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Spring 2017 · Vol. 46 No. 1 · pp. 115–116 

Book Review

English Ministry Crisis in Chinese Canadian Churches—Towards the Retention of English Speaking Adults from Chinese Canadian Churches through Associated Parallel Independent English Congregational Models

Matthew Todd. Eugene, OR: Wipf & Stock, 2015. 387 pages.

Reviewed by David Chow

As a Vancouverite, I live in a city that celebrates food. Not only does the city host a variety of world-class Asian cuisine, but the emergence of next-generation and Asian-fusion eateries delights many palates. While deep-fried sushi rolls or ginger beef may attract newcomers to the Asian flavors, the very serious sushi aficionado or Chinese food enthusiast may well react negatively to these attempts to contextualize traditional cooking. However, these new takes on traditional recipes have served to win over a whole new generation of foodies who appreciate Asian cuisine.

Matthew Todd’s book captures a similar dynamic in its attempt to the appreciate the traditional, ethnically Chinese church in Metro Vancouver while also expressing a desire to see the next generation of Chinese Canadian Christians continue to participate in church and take on leadership roles. The author tries to grapple with the very real issue of exodus from within the church. Todd asserts that one of the main reasons for second-generation Canadian-born Chinese believers’ departure from their home congregations is that they have not been given enough power by the host congregation. To address this problem, Todd proposes a form of governance that would see the “parent” congregation transfer significantly increased power to an English ministry within the host Chinese church.

Todd, who has served most recently in an English ministry setting within a Chinese Mennonite Brethren church in Vancouver, makes it clear that the audience he is targeting includes servant leaders in (especially) Chinese bicultural churches who sincerely desire to empower their English-ministry congregations to fulfill the mission of Christ. Even so, a caution is in order. Chinese Canadians have experienced much pain in the past, and have fought hard to earn a place of belonging. For Asian readers who have experienced racism, cultural domination, stigma, and discrimination due to their ethnic origin, this book can seem like another patronizing voice, even though Todd served a very lengthy term as an English-service pastor in a Chinese Mennonite Brethren Church (and is known by his congregation as a very caring pastor).

Nevertheless, the considerable work done by the author is obviously a labor of love, and ought to be received in the same loving spirit in {116} which it was written. The book serves as a valuable resource for understanding navigation of cultural differences, church leadership dynamics, community transformation, and sustaining church ministry. The book includes valuable features such as survey results which formed the basis of the book, a helpful glossary, and a comprehensive bibliography. Overall, Todd’s book performs both a descriptive and constructive function in service of the church.

David Chow is pastor of the Killarney Park Mennonite Brethren Church, an intercultural work in SE Vancouver, B.C.

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