Most of us think the Bible is from one world (Ancient Israel, Greco-Roman, etc) and that we are in another world (modern West, etc), and that moving the Bible from its world into our world requires a gentle art. Whether we affirm the redemptive trend is not what I mean in this context, but just the sheer difficulty at times of bringing the Bible forward. Now, there is another issue: some women grow up in worlds with more than the general difficulty of moving the Bible forward, but with a pervasive ethnic stereotype of how women should behave.
If you haven’t seen the new book edited by Nikki A. Toyama and Tracey Gee, More Than Serving Tea, then I want to give a big hearty recommendation that you buy it and read it. It’s a real eye-opener. There are personal stories about all kinds of things, but one important for this blog is the one about Asian women becoming leaders in the Church. I really liked Nikki Toyama’s story about “getting used to the sound of my voice.” I think that expression says so much.
Suggestion: I’d love to see a few women blog their way through some chapters in this book. And do get back with me if you know of any blogs about this book. I do think this book opens the door to all kinds of discussions, but I’m not sure I’m the person to carry that discussion.
Here are some stereotypes Asian women grew up in and face when they become gifted to lead and teach in the Church context: quiet, humble, serving, self-effacing, intelligent, well-educated, and especially hard-working. All of this creating the “model minority myth”: that they are perfect minorities who work hard and overcome obstacles. The book also explores the physical images Asian women have to cope with as they enter the mainstream of the West. But, these stereotypes work against Asian women — and this book deals with Chinese, Japanese, Korean, Phillipine, and Pakistani women — becoming leaders. These women all work for IVCF and have themselves faced and fought through the stereotypes.
There is, of course, some safety in parachurch ministries; there is also something to be learned from parachurch ministries for in them the issue of “who’s the pastor?” is not present, leading to the easier possibility of women rising into leadership ministries.
An element of this book I really liked was its positive, exploratory, and warm tone: the stereotypes are a reality for these women, the obstacles are present, but there is an absence of stridency and instead a presence of working one’s way through the issues. Yes, there’s anger; yes, there’s disappointment, but overall the tone is “we’ll find a way through this.”