Kah-Jin Jeffrey Kuan

Ethnic Background: Chinese-Malaysian American

Conference: California Nevada

Probationary Date: 06/19/1999

Full Membership Date: 06/15/2002

Number of Eligible Quadrenniums: 2

Ph.D., Emory University, 1994

M.T.S., Southern Methodist University (Perkins School of Theology), 1986

B.Th., Trinity Theological College, Singapore, 1980

Ministry Experience:
Local Church:
• Associate Pastor, Chinese Methodist (Hokkien) Church, Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia, 1980–1983 (Founded an English ministry in a Chinese speaking congregation)
• Active member of Chinese Community UMC, Oakland, CA for over 25 years (served on Preaching Team, Administrative Council)
• Current charge conference—Epworth UMC, Berkeley, CA

Annual Conference:
• Commission on Religion and Race, 2006–2010
• Board of Higher Education and Campus Ministry, 2004–2010
• Committee on the Status and Role of Women, 2000–2008
• Commission on Christian Unity and Interreligious Concerns, 1999–2006

• Jurisdictional Conference delegate, 2004, 2012, 2016, 2020, 2022
• Jurisdictional Committee on Episcopacy, 2016–present
• Committee on Nominations, 2012–2016
• Committee on Theological Education and Ministry, 2008–2012

General Church:
• General Conference delegate, 2004, 2012, 2016 (First Clergy Elected/Head of Delegation), 2019 (First Clergy Elected/Head of Delegation), 2020 (First Clergy Elected)
• University Senate (Chair of the Commission on Theological Education), 2012–present
• Standing Committee on Central Conference Matters, 2012–present
• Study of Ministry Commission, 2017–2020
• General Board of Higher Education and Ministry, 2004–2012 (Vice President of the Board and Chair of the Division of Higher Education, 2008-2012)

Community and Ecumenical Involvement:
• Interreligious Relations Convening Table, National Council of Churches, Co-Chair of Buddhist-Christian Dialogue, 2018–present
• Board of Directors, The Reconciling Ministries Network (RMN), 2013–2015
• Board of Directors, Wesley Foundation at the University of California, Berkeley, 1997–2010
• Participated in GCORR’S “Expanding the Table” — Award-Winning GCORR Podcast on Practicing Anti-Racism, Episode 2: Theologians Explore the Roots of Anti-Asian Racism and What the Church Should Know, Jun 27, 2021 (https://www.r2hub.org/library/podcast?rq)
• Participated in video series of “Transformative Hope: Religious Responses of Asian American Elders to Racism,” July 2022 (https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=c5zt71jiXnA)
• Served as Expert Witness for the church trial of the Rev. Karen Dammann, Pacific Northwest Annual Conference, March 17, 2004
• Served as Expert Witness for the “Sacramento 68 Holy Union” hearing held by the Committee on Investigation, California-Nevada Annual Conference, February 2, 2000

Other Relevant Experience:
Appointment to Extension Ministry:
• President and Professor of Hebrew Bible, Claremont School of Theology, 2013–present
• Dean and Professor of Hebrew Bible, Drew University Theological School, 2011–2013
• Assistant and Associate Professor of Old Testament, Pacific School of Religion, 1999–2010

Service on Boards of Directors and Trustees in Higher Education and Theological Education:
• Association of United Methodist Theological Schools (AUMTS), 2011–present (President, 2019–present)
• Hispanic Theological Initiative Consortium, 2011–present (Chair of Member Council and Steering Committee, 2015–2018)
• International Association of Methodist-related Schools, Colleges and Universities (IAMSCU), 2017–present
• North American Association of Methodist Schools, Colleges and Universities (NAAMSCU), 2018–present
• In Trust Center for Theological Schools (In Trust), 2018–present
• National Association of Independent Colleges and Universities (NAICU), 2021–present
• The United Board for Christian Higher Education in Asia (The United Board), 2022–present
• Asian Pacific American Religions Research Initiative (APARRI), 2022-present
• Commission on Accrediting of the Association of Theological Schools, 2015–2020
• The Foundation for Theological Education in South East Asia (FTESEA), 2010–2018 (Chair of the Board, 2016–2018)
• Society of Biblical Literature Council, 2007¬–2012

Why are you being called to the episcopacy at this time? What is it that you especially bring to the role of bishop with the current challenges facing our denomination and the Western Jurisdiction right now?
My life and ministry have always revolved around “call.” I felt the call to ordained ministry in my teens in Malaysia and went to seminary in Singapore. After seminary, I served as an Associate Pastor for 3 1/2 years before feeling the call to graduate theological education. My pursuit of doctoral studies in Hebrew Bible was again a response to a calling through a number of professors in my life. As a seminary professor, I responded to the call of God and the church into administration. In particular, my coming to Claremont School of Theology was the result of a deep discernment to a “Macedonian Call” to come help the school (Acts 16:9). Now, a call of another kind, reinforced by those I highly regard, is asking me to carefully listen and prayerfully make myself available for the episcopal discernment process. As I have done at each stage of my life, I have said “yes” to discern if God and the church are calling me out for such a time as this (Esther 4:14), a time of significant transition in our denomination.

Our denomination is currently going through a chaotic time as churches disaffiliate. The messiness we find ourselves in is really about theological differences and the unwillingness of some to engage in mission in a big-tent church. But chaos is also a generative time and our biblical faith affirms that God creates out of chaos. As a leader, my work has often been during times of organizational crises. Perhaps that is because I am not afraid of chaos and transition and because of how I see God working in my own life toward transformation. Leading CST through some of its most challenging and chaotic times, I have been reminded that many believe I have the gifts and graces to lead the church, especially the Western Jurisdiction, in this time of transition.

As a Christian, I root myself most significantly within the prophetic tradition of justice and righteousness. These two terms together call on religious communities to move away from self-interested actions, to seek after the full integrity of the life of every person, and to pursue right relationships by caring for the welfare of those with whom one is in relationship. Deeply committed to the wholeness and integrity of all people of God, I have participated in addressing injustices in all forms, in particular, gender, sexuality, race, ethnicity, and class. I live in multiple worlds as a multi-hyphenated person and have successfully straddled between the church and higher education. Through my involvement and leadership in theological education and the church, I can work across the broad theological spectrum, to network and to create partnerships in fulfilling the mission of God’s church.

Describe how the last two years have affected your ministry.
I locate myself and speak out of my primary context of ministry in higher education and theological education. I engage in higher education as an integral mission of the church. My identity as a clergy person is lived out in such a ministry.

Ecclesial and educational institutions were not prepared for the global pandemic. Churches have had to scramble to reconceptualize how to be church. Educational institutions, likewise, were completely caught off guard. At CST, we were fortunate that our faculty have been teaching in various modalities since 2013. Thus, when COVID hit, our faculty were able to pivot instantaneously to teaching online courses, synchronously and asynchronously, without a hitch. As a result, academic quality was not sacrificed. Ministry likewise needs to be nimble. Our world has changed dramatically even before the pandemic. One set way of thinking and doing things will no longer suffice. Theological education needs to train leaders to be nimble so that they can be ready to confront changing situations in ministry.

Having begun to incorporate working remotely in our institutional life, we were able to expand such work readily. CST was an early adopter of Zoom technology, for teaching and meeting. We had learned how to use it efficiently, helping to reduce travel time and expenses. For an institution committed to ecological justice, it helped CST play its small part in the reduction of carbon footprint. Through the virtual platform, I have been able to continue my work and ministry. For example, I co-chair a task group of international leaders for IAMSCU to address our Wesleyan heritage in higher education. Our task group of international leaders in higher education have been able to meet more often as a result of the virtual platform, even as we often lament the inability to meet in person.

As an Asian American, the last two years have been particularly challenging as anti-Asian hate has increased exponentially. I have personally experienced anti-Asian hateful rhetoric, sadly, from the mouth of a child. I have asked that my faculty and staff prioritize addressing racism as a systemic issue in all aspects of our institutional life. I participated in GCORR’s Expanding the Table podcast to talk about the roots of anti-Asian racism and in an interview on “Transformative Hope: Religious Responses of Asian American Elders to Racism.” As president of CST, I have also spoken on numerous occasions on anti-blackness and gun violence.

Endorser: The Rev. Dr. Greg Bergquist

Relationship to Candidate: General Secretary of GBHEM; friend and colleague at PSR and in the California-Nevada Conference whom I had known and worked with for 30 years

Statement of Support for the Rev. Dr. Jeffrey Kuan
By Rev. Dr. Greg Bergquist

I am writing in support of Dr. Jeffrey Kuan’s candidacy for episcopal election. Dr. Kuan has been a trusted friend and colleague for over 30 years, demonstrating himself as a scholar, pastor, and denominational leader who understands the historic relationship between the church and the academy and the contextual realities of ministry and theological education in the Western Jurisdiction. Jeffrey’s scholarly and pastoral focus on traditioned innovation positions him to lead the ecclesial and theological conversations that are required to navigate the changing landscape in the church, especially in the multicultural and theologically diverse context of our worldwide connection. Jeffrey is a person of great faith and creative intellect. He is an interculturally mindful leader committed to the values of diversity, equity, inclusion, and access expressed in his personal and public life. He is a courageous moral leader who is willing to speak the hard truth and seek the adaptive solutions that lead to transformation. He is a servant leader who knows how to transform institutions into new expressions of compassion, solidarity, and justice – convening the collaborative partnerships in a co-creative space that builds trust and passion in a system. Simply put, I would welcome the opportunity to serve for and with Dr. Jeffrey Kuan as my bishop.

Endorser: Ms. Erin Hawkins

Relationship to Candidate: Executive Director of Connectional Ministries of California-Pacific Conference; former General Secretary of GCORR; friend and colleague with whom I have worked on numerous occasions

Recommendation of Dr. Jeffrey Kuan to the Episcopal Office
By Erin Hawkins

We are living in turbulent times where life operates at the “speed of change.” With uncertainty being one of the few realities we can expect, the church is in need of leaders who can navigate the unexpected and emergent with openness, clarity of purpose and grace.

Jeffrey Kuan is one such leader. I have known Dr. Kuan for well over 10 years and in that time he has come to be a trusted mentor, collaborator and friend. His unfailing commitment to diversity, equity and inclusion has been evident in every venue I have had the pleasure of experiencing him—Claremont School of Theology, as a representative of GBHEM to GCORRs cross cultural ministry project, the Standing Committee on Central Conference Matters, and many other arenas across the connection.

His leadership at Claremont and the General Church has given him opportunity to prove that he is one who understands and can effectively engage the unique and complex challenges that we face in The United Methodist Church. Transforming declining institutions, operating at the speed of change, being a part of a team effort to do a new thing while respecting our history—these are all areas where Dr. Kuan excels.

But above all else, Dr. Kuan is spiritual leader, a lover of God and God’s church and a disciple of Jesus Christ committed to transform the world.

Endorser: Dr. Randall Miller

Relationship to Candidate: Managing Director of Programs at Center for Environmental Health and Principal; Sole Proprietor at Oaktown Consulting; friend and colleague with whom I have served on multiple General and Jurisdictional Conference delegations

Statement of Support for Dr. Jeffrey Kuan
By Dr. Randall Miller

I’m delighted to support the episcopal candidacy of my friend and colleague, Dr. Jeffrey Kuan. Over the past 20 years, I’ve had the wonderful opportunity to observe Jeffrey in various leadership positions, including as a minister of the gospel, a dedicated scholar and beloved seminary professor, a hard-working theological school president and proven administrator, and a conscientious and engaged church leader at local, annual conference and general church levels. Jeffrey is dedicated, hard-working, and visionary. In thinking about his other gifts and graces as a leader, several features come immediately to mind: (1) Servant-Leadership – his profound understanding that bishops work with and on behalf of others; (2) Relational – his careful attention to cultivating relationships with diverse groups of people across the lines that sometimes divide us; (3) Cultural Humility – his collegial and respectful engagement with both clergy and laity; (4) Inclusive – his strong advocacy on behalf of marginalized groups including women, communities of color, LGBTQ+ people and others, and his willingness to challenge the Church’s unjust systems and structures. As you review the pool of episcopal candidates, I urge my fellow Western Jurisdiction delegates to give strong consideration to the exceptional leadership of Dr. Jeffrey Kuan.

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