Northern Indiana. He was supported, encouraged, and challenged by Graydon Snyder, then a member of the faculty, and Carl Myers, district minister of Illinois and Wisconsin District.
A Filipino congregation founded by Cruz was meeting at the Holiday Inn in downtown Chicago at the time. He was instrumental in moving the meeting site to First Church of the Brethren in Chicago, thereby cementing a Brethren connection.
Cruz completed his program at Bethany, making him the first Filipino graduate of Bethany Seminary in 1985. He was ordained to the ministry, with the understanding that he would serve the Filipino Fellowship, which was brought into the Illinois and Wisconsin District.
The General Board approved a loan to the fellowship for the purchase of the Chicago Bible College building in Lakeview, one of the fastest growing suburbs on the north side of Chicago. The fellowship started with a charter membership of 35 in 1985. Three years later the membership had tripled, to more than 111. The rise is despite a rigorous membership program of one year of study along with church attendance and support of church program for that period. After that each member is baptized using the traditional Brethren method of trine immersion.
Filipino leadership and participation has been a part of congregations in San Francisco and New York City, as well.
Like many ethnic minority churches where English is the worship language, the Filipino fellowship is a multi-racial church with members of Greek, Caucasian, black American, and Mexican, as well as Filipino descent.
What we have provided is four impressionistic histories of three ethnic groups in the Church of the Brethren. Other groups that could be discussed are the Native Americans, Haitians, and Southeast Asians. The story is still unfolding.
Kwang Suk (Dan) Kim
Stephen B. Reid, Chairman
Roger E.L. Cruz
Action of the 1989 Annual Conference
The report of the Annual Conference study committee for Inclusion Of Ethnics Into The Church Of The Brethren, was presented by Stephen B. Reid, chair, with other members of the committee present. The report was adopted with four amendments by the committee and three amendments by the delegate body, all of which have been incorporated into the preceding text.
Secretary’s Note: The term “African American” may be substituted for the term “Black” throughout this report.