Although Asian enrollments at American seminaries have been growing quickly, this development has not always met the expectations of local Asian churches in America.
Last year, 4,253 Asians were enrolled at Association of Theological Schools member institutions. This 60 percent increase from 1991 makes Asian seminarians, a large portion of whom are Korean, the fastest-growing major ethnic group.
Yet, Asian congregations often have great difficulty filling their pulpits because of stringent requirements or inadequate financial resources.
Jim-Bob Park, English-ministry pastor at Young Nak Presbyterian Church in Los Angeles, one of the largest Korean churches in the United States, has been intensively searching for an associate pastor. "I still haven't received a single application," he says.
"The church wants people to meet age requirements, marital requirements, bilingual ability requirements, and experience requirements," Park says. "It's good and bad. The church knows what it wants. But it's driving candidates away."
While more and more Asian Americans are joining the ranks of the ordained, many have chosen not to devote themselves to the first-generation Asian church.
In addition to the stiff requirements that some of these churches have, Asian churches reflect cultural values that show deference to those who are older. As a result, Park believes there is another reason for the lack of pastoral candidates: "Pastors for second-generation ministry feel like they're treated as children, as second-class citizens."
John Kim, a second-generation Korean-American pastor in Columbia, Maryland, says that the first generation is not all to blame, however. "Restrictive situations can lead to frustration among young pastors," Kim says. "But ...1