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Princeton Theological Seminary

The Pursuit of Asian American Happiness

Improving Mental Health in the Asian American Church

Thursday, January 19, 2023 • Online Conference

Center for Asian American Christianity
View Conference Sessions
Center for Asian American Christianity

The Pursuit of Asian American Happiness

Improving Mental Health in the Asian American Church

Asian Americans have some of the lowest rates of treatment for mental health issues while also experiencing high rates of mental distress and serious mental illness. This is true for Asian American Christians where Christian culture can further exacerbate the problem. In addition to the stigma attached to seeking mental health support, the anxiety, social isolation, and internalized racism associated with the COVID pandemic has further intensified the situation.

On January 19, 2023, the Center for Asian American Christianity at Princeton Theological Seminary will host an online conference titled “The Pursuit of Asian American Happiness: Improving Mental Health in the Asian American Church.” The two plenary sessions will feature presentations with mental health experts Dr. Jessica ChenFeng and Jess Cho Kim. They will address the broader historical, racial, and cultural context in which we pursue Asian American happiness.

The latter half of the day-long conference will feature two sets of concurrent workshops led by leaders with academic and clinical expertise and experience relating to Asian Americans, mental health, and church ministries. The goal of the workshops is to provide research-based strategies that ministry leaders can begin to implement immediately to help strengthen their communities. We will feature different selections of practical workshops on topics such as coping with sexual or emotional betrayal, emotional and spiritual wounding in the context of Asian American ministry, learning to say “No” within an Asian culture of sacrifice, and the need for Asian American pastors to receive mental health services. These workshops are led by Roy Kim, Dr. David Wang, Migum Gweon, and Rev. Dr. Gabriel Jay Catanus. These workshops will help equip church ministry teams in their professional development to become more faithful and effective Christian leaders.

Plenary Speakers

Fuller Theological Seminary

Dr. Jessica ChenFeng

Associate Professor of Marriage and Family Therapy

Jessica ChenFeng, PhD, LMFT is an associate professor of marriage and family therapy at Fuller Theological Seminary. She is a practicing family therapist in the greater Los Angeles area, supporting Asian American individuals, couples, families, and churches. Her research and clinical work center around social contextual intersections of race, gender, generation, trauma, and spirituality. Jessica resides in Upland, California with her spouse, two young children, and an aging miniature schnauzer. Whenever she gets the chance, she loves reconnecting with her love for analogue: paper planners and stationery, baking, and sewing.
University of Pennsylvania

Jess Cho Kim

Licensed Clinical Social Worker

Jess Cho Kim, LCSW is a licensed clinical social worker with over 15 years of experience providing mental health services to youth, adults, and families. Jess serves on the advisory board of Mustard Seed Generation (MSG), where she helped develop a mental health training program for Korean American church leaders. Jess is also an activist who helped pass legislation for inclusion of AAPI curriculum in New Jersey public schools, and continues advocacy on the boards of Make Us Visible NJ and the Asian American Alliance in South Jersey. She is a national speaker and consultant on Asian American mental health and racialized trauma. She loves her local church where she currently serves as an elder, and helped start a ministry to normalize mental health needs and resources. Jess brings lived experience as a family caregiver of a loved one with mental health challenges, and understands how so many Asian American families suffer in isolation. She prays her three children and their generation will be better equipped to break this stigma. Jess received her B.A. in psychology from Rutgers University, her M.S. in social work from Columbia University, and completed a post-master’s fellowship in child and adolescent mental health at Yale University Child Study Center. She is currently a PhD candidate in social welfare at the University of Pennsylvania School of Social Policy and Practice.

Workshop Speakers

New Legacy Family Counseling

Roy Kim

Certified Sex Addiction Therapist

Roy Kim is a former pastor and now a certified sex addiction therapist. He has a private practice in Southern California where his clinical focus is treating sexual addiction and infidelity trauma, primarily through group therapy. His hope is that increasingly more churches in this generation will become a refuge and spiritual hospital for men and women with addictions and trauma. Roy loves Star Wars, enjoys podcasting, he's a proud stepdad and has been happily remarried to Jenn for 4 years.
Fuller Theological Seminary

Dr. David Wang

Cliff and Joyce Penner Chair for the Formation of Emotionally Healthy Leaders

Dr. David C. Wang is a pastor, licensed psychologist (, and the Cliff and Joyce Penner Chair for the Formation of Emotionally Healthy Leaders at Fuller Theological Seminary (Pasadena, CA). He is editor of the Journal of Psychology and Theology and oversees research grants funded by the John Templeton Foundation (on spiritual formation and the development of character/virtue in religious leaders; as well as the Lilly Endowment (on mobilizing diverse local congregations to meet the spiritual and mental health needs of trauma survivors).

Migum Gweon Therapy

Migum Gweon

Licensed Marriage and Family Therapist

Migum Gweon has been a Licensed Marriage and Family Therapist in California for over 10 years and primarily serves Asian American couples, individuals and families in California. She was on the core faculty and the Director of Clinical Training for eight years in the Department of Marriage & Family Therapy at Fuller School of Psychology & Marriage and Family Therapy. Prior to becoming a therapist, Migum served as a Campus Staff Member with InterVarsity Christian Fellowship, served as the Youth Pastor at a Korean church in Charlotte, and worked in investment banking research for almost a decade. For self-care, Migum enjoys making pysanki eggs, gardening, and playing card games with family.
Fuller Theological Seminary

Dr. Gabriel J. Catanus

Director of the Filipino American Ministry Initiative

Gabriel J. Catanus is the Director of the Filipino American Ministry Initiative (FAMI) at Fuller Theological Seminary, where he teaches Christian ethics. He is also the founding pastor of Garden City Covenant Church, a congregation serving immigrant families and young professionals. He has been a lead pastor for twelve years and received his PhD in theological ethics from Loyola University in Chicago where he lives with his wife and two sons.


All times are Eastern Time

Thursday, January 19, 2023

Time (ET)



11:30AM ET

Plenary 1: The Pursuit of Asian American Happiness

Asian Americans share a collective experience of leaving one country in pursuit (sometimes forced) of a new life in a new land. How has this journey shaped our experience of ourselves, our families, communities, and our faith? This plenary will explore the broader canvas of Asian American history, racialization, and identity to allow for a more nuanced understanding of our individual and collective well-being.

Jessica ChenFeng

12:30PM ET

Plenary 2: Mental Health Ministry in the Asian American Church

Asian Americans have the lowest rates of mental health service use despite struggling with mental health disorders, trauma, substance use, and suicide. Instead, we often look to the church for support. Pastors and lay leaders often feel unequipped to respond to these overwhelming needs. What is the role of the Asian American church in addressing our national mental health crisis, post-pandemic? This plenary will explore what mental health ministry in Asian American church spaces can look like, and help us better understand why we cannot ignore this any longer.

Jess Cho Kim

1:30PM ET



Time (ET)



2:30–3:30PM ET

Concurrent workshops session 1

Ministering to Victims of Infidelity

When Asian-American church leaders discover that a congregant has experienced sexual or emotional betrayal, it’s hard to know how to respond well. It’s common to freeze, or to try to problem-solve. Worse, the mind can quickly go to protecting the church from shame or scandal. Tragically, these common responses do great damage to the victim of infidelity. Even to the point of apostasy. This workshop will unpack the experience of the victim, explain why certain responses are unhelpful, and provide concrete steps for you to minister to the victim’s bleeding heart, to the glory of God.

Roy Kim

Research and practice on the care of Christian leaders who have been wounded in the ministry context

Most of us who have served in various ministry capacities (e.g., as pastors, missionaries, lay church leaders, etc.…) are intimately familiar with the potential dark realities of the ministry environment.  Empirical research confirms that ministry is indeed often a difficult endeavor, imposing significant stress upon our spiritual life, our marital and family relationships, and our own emotional and physical well-being.  Often, those who need counseling and care the most are Christian leaders who, over the course of their ministry journey, have been deeply wounded by fellow Christians, finding themselves now downtrodden, burnt out, isolated, misjudged, and discouraged.  In such cases, how does one go about engaging the process of healing?  This workshop will present practical and research-informed considerations and recommendations in the care of Christian leaders who have been emotionally wounded by the ministry context, with special attention placed on the experiences of Asian-American church leaders.

David Wang

3:30–4:30PM ET

Concurrent workshops session 2

The Art of Saying No

As Asian Americans church leaders, we often struggle with saying no to others’ requests. In addition to pressures and expectations, the Asian culture of sacrifice is palpable. And regardless of whether we say yes or no, we often suffer the emotional and physical consequences of our decisions. Using a mental health framework, this workshop will help us experience emotional grounding that will bring clarity to the discernment process and empower us to say no when we need to.

Migum Gweon

The Pastor as Patient and Agent

Pastors and ministry leaders nowadays find themselves under overwhelming pressure. Especially in Asian American and immigrant communities, pastors are expected to lead and preach prophetically, educate as in-house experts, care for and counsel people towards healing, grow our ministries with limited resources, and model Christian maturity in our contexts. It’s a lot! Meanwhile, spiritual leaders must also receive care, tending to their own wounds and needs as persons. In this workshop, we reflect on the pastor as a recipient of mental health services, demonstrating how receiving care helps to ground ethics and clarify pastoral responsibility.

Gabriel J. Catanus

View Conference Replay

Center for Asian American Christianity

The newly expanded Center for Asian American Christianity at Princeton Theological Seminary comes at a critical time in the life of Asian America. Asian Americans are the fastest-growing racial-ethnic demographic in the United States. The COVID-19 pandemic has revealed the persistence of anti-Asian racism. Moreover, minority and immigrant churches are poised to transform the face of Christianity in the United States in the next few decades. The Center for Asian American Christianity seeks to equip and empower the next generation of Asian American leaders for service in church, society, and academy.

Princeton Theological Seminary has been a leading voice in Asian American theology and ministry through the work of Professor Emeritus Sang Hyun Lee, the Center for Asian American Christianity, and the establishment of the Kyung-Chik Han Chair of Asian American Theology.


Director of the Center for Asian American Christianity

Dr. David C. Chao

Dr. David C. Chao is director of the Center for Asian American Christianity at Princeton Theological Seminary. He teaches courses on Asian American theology, organizes academic programs in Asian American theology and ministry, and mentors Asian and Asian American students. His research and writing focus on Asian American theology, the uses of Christian doctrine for liberation, the convergence and divergence of Protestant and Catholic dogmatics, and the theology of Karl Barth. His first book, titled Concursus and Concept Use in Karl Barth's Doctrine of Providence, is under contract with Routledge. He is grant co-author and project editor for the $300,000 translation grant awarded by the National Endowment for the Humanities to the Karl Barth Translator’s Seminar. He is also developing a multi-volume project on Asian American theology. Chao is a graduate of Yale University (BA), Regent College (MDiv), and Princeton Theological Seminary (ThM, PhD). He is a member of the American Academy of Religion and the Association for Asian American Studies. Chao has a wide range of pastoral experience with Chinese American, Korean American, and Pan-Asian churches and ministries and is an active member of the Presbyterian Church (USA).