SENIOR MOMENTS: Asian American Pacific Islander Christian Social Justice

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By PHIL SHIGEKUNI

The lengthy title above (AAPI-CSJ) describes an organization that held its first retreat on Saturday, Aug. 31. It was held at the Altadena Presbyterian Church, and was organized and chaired by Diane Ujiiye and Laurence Joe.

Several years ago, Bill Watanabe, then director of the Little Tokyo Service Center, met informally Sunday afternoons with a small group of Christians, mainly evangelical, from churches in the L.A. area. Their discussions were free-flowing, touching on various topics of concern.

Out of these discussions came the decision to explore the topic of homosexuality, and in May of 2008, they put together ground-breaking meeting at the Evergreen Baptist Church in Rosemead. For the first part of the meeting, Rev. Gary Hayashi, former associate pastor at the church, informally discussed his experience as one who attempted, unsuccessfully, to transform himself from gay to straight through Exodus, the recently discredited organization, which supposedly would bring this about. 

Interviewing Gary was Marian Sunabe a family counselor and member of the church. Pastor of Evergreen, L.A., Rev. Ken Fong, was on hand to ask an occasional question.

Following this portion of the program, the video “In God’s House” was shown, after which Ellen and Harold Kameya, who were featured in the video, came on stage to tell of their experience dealing with their lesbian daughter, Valerie, who had come out to them in 1988.

A capacity crowd of over 300 gave evidence of the interest in the topic.

Bill’s group continued to meet periodically to discuss this, as well as other matters of Christian social concern. From these discussions came the well-attended conference in October of last year held at Union Church in Little Tokyo, featuring Rev. Jim Wallis, well-known editor of Sojourner Magazine.

A number of topics were presented there in small groups, taking up a range of issues, such as immigration reform and Asian census data. Drawing the most interest were two sessions on the theological implications of homosexuality, co-led by Revs. Ken Fong and Nori Ochi.

In March of this year, AAPI-CSJ sponsored a program featuring Dr. Paul Song, concerning universal health care. Dr. Song, who specializes in radiation oncology, is the husband of TV commentator Lisa Ling and is nationally recognized for his views advocating health care for all in this country. He brought a Christian perspective to this issue.

In June, the AAPI-CSJ sponsored a presentation by Rev. Melvin Fujikawa, a gay pastor who declared himself two years ago. He spoke in the Garden Room at the JACCC.

The retreat last Saturday was held to talk about ways the AAPI-CSJ could best continue its work in the community. A wide range of topics, some controversial and others less so, were discussed.

A topic of concern to many in our community is immigration reform. The Senate has approved a measure that would bring about change in our present system, and this month the House will be attempting to devise similar legislation.

Mark Tajima, member of the Altadena church and member of our group, is organizing a program covering the latest developments on immigration reform, within a faith perspective, to be held at the Evergreen Baptist Church, L.A., on Saturday, Sept. 28.

For more information about this meeting, as well as more about the organization: www.AAPI-CSJ.org.

Phil Shigekuni writes from San Fernando Valley and can be contacted at [email protected] The opinions expressed are not necessarily those of The Rafu Shimpo.

 

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