Episcopal Divinity School Announces Partnership with Episcopal Asiamerica Ministries

The Rev. Thomas Eoyang, Jr. and the Rev. Ada Wong Nagata

CAMBRIDGE, MA, June 27, 2012—Earlier this month the Rev. Thomas Eoyang, Jr. and the Rev. Ada Wong Nagata joined the Episcopal Divinity School community as students in the Doctor of Ministry degree program through a new partnership with Episcopal Asiamerica Ministries (EAM).

This project is the result of several years of consultation between EAM and EDS to develop a contextual, creative, and cost-effective program in advanced pastoral studies and theological education that addresses the needs of Episcopal Asian clergy serving in the United States, Episcopal Asian American clergy, and clergy belonging to the Concordat and ecumenical partners of the Episcopal Church. The program provides continuing theological education that equips these individuals for effective leadership ministry through their participation in the EDS DMin degree program. EAM will help to recruit students to the program—who will apply through the regular admissions process—and both EAM and EDS will provide scholarships to support qualifying participants in the program.

According to the Rev. Dr. Winfred B. Vergara, missioner at the Episcopal Asiamerica Ministry (EAM) Office of the Episcopal Church,  “The greatest challenge is the raising up of leadership for the next generation. Both Peter Ng from the Partnership Office for Asia and the Pacific and I are passionate about developing advanced pastoral studies which help Asian clergy and lay leaders to become well-rounded working theologians in Asian American churches and in the larger community. We want them to reconnect to Asian cultural values and at the same time to minister in the context of multi-ethnic, multi-cultural, multi-racial America. We want them to become role models and mentors of the leaders for the next generation.” 

The Very Rev. Katherine Ragsdale, president and dean of EDS, has made partnerships a centerpiece of her administration and strongly advocated for this collaboration through which EDS is able to help meet some very specific needs of the Episcopal Church.

“We are honored to have this opportunity to work with our friends at Episcopal Asiamerica Ministries to provide relevant, effective, and thoughtful theological education for today’s challenges,” said Ragsdale. “We welcome Thomas and Ada to EDS and look forward to new students joining our community through this partnership.” 

One of the important attributes of the EDS DMin program is that students do not need to leave their communities in order to enroll in the program since it is built around two intensive residential terms, in January and June, with online simulcast participation in fall and spring courses. EDS is a leader in hybrid learning—integrating residential intensive studies with online participation in ongoing courses offered on campus.

Dr. Kwok Pui Lan, William F. Cole Professor of Christian Theology and Spirituality at EDS, and one of the principal architects of the partnership shared her excitement that “[t]he EAM partnership enables Episcopal Divinity School to explore ministry to the fastest growing racial group in the United States and learn the rich cultures and vibrant church life of the Asian American community. It will also help generate literature and research that are culturally relevant and future-oriented for the upcoming generation of Episcopal Asian American clergy and lay leaders.”

The Rev. Thomas Eoyang, Jr., who received his MDiv at EDS in 2003, was born in New York City as the youngest and only US-born child of a family that had emigrated from China five years before his birth. He is currently rector at Grace Epiphany Church in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania and has a very clear goal for his studies in the DMin program.

“I am interested in taking advantage of the exciting opportunity offered by the partnership of the Episcopal Asiamerica Ministries and Episcopal Divinity School to explore the cultural, spiritual, and organizational experience of people of Chinese descent in the Episcopal Church in the United States.”

And why EDS?  Vergara replied, “We considered various Episcopal seminaries to have this pilot project and decided on EDS because of its sterling record on anti-racism training and because they have at least four Asian faculty members. Asians are relational with regards to the educational process and we think the presence of Asian faculty members help ensure deeper reflection and ease in relationship. EDS is also well-equipped with technology facilities for distance and distributive learning.”

“There is a deep spiritual yearning all over the church to explore the heights and depths of diversity in all its protean forms and by having a Doctor of Ministry course that welcomes and affirms Asian contributions to American theological and pastoral life is a step in that direction. We look forward to reading the dissertations of our EAM students in the context of cross-cultural and intercultural studies,” Vergara added.

After the June term concluded, EDS Assistant Professor of Historical and Systematic Theology the Rev. Dr. Patrick S. Cheng, said the following: “It was a privilege to spend time with Ada and Thomas, our EAM doctoral students, during the June term in the classroom, at worship in the chapel, over dim sum in Boston’s Chinatown, and at the Episcopal Boston Chinese Ministry.  For me, the EAM partnership makes sense in light of EDS's long-standing commitment to racial justice and reconciliation, as well as to cutting-edge theological and ethical reflection with respect to communities of color.  As one of the four Asian and Asian American faculty members at EDS, I am delighted to have this opportunity to work with the national leadership of EAM as well as Asian American Episcopal clergy in the coming years.”

For information about this program, contact the admissions office at admissions@eds.edu or The Rev. Dr. Winfred B. Vergara at EAM at wvergara@episcopalchurch.org.