Interview with Mary Chung March, President of the Covenant Asian Pastors Association

Recently, we spoke with Rev. Mary Chung March, President of the Covenant Asian Pastors Association (CAPA) and President of the Mosaic (Ethnic) Commission, to share insights on the Asian North American experience. March serves as co-lead pastor of New City Covenant Church in Edina, MN. She is married to John (co-pastor at NCCC) and is a mom of four.

As we celebrate Asian American Heritage Month, what in particular are you grateful for or celebrating?

I am grateful to my parents, my family, my Korean heritage and my Korean immigrant church in Jersey City, NJ. I am grateful for the legacy of prayer and ministry of the Korean immigrant church.

I celebrate our CAPA clergy and lay leaders who have navigated cultural, achievement, and systemic barriers to serve and love their churches sacrificially—especially in our current COVID-19 realities. I’m grateful for our denominational family of churches who is leaning into practicing solidarity with one another in our multiethnic mosaic.

Can you help us to better understand the history and experience of our Asian brothers and sisters?

The term “Asian American” or “Asian North American” (including our Canadian ECC Asian brothers and sisters) refers to more than 24 Asian ethnicities, each with distinct culture, history and lived experience.

CAPA has 135 credentialed clergy. Of that 135, we have 53 lead pastors, 18 missionaries, 12 chaplains, three full-time professors (North Park Theological Seminary, Trinity Evangelical Divinity School, Seattle Pacific University) and several adjunct professors, five senior administrators and directors, and two regional coordinators.

In terms of the diversity and heritages within CAPA, there is diversity in the term Asian North American. Chinese, Indian, Japanese and Korean may be among the first of such ethnic groups that come to mind, but “Asian American” and “Asian-North American” is also reflective of Hmong, Bhutanese, Mongolian, Cambodian, Laotian, Nepalese, to name just a few.

When we use the term “Asian North American,” we include more than 24 ethnicities. Despite how many distinct ethnicities, they can share the common experience of being seen as the “model minority” or “perpetual foreigner.”

Also worth mentioning is that fact that 75 percent of Asians in the U.S. are immigrants or children of immigrants (18 and under). In terms of Asian Americans, is it helpful to note that they have widely diverse and divergent experiences across generational and class lines. They are not all equal in their levels of education and social access.

Subjected to certain social myths, the most pervasive of which are the myths of the “model minority” and the “perpetual foreigner,” Asian Americans are not permitted to fit in, no matter how many generations they have been in the U.S. These myths are harmful to the Asian American identity and in relating to Asian Americans.

“When such umbrella terms are used to describe the varied experience of 20 million people hailing from diverse contexts and backgrounds, we unintentionally conflate (and flatten) the lived experience of people of Asian descent residing within the U.S.” (from the Midwinter 2019 CAPA workshop put on by Dominique Gilliard, Director of Racial Righteousness and Reconciliation for the Love Mercy Do Justice mission priority of the Evangelical Covenant Church, and Mark Tao, former CAPA Board Member and Pastor).

CAPA’s hope, and my own, is to broaden the conversation concerning the Asian North American experience and to bring greater awareness of the primary issues facing the Asian North American population in the U.S., Canada and in the Evangelical Covenant Church as a whole.

A 125-person luncheon of the four ethnic associations coming together to lament and pray for one another at Midwinter 2020.

What do you see as some of the most important needs for our Asian pastors or churches within the ECC? What can we be praying for?

Right now, we need solidarity and people speaking up when they see xenophobia or acts targeted against Asian North Americans.

Russell Jeung, a professor of Asian American Studies at San Francisco State University, started tracking these attacks on a new website he helped launch called Stop AAPI Hate. In the site’s first eight days, it received more than 650 reports of discrimination—largely against the Asian American community. In four weeks, 1,500 reports filed in. And these are only the ones being reported.

Here in the Twin Cities, Asians have received hate letters taped to their door, an elderly Asian woman was even kicked in the face.

Pray for Asian and Asian American communities impacted by xenophobia, racial/ethnic profiling, scapegoating, hate crimes and business boycotts. We need your prayers. I know you’ve all heard stories. They are real. People are being attacked like the two-year old and six-year old children who were stabbed at the Midland, TX Sam’s Club.

There was a recent story in Woodbury, MN, of someone posting a racist note on an Asian couple’s door. The note said “We are watching you. … We don’t want you hear (sic) infecting us with your disease.”

There are so many more not being recorded. Romans 12:9-10 calls us to authentic love. To hate evil and cling fast to the good. One way we can do that is to pray and speak up if you see something.

What is the mission of CAPA and when do you meet?

The mission of the Covenant Asian Pastors Association is to support and encourage Asian North American credentialed clergy, seminary students and any clergy and ministry leader of Asian descent serving in an Asian context.

It also strategically partners and assists the wider Evangelical Covenant Church as a denomination and its regional conferences on issues that affect Asian ministers, their congregations, and the greater multi-ethnic mosaic.

We hold our annual CAPA business meeting and dinner on Wednesday of Midwinter followed by our CAPA After Party. CAPA also hosts a Pre-Gather Retreat where we take time to encourage, mentor and minister to CAPA members.

Recommended Reading and Next Steps

CAPA 2020 Board

Rev. Mary Chung March (President)
Rev. Stephanie Ahn Mathis (Vice-President)
Rev. Manoj Mathai (Vice-President)
Rev. Brian Hui (Treasurer)
Rev. Ancy Post (Secretary)

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