Advancing the scholarly study of Asian American Christianity.
The meaning and power of the religious practices of Asian Americans do not easily fit domestic religious narratives stemming from European traditions. The creativity, innovation, and agency of racial minorities are often made illegible under binary labels such as “conservative” and “liberal,” or “evangelical” and “mainline.”
The CAAC centers ethnographic descriptions of the faith and practice of ordinary Asian American Christians. This grounded and empirical approach featuring the transpacific stories of Asian Americans transcend various categories and dualisms that limit the description and understanding of religion in America.
Developing a vision for Asian American theology and ministry.
Asian Americans are the fastest-growing racial-ethnic demographic in the United States. Moreover, as White Americans are expected to no longer be a majority in the United States, minority and immigrant churches are poised to transform the face of Christianity in the United States in the next few decades.
The CAAC establishes cutting-edge theories of racial identity and Christian theology that create new scripts for the future of Asian American Christianity, especially for those seeking faithful gospel witness and justice in public life.
Equipping and empowering Asian American Christians for faithful gospel ministry and public witness.
The growing Asian American population holds many joys and struggles in common, including a history of immigration and exclusion and the persistence of anti-Asian racism, as revealed by the COVID-19 pandemic. Despite this, Asian American Christian leaders lack resources facilitating self-understanding, spiritual formation, and professional development that address the particular issues facing their communities.
The CAAC provides leaders, pastors, and churches with cutting-edge knowledge and practical skills for the enrichment of ministry, the formation of Christian disciples, and the building up of communities that hold together justification and justice.
Four Areas of Theological Focus
The publications, resources, and events of the CAAC seek to advance theologically rigorous research as well as contextually relevant ministry tools for Asian American Christians and faith leaders. There are four main areas of focus through which we examine and engage the faith and practice of Asian American Christian communities. These four main focal areas are: race, mental health, discipleship, and leadership. The content of these four focal areas continually press our dialogue with God as Asians and Asian Americans for faithful gospel ministry and public witness.
The programming of the CAAC brings scholars and practitioners who engage explicitly with issues pertaining to race. Since the pandemic, anti-Asian hate has become a social issue of high visibility. This has stimulated public discourse about the place of Asian Americans in the racial body politic. Asian American churches and Christians are not immune to these contemporary issues, and engaging these issues theologically and biblically requires a nuanced grasp of the history, sociology, and politics of Asian American life. The CAAC seeks to advance the conversation about Asian American church life that goes beyond the current racial, political, and theological binaries that are assumed in discourses about Christianity in the US.
The first focal area concerning race is incomplete without addressing the inner effects of racialization. The wounds, traumas, and dysfunctions shaped by our social environments have negative effects on our emotional and personal life. This is often manifested in depression, violence, anxiety, low self-esteem, suicidal thoughts, dysfunctional relationships, etc. If healing, wholeness, and spiritual transformation are the aims of Asian American religious ministries, then we need to understand the whole person in their life situation. The CAAC creates programming and resources that address mental health issues among Asian American clergy and lay people that draw on the latest insights from experts and practitioners. CAAC mental health conferences also feature practical workshops that provide research-based practices that faith leaders can implement immediately to support their communities.
Christian discipleship has to do with following the call of God upon our lives. This call of God is our Christian vocation, and this call of God takes on specific form as we obey Christ in our particular stages of life as well as different social circumstances. Given the travails of modern existence, there is an increasing need to turn to traditions of spiritual formation, esp. the contemplative practices of listening deeply to God, in order to attune our whole person to the call of God upon our lives. Christian discipleship—following the way of Jesus—involves practical matters of theological significance. Where do we choose to live? How do we spend our money? How do we parent and educate our children? These mundane decisions are embedded within social, cultural, and political contexts that have theological weight. The CAAC offers theological and biblical resources that equip and enable Asian American Christians to more faithfully witness to the creative, redemptive, and reconciling work of God in Jesus Christ.
The formation of faithful Christian disciples happens socially in relationship and community. These communities of formation require Christian leaders who are sensitive to the Spirit of Christ moving to heal, transform, and empower our Asian American Christian communities. There is a need for first and second generation ministry leaders to share their stories, experiences, and collective wisdom surrounding difficult and complex matters that plague Asian American churches. How do Asian American faith leaders and pastors handle power and accountability? How do we navigate conflict at home, in our church, and among church staff? Where is the Asian American church heading and how do we train and mentor the next generation of leaders to take us there? The CAAC convenes spaces to address the specific needs of Asian American clergy and their ongoing professional and theological development. The CAAC offers programs and resources to support Asian American ministry leaders in their call to proclaim the gospel of Jesus Christ as they shepherd their communities.
Leading Voice in Asian American Theology
Princeton Theological Seminary has been a leading voice in Asian American theology and ministry through the work of Professor Emeritus Sang Hyun Lee, the Asian American Program (now the Center for Asian American Christianity), and the establishment of the Kyung-Chik Han Chair of Asian American Theology.
Dialogues in Asian American Theology and Ministry
Our ongoing series titled Dialogues in Asian American Theology and Ministry provides Asian American ministry leaders with a forum for dialogue, support, and critical reflection on ministry by Asian Americans, especially in Asian American ecclesial contexts. Participants in the hybrid Dialogues gatherings are highly encouraged to share their thoughts and ask questions as we dialogue with our featured speakers.
Why call this “Dialogues”? Theology is God-talk. It is a participation in God’s ongoing dialogue with creation through Israel embodied in the words and deeds of Jesus Christ through the power of the Holy Spirit. Asian American theology is participation in this dialogue with God that centers what God is doing in, through, and with the faith and practice of ordinary Asian American Christians for faithful gospel ministry and public witness.
Watch or listen to the last Dialogues session.
Eun Joo Kim | K-Pop Matters
Charles Choe | Challenges, Transitions, and Opportunities in the 2nd-Generation Asian-American Church
Asian American Theology Conference
The annual Asian American Theology Conference invites interdisciplinary scholars and ecumenical ministry leaders to present cutting-edge research and practical wisdom on issues of contemporary concern for Asian American Christians and churches.
Watch the 2021 conference playlist.
Watch the 2023 conference playlist.
Watch the 2022 conference playlist.
Watch the 2023 conference playlist.
Mental Health and Asian Americans Conference
The annual Mental Health and Asian Americans Conference brings together mental health experts and practitioners working with Asian American communities to provide insight on the mental health needs of Asian Americans and practical strategies and tools for faith leaders to support their communities.
Dr. David C. Chao is director of the Center for Asian American Christianity at Princeton Theological Seminary. He teaches courses on Asian American theology and organizes academic programming in Asian American theology and ministry. His research and writing focus on Asian American theology, the uses of Christian doctrine for liberation, the convergence and divergence of Protestant and Catholic dogmatics, and the theology of Karl Barth.
His first book, titled Concursus and Concept Use in Karl Barth’s Doctrine of Providence, is under contract with Routledge. He is grant co-author and project editor for the $300,000 translation grant awarded by the National Endowment for the Humanities to the Karl Barth Translator’s Seminar. He is co-leader of a $250,000 Henry Luce grant project titled “Religiously-Inspired Asian American Coalitional Justice Work.” He is principal investigator of a Louisville Institute-funded project titled “.”
Chao is a graduate of Yale University (BA), Regent College (MDiv), and Princeton Theological Seminary (ThM, PhD). He is a member of the American Academy of Religion and the Association for Asian American Studies. Chao has a wide range of pastoral experience with Chinese American, Korean American, and Pan-Asian churches and ministries and is an active member of the Presbyterian Church (USA).
Read his latest article “Evangelical or Mainline? Doctrinal Similarity and Difference in Asian American Christianity: Sketching a Social-Practical Theory of Christian Doctrine” here.