Thursday, October 20, 2011

Difference is a Gift

Rev. Elizabeth S. Tapia, Ph.D., is director of mission theology at the General Board of Global Ministries. 

Here is an excerpt from her opening reflections at the meeting for Asian American, Pacific Islander, and Asian Church leaders held in New York on October 13, 2011. (Photo by Felipe Castillo)  

Another aspect is mutual respect. Each part needs to be treated with equal respect and care in order that all may  function together harmoniously. "If one member suffers, all suffer together, if one member is honored, all rejoice together."

This is damayan spirit as we call it in Tagalog. Isn’t this a theology of belonging and interdependency?

For Paul says, "You are the body of Christ, and individually members of it. Even the gifts of the spirit are to be used in this harmonious body. There are varieties of gifts, but all these are activated by the same Spirit." -1 Cor. 12:11.  

Difference is a gift. As all gifts are recognized, all may function in harmony within the body of Christ. And what is the missional principle in all this? It is the principle of love, “a still more excellent way.” 1 Cor. 13.

Our Asian, Asian American, and Pacific Island traditions promulgate a theology of belonging and interdependency. There is room for everyone, there is food for everyone, there is mission for everyone. Ours is a strong communal sense of relating.

But as we live and work in an individualistic, capitalistic, and globalized society, communal sense is being eroded. Here is where we need to develop and nurture multicultural ministries and churches. Here is here we need to develop and nurture migrant churches. Here is where we welcome diversity as a key to congregational vitality.

As global migration has become a major phenomenon, diversity is becoming more and more a major reality in schools, business, travel, and politics. But  it seems Majority white churches are slow to welcome diversity;  monoculturalism rather than multiculturalism; assimilation, rather than self-expression; clausthropobic rather than cosmopolitan...

I want to believe that part of our participation in  God’s mission in today’s world is to offer and practice our communitarian way of life, spirituality of sharing and hospitality, and a theology of belonging and interdependency.

Learn more about the Asian American, Pacific Islander and Asian Church Leaders Gathering, held last week at the General Board of Global Ministries in New York City.


  1. I ministered with Asian/PI (Pacific Islanders & Philippine Islanders) for many years. What a blessing!

  2. Glenn, thanks for the comment. My take is that when I've found someone to be a blessing to me, they, in turn, find me to be a blessing to them!


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