PANAAWTM 34th Annual Conference Update

PANAAWTM 34th Annual Conference Update

April 29, 2019—PANAAWTM (the Pacific, Asian, and North American Asian Women in Theology and Ministry) held its 34th Annual Conference at Columbia Theological Seminary on April 11-13, on the theme of “Journey toward Justice.” In her opening remarks, Dr. Haruko Nawata Ward, Professor of Church History at CTS, noted the presence of Asians and Asian Americans in the complex racial histories of the southern US and CTS, and gave a warm welcome to the participants and guests. Representing CTS, President Leanne Van Dyk welcomed the audience and Dr. Marcia Riggs, Professor of Ethics, gave an invocation. About 120 people attended the event.

The opening public panel on “Journey toward Justice: Disrupting Institutional Racism” on April 11 was moderated by Dr. Helen Jin Kim (Assistant Professor of American Religious History, Candler School of Theology, Emory University). The panelists were Ms Jessica Vazquez Torres (CrossRoads Antiracism Organizing and Training), Rev. Dr. Christine Hong (Assistant Professor of Educational Ministries at CTS), and the Rev. Laura Mariko Cheifetz (Deputy Director for Systems & Sustainability at the National Asian Pacific American Women’s Forum). They discussed such topics as the effects of white supremacy on theological institutions and churches, the need to develop multiple strategies for resistance by building an interracial coalition, and through the cooperation of racial minorities in majority-white institutions. The long-term commitment to dismantling institutional racism and decolonizing American society and church remains a challenge for Asian American women.

Robust discussions continued in conference workshops, plenary panels, liturgical services, and mentoring and fellowship sessions on various justice issues for Asian Americans in academy, church and society. The leaders include CTS alumnae Rev. Sunghee Han (MDiv ’13), and Dr. Sarah Kim (ThD ’10), as well as professors Dr. Kwok Pui Lan (Emory University), Dr. Gale Yee (Episcopal Divinity School), Dr. Rita Nakashima Brock (Volunteers of America), Dr. Nami Kim (Spellman College), Dr. Mai-Anh Le Tran (Garrett-Evangelical Seminary), Dr. Jung Ha Kim (Georgia State University); and social activists and church professionals such as Dr. Eunbee Ham (Trinity Presbyterian Church), Ms Aparna Bhattacharyya (RAKSHA), and Attorney Helen Kim Ho.

The Campbell Library at CTS is currently displaying books by the PAANAWTM authors through May.


Welcome to Columbia Theological Seminary. CTS was founded in 1828 in Lexington, GA. In 1927 CTS moved to Decatur, GA. Its 57 acre-campus is located in the City of Decatur, encompassing four square miles, with a majority white population of 24,000, within metropolitan Atlanta, with a majority non-white population of 470,000. During this final week of Lent, we would like to acknowledge that we stand on the ground which was once flourishing Creek Indian farmland. The economy of the South was developed by numerous African-American enslaved persons, share cloppers and convict laborers from its earliest colonial days. According to Stephanie Hinnerschitz’s A Different Shade of Justice: Asian American Civil Rights in the
South, Chinese and Japanese immigrants provided manual labor on farms, railroads and in mines alongside African- American workers, during the Reconstruction era in the Jim Crow South. Asian-American women and men also endured segregation, miscegenation laws, racism, economic anxieties, and nativism. Asian-Americans were the targets of anti-immigrant legislation denying them property and citizenship, such as the Chinese Exclusion Act of 1882, the Naturalization Act of 1906, the Oriental Exclusion Act of 1924, and Executive Order 9066 of 1942, which interned more than 120,000 Japanese-American citizens. After World War II, a few Japanese-American families who left the relocation camps arrived in GA and founded innovative businesses such as in the state’s growing poultry industry.

After the reforms of the Immigration and Nationality Act of 1965, more diverse Asians immigrated to the South. They have overcome intimidation and violence while under the shadow of Stone Mountain, the nation’s largest Confederate monument and birthplace of the modern KKK. Today in Clarkston, just a few miles from here, we find communities of new refugees and immigrants from many Asian lands. A growing number of Asian-American church leaders have sought theological training from CTS, though the names of the earliest students are hard to find. We remember the courageous “first” students, Rebekah Sang Wha Moon and Ester Leey Sun, who claimed their right to study. We also recognize the spirit of endurance and resistance among the current students of color of all shades and national backgrounds.

PANAAWTM has Presbyterian roots. It began in 1984 with thirteen Asian women in the classroom of the late professor the Rev. Dr. Letty Russell at Yale University. Over the years it has grown to be the largest grassroots network of Pacific Asian, Asian from Asia, and Asian North American women seminarians, faculty, graduate students, clergywomen, and activists.

We are grateful for Columbia Theological Seminary’s hospitality. We would like to thank the President’s Council for their generous financial support. We also received generous donations from CTS’s Korean American Ministries program, Emory University, and Korean churches of greater-Atlanta. We are also supported by the work of a number of CTS staff members and student volunteers.

This evening, we are delighted to have a panel composed of some of our younger scholars from our local PANAAWTM network and leaders who are experts in their respective fields.

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