As I join the faculty of Pacific School of Religion this fall and take on the role of director of the Asian and Pacific Islander Initiative, I am honored to join a distinguished legacy. Pacific School of Religion has been an important place for Asian and Pacific Islander (API) leadership development. Numerous gatherings of API scholars, ministers, and activists have been unceasingly held on this campus, from which Asian American theologies sprang with their own voices. Some notable Asian and Asian American faculty have included Roy Sano, C. S. Song, Jeffrey Kuan, Tat-siong “Benny” Liew, Fumitaka Matsuoka, and Boyung Lee.
Building on a legacy that goes back to the school’s very beginnings, PSR was home to two historic API organizations: the Pacific Asian American Center for Theology and Strategies (PACTS, 1978-2000) and the Institute for Leadership Development and Study of Pacific and Asian North American Religion (PANA, 2000-2009). Through these initiatives, outstanding faculty and staff provided venues in which the underrepresented voices of API people were unmuted, espoused, and theologized. They also laid a foundation for the emergence of other API gatherings, such as the Asian Pacific American Religions and Research Initiative, a scholarly conference series on religious issues in API communities, and the Asian North American Religions, Cultures, and Society section of the American Academy of Religion.
While the journey has at times been challenging, the work of API studies and leadership development at Pacific School of Religion has shaped the very DNA of the institution, influencing not only our API communities, but the broader church and academy. Since 2011, under the tireless leadership of Dr. Boyung Lee as its first director, the API Initiative has built on this legacy: organizing public lectures by distinguished API scholars, as well as ministry workshops for API pastors, congregations, and students at Pacific School of Religion and the Graduate Theological Union.
As I begin my work with the API Initiative, I look forward to honoring and continuing this critical work and seeking new ways to carry it forward. Working in partnership with our new academic dean, Dr. Susan Abraham, we will increasingly focus on creating programs to support API students, so that they can thrive in their learning and develop their scholarship. The Initiative will also give attention to networking, creating an online space that connects emerging progressive API groups and provides theological resources and relevant information to wider users.
Lastly, the Initiative will continue to host lectures, through which PSR can better equip students and local communities to be postcolonially and spiritually rooted world changers. I ask for your prayers and invite your support as together we work to build the API Initiative.
-Rev. Dr. Joung Chul Lee
Visiting Assistant Professor of Practical Theology, Education, and Spiritual Formation
Director of the Asian and Pacific Islander Initiative
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