As a faculty advisor and member of the local and steering committees, I’m excited to announce that the 33rd annual conference of PANAAWTM (Pacific, Asian, and North American Asian Women in Theology and Ministry) is fast approaching–April 12-14, 2018, to be exact.
This year’s theme, “Embodied Selves: Inter-religious Engagements,” showcases PANAAWTM’s desire to broaden beyond our traditional (Christian) focus and audience. Not coincidentally, we will be meeting primarily in the Fish Interfaith Center at Chapman University.
We have a great line-up for our inter-religious panel on Friday morning. It’ll feature Professor Najeeba Syeed (my colleague at Claremont School of Theology, who is Muslim), the Rev. Deborah Lee (the Executive Director of the Interfaith Movement for Human Integrity, who is Christian), and the Venerable Hong (a tutor and advanced degree student at the University of the West, who is Buddhist).
On Friday afternoon, conference attendees can choose to participate in any of the following exciting workshops:
- “An Invitation to Yinist Spirituality,” hosted by the Rev. Young Lee Hertig (the co-founder and Executive Director of ISAAC (Innovative Space for Asian American Christianity))
- “Examen-ing Spiritual Care: The Examen Circle as an Embodied Practice of Collective Care and Interreligious Engagement,” facilitated by Kristine Chong (of Union Theological Seminary)
- “Interfaith, Gender Justice and Reproductive Justice: Intersectional Approach to Social Change and Activism,” co-led by Sahar Pirzada (the Programs and Outreach Manager of HEART Women and Girls) and the Rev. Sung Yeon Choimorrow (the Executive Director of NAPAWF (National Asian Pacific American Women’s Forum))
- “Storytelling: Imagining & Experimenting Beyond Destructive Narratives,” presented by Sarah Park, the editor of Inheritance Magazine
- “Embodied Selves: Inter-religious Engagements in the Context of Burma/Myanmar,” co-presented by Sumlut Ban Htang (of Drew University) and Lama Htoi San Lu (of Union Theological Seminary)
In addition to those five workshops, conference participants can also elect to hear a series of graduate student papers, with topics ranging from sexuality, to black lives matter, to multiple religious belonging, to celebrity pastors in the Korean diaspora, to the digital space of the Progressive Asian American Christian Facebook group. I’ve long thought of PANAAWTM as a wonderful, nurturing space for graduate students to present their work, since our goal (as faculty advisors) is to provide them with opportunities for support and professional growth. In fact, in addition to those grad student paper sessions, we’re hosting separate seminars on Saturday, one for doctoral students, the other for early career folks.
On Saturday morning, in a plenary session on “Spiritual Approaches to Healing,” we’ll hear from Ping Ho, who is the Founder and Director of UCLArts and Healing and Rita Nakashima Brock, who is the Senior Vice President for Moral Injury Programs, Volunteers of America (as well as an acclaimed feminist theologian and one of the original members of PANAAWTM).
Beyond those major programming elements, there’s much that makes PANAAWTM like no other conference. (See here for my reflections on my first PANAAWTM experience in 2012 and here for my reflections on PANAAWTM 2016).
There’s of course it’s small size–there’s usually about 50-70 conference goers in total, which gives the conference an intimate feel. There’s the all women-led liturgy and worship, which has historically been much more creative and social justice-oriented than what I typically experience in the churches or chapel. There’s the opportunity to delve into deep conversations with world-renowned theologians and Bible scholars, peers in various stages of professional development (i.e., fellow students, lay ministers or ordained clergy, professors, activists), and friends. Above all, for me it’s the sense of camaraderie that participants commonly report feeling, knowing that all attendees self-identify in many overlapping ways as fellow travelers.
If you are a woman or gender non-binary individual of Asian/Pacific Islander heritage who works in theology or ministry, broadly construed, might you consider joining us? It’s not too late to register. (Please note that our Thursday, April 12 evening panel is free and open to the general public, though the rest of the conference requires registration and is designed for API women with interests in theology or ministry).
If you are attending and we haven’t yet met, I especially look forward to getting to know you at the conference!
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Grace Yia-Hei Kao is Associate Professor of Ethics and Co-Director of the Center for Sexuality, Gender, and Religion at Claremont School of Theology. She is the author of Grounding Human Rights in a Pluralist World (Georgetown University Press, 2011) and co-editor, with Ilsup Ahn, of Asian American Christian Ethics (Baylor University Press, 2015). She has a forthcoming anthology, entitled Encountering the Sacred: Feminist Reflections on Women’s Lives, which is co-edited with Rebecca Todd Peters and slated to be published by with Bloomsbury/T&T Clark in the Fall 2018. Learn more about her and her work on her personal website.