Princeton Theological Seminary
The Pursuit of Asian American Happiness
Improving Mental Health in the Asian American Church
Thursday, January 19, 2023 • Online Conference
Center for Asian American Christianity
The Pursuit of Asian American Happiness
Asian Americans have some of the lowest rates of treatment for mental health issues while also experiencing high rates of mental distress and serious mental illness. This is true for Asian American Christians where Christian culture can further exacerbate the problem. In addition to the stigma attached to seeking mental health support, the anxiety, social isolation, and internalized racism associated with the COVID pandemic has further intensified the situation.
On January 19, 2023, the Center for Asian American Christianity at Princeton Theological Seminary will host an online conference titled “The Pursuit of Asian American Happiness: Improving Mental Health in the Asian American Church.” The two plenary sessions will feature presentations with mental health experts Dr. Jessica ChenFeng and Jess Cho Kim. They will address the broader historical, racial, and cultural context in which we pursue Asian American happiness.
The latter half of the day-long conference will feature two sets of concurrent workshops led by leaders with academic and clinical expertise and experience relating to Asian Americans, mental health, and church ministries. The goal of the workshops is to provide research-based strategies that ministry leaders can begin to implement immediately to help strengthen their communities. We will feature different selections of practical workshops on topics such as coping with sexual or emotional betrayal, emotional and spiritual wounding in the context of Asian American ministry, learning to say “No” within an Asian culture of sacrifice, and the need for Asian American pastors to receive mental health services. These workshops are led by Roy Kim, Dr. David Wang, Migum Gweon, and Rev. Dr. Gabriel Jay Catanus. These workshops will help equip church ministry teams in their professional development to become more faithful and effective Christian leaders.
Dr. David C. Wang is a pastor, licensed psychologist (drdavidcwang.com), and the Cliff and Joyce Penner Chair for the Formation of Emotionally Healthy Leaders at Fuller Theological Seminary (Pasadena, CA). He is editor of the Journal of Psychology and Theology and oversees research grants funded by the John Templeton Foundation (on spiritual formation and the development of character/virtue in religious leaders; seminaryformationproject.com) as well as the Lilly Endowment (on mobilizing diverse local congregations to meet the spiritual and mental health needs of trauma survivors).
All times are Eastern Time
Thursday, January 19, 2023
Plenary 1: The Pursuit of Asian American Happiness
Asian Americans share a collective experience of leaving one country in pursuit (sometimes forced) of a new life in a new land. How has this journey shaped our experience of ourselves, our families, communities, and our faith? This plenary will explore the broader canvas of Asian American history, racialization, and identity to allow for a more nuanced understanding of our individual and collective well-being.
Plenary 2: Mental Health Ministry in the Asian American Church
Asian Americans have the lowest rates of mental health service use despite struggling with mental health disorders, trauma, substance use, and suicide. Instead, we often look to the church for support. Pastors and lay leaders often feel unequipped to respond to these overwhelming needs. What is the role of the Asian American church in addressing our national mental health crisis, post-pandemic? This plenary will explore what mental health ministry in Asian American church spaces can look like, and help us better understand why we cannot ignore this any longer.
Jess Cho Kim
Concurrent workshops session 1
Ministering to Victims of Infidelity
When Asian-American church leaders discover that a congregant has experienced sexual or emotional betrayal, it’s hard to know how to respond well. It’s common to freeze, or to try to problem-solve. Worse, the mind can quickly go to protecting the church from shame or scandal. Tragically, these common responses do great damage to the victim of infidelity. Even to the point of apostasy. This workshop will unpack the experience of the victim, explain why certain responses are unhelpful, and provide concrete steps for you to minister to the victim’s bleeding heart, to the glory of God.
Research and practice on the care of Christian leaders who have been wounded in the ministry context
Most of us who have served in various ministry capacities (e.g., as pastors, missionaries, lay church leaders, etc.…) are intimately familiar with the potential dark realities of the ministry environment. Empirical research confirms that ministry is indeed often a difficult endeavor, imposing significant stress upon our spiritual life, our marital and family relationships, and our own emotional and physical well-being. Often, those who need counseling and care the most are Christian leaders who, over the course of their ministry journey, have been deeply wounded by fellow Christians, finding themselves now downtrodden, burnt out, isolated, misjudged, and discouraged. In such cases, how does one go about engaging the process of healing? This workshop will present practical and research-informed considerations and recommendations in the care of Christian leaders who have been emotionally wounded by the ministry context, with special attention placed on the experiences of Asian-American church leaders.
Concurrent workshops session 2
The Art of Saying No
As Asian Americans church leaders, we often struggle with saying no to others’ requests. In addition to pressures and expectations, the Asian culture of sacrifice is palpable. And regardless of whether we say yes or no, we often suffer the emotional and physical consequences of our decisions. Using a mental health framework, this workshop will help us experience emotional grounding that will bring clarity to the discernment process and empower us to say no when we need to.
The Pastor as Patient and Agent
Pastors and ministry leaders nowadays find themselves under overwhelming pressure. Especially in Asian American and immigrant communities, pastors are expected to lead and preach prophetically, educate as in-house experts, care for and counsel people towards healing, grow our ministries with limited resources, and model Christian maturity in our contexts. It’s a lot! Meanwhile, spiritual leaders must also receive care, tending to their own wounds and needs as persons. In this workshop, we reflect on the pastor as a recipient of mental health services, demonstrating how receiving care helps to ground ethics and clarify pastoral responsibility.
Gabriel J. Catanus
Center for Asian American Christianity
The newly expanded Center for Asian American Christianity at Princeton Theological Seminary comes at a critical time in the life of Asian America. Asian Americans are the fastest-growing racial-ethnic demographic in the United States. The COVID-19 pandemic has revealed the persistence of anti-Asian racism. Moreover, minority and immigrant churches are poised to transform the face of Christianity in the United States in the next few decades. The Center for Asian American Christianity seeks to equip and empower the next generation of Asian American leaders for service in church, society, and academy.
Princeton Theological Seminary has been a leading voice in Asian American theology and ministry through the work of Professor Emeritus Sang Hyun Lee, the Center for Asian American Christianity, and the establishment of the Kyung-Chik Han Chair of Asian American Theology.