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‘We are one.’ Diverse Asian collective convenes in Nashville

Leaders of several Asian Southern Baptist fellowships collaborated at the 2023 Asian Leaders Summit at the SBC Executive Committee building in Nashville.

NASHVILLE (BP) – As senior pastor of the Falam Christian Church of Indianapolis, Ind., Hre Mang is among 27 different Asian nationalities within the Southern Baptist Convention. For him, the 2023 Asian Leaders Summit at SBC headquarters in Nashville was unifying.

“That increases our collective effort and shared ownership of the mission God has called us to accomplish together,” Mang, a Burmese American, said of the Aug. 28-29 summit. Mang is executive director of the Myanmar Baptist Churches USA, one of 14 ethnic leaders who attended the event.

Southern Baptist Convention associate vice president Peter Yanes, left, hosted the Asian Leaders Summit in August at the SBC building in Nashville.

“God recognizes the existence of ethnics, different people groups. The Bible talks about ‘all nations,’ ‘all people’ that also reflect the heart of God, such as in Revelation 7:9,” Mang said. “We as God’s people recognize the differences, but (as) God’s children we are one.”

Summit host Peter Yanes saw the event as a benefit to all in attendance.

“Our Asian pastors and ministry leaders are here, committed, ready to serve,” said Yanes, the SBC Executive Committee’s associate vice president of Asian relations and ethnic engagement facilitator.

Asian leaders met with national SBC leaders in the SBC building in Nashville, exploring ways to strengthen cooperation and partnership. Leaders of the Ethics & Religious Liberty Commission, the EC, the Southern Baptist Foundation, the Southern Baptist Library and Archives and ClearView Baptist Church of Franklin, Tenn., engaged attendees in dialogue.

“Indeed, it was a valuable time to learn and hear which issues are most pressing to Asian churches,” Yanes said, “and also how they can participate and contribute to moving forward as a diverse convention of churches.”

Southern Baptist Asian congregations exceed 2,140, according to the 2021 Annual Church Profile. They comprise one of the largest non-Anglo ethnic groups within the SBC, along with African Americans and Hispanics.

Miles Mullin (fourth from right), vice president and chief of staff of the Ethics & Religious Liberty Commission, greeted attendees of the 2023 Asian Leaders Summit.

Before James Kang became full-time executive director of the Council of Korean Southern Baptist Churches in America (CKSBCA), based in Lewisville, Texas, he served 20 years as founding pastor of Global Community Church in Portland, Ore.

Kang found the summit educational.

“Many Asian churches are not familiar with the SBC and how to engage with various SBC entities. Therefore, it is crucial for the Executive Committee to provide us with guidance and leadership in facilitating connections between our Asian churches and SBC entities, as well as their leadership,” Kang told Baptist Press. “After the EC’s engagement (with Peter Yanes), we are confident that our Asian churches possess a voice and occupy significant roles within our SBC ministries.”

Kang, currently a member of New Song Church in Carrollton, Texas, said he enjoyed getting to know various Asian American ethnic leaders he described as dedicated to supporting their respective SBC churches.

“Despite our diverse languages and cultural backgrounds,” Kang said, “we are all part of the same SBC family.”

Christian Phan, executive director of the Vietnamese Baptist Union of North America, believes the summit has positioned Asian leaders for greater collaborations in ministry.

“Ideas come when there are conversations. This time, Asian Baptist leaders came together, bringing not only the unity of the Southern Baptist family, but also opening up possible collaborations,” Phan said. “We had moments of praying for each other, listening to each other’s needs, and learning about the ministries of SBC entities.”

Phan, a member of Vietnamese Baptist Church of Mobile, Ala., said leaders learned how to share their initiatives that can make the SBC a better family.

“We will become more active in our interactions with SBC and its entities,” he said of the Vietnamese Union. “We will encourage our churches to join the annual meeting and contribute to the Cooperative Program. We will promote unity in diversity within our SBC family.”

Mang believes the summit encourages a shared ownership within the SBC, enabling Asian leaders to become more active in SBC life.

“Sharing the ownership will also encourage our ethnic churches to take responsibility collaboratively to accomplish the Great Commission,” he said.

“This kind of initiative will encourage the ethnic churches to engage a lot more in kingdom-building together, in Cooperative Program contribution, leadership engagement, taking parts and roles in every level, local associations, state conventions and SBC entities.”

Chinese, Cambodian, Hmong, Filipino, Lao, Japanese and Asian NextGen leaders are also among Southern Baptist Asian Collective National Ministry Partners, as well as the Ethnic Research Network.