From May 14 to May 17, 2013, approximately sixty pastors and theologians have gathered for the Hispanic-Asian North American Consultation on Theology and Ministry at Trinity International University’s Deerfield campus. Sponsored by the Henry Center, this historic broadly evangelical conversation was organized and designed by Dr. Peter Cha (Trinity Evangelical Divinity School), Dr. Juan Martínez (Fuller Theological Seminary), Dr. Linda Cannell (former Dean of North Park Theological Seminary), and Armida Belmonte Stephens (Ph.D. Candidate, Systematic Theology) in order to facilitate a conversation between the communities about present and future ministry contexts, experiences, needs, and possibilities. Attendees were encouraged by Peter Cha “to share with the rest of the group, for the whole group and the advancement of God’s purpose in the world. Listen actively, share your insights and convictions with generosity.” Consultation organizers hope that this “family conversation” will allow a fuller and larger picture to emerge for the sake of future gospel ministry in the United States and in global mission.

Dr. Juan Martinez provided four major reasons this consultation is important and necessary, summarized here:

1. God cares. In reading Scripture, God is never in the business of making people or cultures uniform. At Pentecost, a common language was not spoken but different languages were spoken and used. The Spirit of God chooses to manifest the reality of the new thing God is doing by bringing out the languages of the people…especially of the “outsiders.”

2. We live in a country with rapidly changing demographics. By 2040, most people living in the United States will not be northern European descent. Along with these changing demographics, we also need to reframe conversations about race, even as a social construction and not an actual reality. Typically the American narrative keeps the conversation occurring between and about black and white, or black versus white. It never includes Native Americans, Latin Americans or the first Chinese immigrants; these groups are typically excluded. But, Hispanics and Asians are disturbing the race categories, and how they function in our society. The race constructs are so broad that they lose any meaning when imposed or ascribed to Hispanic and Asian communities in the states. As we think about mission in this changing context, Hispanic and Asian children are the future so we need to care.

3. The relationships between Hispanic and Asian-American communities are complex. The communities have had encounters. We’ve mixed, we’ve intermarried. Yet our encounters in the United States have always been complicated, especially in the southwest where Hispanics and Asians tend to encounter one another from different social classes. Stereotypes exist on either side of our relationships, including between Christians, and we need to address this complexity.

4. God works in the midst of migration. When there are movements of people, more openness to God’s care for all people increases. Will we read God in the migration of our peoples to North America? Is God in the midst of this migratory movement, if the answer is yes, what does that mean?

In order to better facilitate more specific conversations to address these reasons for gathering, attendees have chosen to participate in one of six tracks: 1) Formation of lay leadership 2) Intergenerational/Intercultural Partnership 3) Migration and Global Mission 4) Nurturing the Next Generation 5) Public and Local Witness 6) Theological Education/Pastoral formation. In each track, attendees are guided in sharing their stories, answering questions concerning each topic together, and will conclude with an intensive working session moving toward deeper collaboration between the communities. Highlights from a track each day will be posted on the blog, so stay tuned…

Attendees’ initial responses to the conversations that are already emerging demonstrate both the need for and the hope in expanding networks, collaborations, and friendships through the HANA Consultation. One pastor Beck Rodriguez from Arkansas said, “I’ve never sat down and heard a Korean-American’s story. Within a few hours this is already eye-opening.”

Quotes of the Day:

The Spirit of God chooses to manifest the reality of the new thing God is doing by bringing out the languages of the people…especially the “outsiders.” – Dr. Juan Martinez

Let us see a vision of truth and live into that truth. –Sandra Van Opstal

Will we read God in the migration of our peoples to North America? Is God in the midst of this migratory movement, and if the answer is yes, what does that mean? – Dr. Juan Martinez

Ni de aquí ni de allá, and that is a wound which is scabbed over but will never be healed. –Alejandro Mandes