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Listening: New lunar year brings focus on Asian ministries


ENS photo by Bob Williams
Phoebe Griswold met with Shigeko Yamano while in Japan.   (ENS photo by Bob Williams)

ENS photo by Bob Williams
Statue of Madonna and child at the diocesan offices in Taiwan.   (ENS photo by Bob Williams)

[Episcopal News Service]  As the new lunar year 4703-4704 dawns on Sunday, January 29, many Asian communities worldwide will mark the occasion with traditional observances -- centuries-old customs that now unfold in an era of unprecedented globalization.

The significance of Asian contexts -- and corresponding ministries in the Anglican tradition -- increases with population growth: India's 1-billion-plus populace is forecast to surpass China's current 1.3 billion mark by the year 2050, according to several research sources. Moreover, economic expansion -- including China's current boom market and preparations for the 2008 Summer Olympic Games -- also creates major international impact.

Meanwhile, women's voices in particular are being upheld increasingly in various Asian-Anglican settings. The upcoming World Mission Sunday, February 26, and the closely related Anglican Women's Empowerment gathering in conjunction with the 50th anniversary of the United Nations Commission on the Status of Women are among examples. (Please see the related article below with reflections from Phoebe Griswold of New York, a leader in these initiatives who recently shared in a two-week visit to Asia with her husband, Presiding Bishop Frank Griswold.)

In the Episcopal Church and across the Anglican Communion, numerous congregations, dioceses, provinces and institutions share in ministry in Asian cultural contexts. An overview of people, places and initiatives is offered online through the following links:

The Office of Asian American Ministries,, led by the Rev. Winifred "Fred" Vergara, missioner for Asian American ministries, is part of the Episcopal Church's Ethnic Congregational Development program. This site also includes links to the numerous local Asian-American congregations of the Episcopal Church.

The Office of Anglican and Global Relations,, led Margaret Larom, director of Anglican and Global Relations for the Episcopal Church, is assisted by Peter Ng, Asia/Pacific officer.

The Presiding Bishop's Office,, the Most Rev. Frank T. Griwold III. Recent ENS articles related to the Presiding Bishop's visit to Asia can be found online at:

The Episcopal Diocese of Taiwan,, led by Bishop David Lai.

Episcopal Relief and Development,, led by Robert Radtke (who was previously senior vice president for Programs at the Asia Society,

Anglican Communion Office,

Archbishop of Canterbury Rowan Williams,

Anglican Listening & Learning, (a website of the Episcopal Church).

The Church of Bangladesh,, led by Bishop Michael S. Baroi.

The Anglican Church of Hong Kong (Sheng Kung Hui),, led by Archbishop Peter Kwong.

The Anglican Church of Japan (Nippon Sei Ko Kai),, led by Archbishop James Toru Uno.

The Anglican Church of Korea,, led by Archbishop Matthew Chul Bum Chung.

The China Christian Council,

The Church of the Province of Myanmar (Burma),, led by Archbishop Samuel San Si Htay.

The Church of North India (United),, led by Archbishop James Terom.

The Church of Pakistan (United),, led by Bishop Alexander John Malik.

The Church of the Province of South East Asia,, led by Archbishop Datuk Yong Ping Chung.

The Episcopal Church in the Philippines,, led by Archbishop Ignacio Capuyan Soliba.

The Church of South India,, led by Archbishop Badda Peter Sugandhar

Equality in leadership: Phoebe Griswold, Asian women seek change

Women in focus for World Mission Sunday, February 26

By Marie Panton of Episcopal Life

[Episcopal Life, January 2006 issue] Cultural contexts continue to challenge women's efforts to join equally in church leadership, Phoebe Griswold said after returning from meetings with women during a two-week trip to Asia.

"Traditionally, cultural values place women in a secondary role, especially, particularly, as that applies to their public voice," she said. "The policies and attitudes have to be adjusted to permit women into leadership circles."

In October, Griswold and her husband, Presiding Bishop Frank T. Griswold, traveled the continent with other Episcopal church officials, meeting with Anglican leaders in Japan, Korea, China and Taiwan. She also met many women in various positions throughout the church, who described their struggles to share leadership.

During her travels, Griswold emphasized the importance of gender-equity in church councils and leadership bodies. At St. Andrew's Church, Tokyo, female clergy told Griswold that her presence was an impetus for them to move forward.

"They have women priests and they are moving forward in church leadership," she said. "They wanted to share their struggles with a lot of disappointments."

The Anglican Consultative Council passed a resolution acknowledging the Millennium Development Goal that urge women to receive equal representation in decision-making councils. "When the women heard that the ACC encouraged gender-equity at every level of work in the church, they were thrilled to know that women throughout the world were with them," said Griswold.

The theme for World Mission Sunday, designated for February 26, is "Anglican/Episcopal Women: Relevant, Radical and Responsive." A DVD highlighting the importance of this observance has been sent to congregations churchwide.

"By resolution of General Convention in 1997, congregations of the Episcopal Church are asked to use the last Sunday after Epiphany as an opportunity for mission education," said Margaret Larom, Episcopal Church director of Anglican and Global Relations. "After witnessing the joyful synergy created by bringing Episcopal and Anglican women together in New York early last year at the U.N. Commission on the Status of Women, we knew we had a wonderful focus for our 2006 theme."

The 50th commission, to be held in New York in February 24-March 8, will highlight the theme: What is an enabling environment for women's leadership?

"Globally," Griswold said, "the environment holds many challenges to become an enabling environment for women's leadership."

Overcoming timidity

In Shanghai, Griswold met with 15 church leaders, including three women. She asked Dr. Cao Sheng-jie, the first female president of the China Christian Council, what she considered women's greatest assets. Cao replied, 'Candor and caring.'

"Then I asked her what was women's greatest impediment in putting these gifts to work, and she said, 'Timidity.' I understood that feeling myself."

Griswold said she observed timidity when she attended a meeting of 40 women, ordained and students, at St. John's University, Taipei, Taiwan. Addressing the group, she talked about women's need to bring their values to the decision-making tables where policies and budget are shaped. "Those qualities of candor and caring must be invited to the table," she told them. But, she said, "when I asked for comments and sharing [from the women] no one spoke. . .timidity reigned. This was the cultural norm.

"But I realized that I had to learn new ways of finding out what was on the women's minds," Griswold said. "When we asked them to write questions down, there was a lot of activity, but to stand up and speak was tough."

Griswold said she hoped the next U.N. commission meeting would strengthen participants. "When you bring women together, face-to-face, and they form relationships and build bonds of affection, that is the stuff of 'courage.'"

-- Marie Panton is the editor of the Faithworks section of Episcopal Life.