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A different vision of Christ

A different vision of Christ

National Catholic Reporter tells the story of Toua Vang, an Episcopal priest serving the Hmong community in Minneapolis.

In June 2013, Toua Vang became the first Hmong man in the world to be ordained an Episcopal priest, and is now pastor of the only Hmong-majority Episcopal church anywhere.

His roots are in Catholicism, but the Episcopal church offered an option for non-celibate priesthood. “I come from the Hmong culture, and men are expected to have a family,” he said.

Vang, 47, is one of hundreds of Hmong who began attending Holy Apostles Episcopal Church in St. Paul in 2005. The church was about to close, with only about 60 members remaining. Then 700-plus Hmong, making up 78 families who were searching for a new place to worship after leaving the nearby St. Vincent de Paul Catholic Church, found a home at Holy Apostles. They were welcomed and quickly became a part of church leadership.

“There was a power struggle and division [at St. Vincent de Paul], and many people had decided to move on,” Vang said, adding that the struggle affected the whole congregation, dividing it into a few groups, with the larger group moving to Holy Apostles.

“The Hmong, even in this country, still function as communal people with elders or community leaders giving guidance and assist with disputes among the Hmong people,” Vang said. “The small group remains at St. Vincent de Paul. Some merged into other denominations and some returned to practice animism, the Hmong traditional religion.”


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Chris H.

Sorry, Chris Harwood

Chris H.

Is TEC really so different than the Hmong in regards to marriage? Singles who have never married or don’t have kids are looked down on in practically every protestant church here, including the Episcopal church. How many parish priests in TEC have no partner?

Chris H.


Shawn, I’m all for multicultural ministry . . . as long as it’s understood that Christ judges ALL of the multitude of human cultures.

I’m not for a second doubting that Fr Vang is fine priest. At the same time, the phrase

“I come from the […..] culture, and men[/women] are expected to have a [family/anything]” sets off the alarms of my hermeneutic of suspicion. [If you don’t believe me, try a phrase that ends “and women are expected to have female circumcision”].

To be clear: Christ judges WASP culture as much, if not more, than any other (starting w/ our individual&collective selfishness/lack-of-generousity, for which WASPs are collectively so infamous).

We ALL, individually/collectively/culturally need to be greater conformed to Christ.

JC Fisher

Shawn Strout

Hi JC,

You are absolutely right that your opinion is a WASPish one. Vocation is not about what one believes personally or individually. It is always based in community. We find our vocations in community. They are affirmed by the community. And we live them out in community.

I knew Fthr. Vang from seminary. I am not surprised that his community is doing so well. I think the future of the Episcopal Church is in just this kind of revitalization through multicultural ministry. There is a parish here in the Diocese of Washington that has experienced this same kind of growth with a Latino population. I hope our bishops take note and begin investing much more time, energy and resources into multicultural ministry.


Shawn Strout


His roots are in Catholicism, but the Episcopal church offered an option for non-celibate priesthood. “I come from the Hmong culture, and men are expected to have a family,” he said.

I confess I’m uncomfortable w/ this (and I’m also aware this is probably a case of #WASPproblems. JMO anyway).

Marriage shouldn’t be anymore of a “my culture expects” than it should be “my church forbids” (and/or “my state forbids” for still too many, if you’re gay).

Each and everyone of us is made *individually and personally* in the Image and Likeness of God. And that’s how we should discern our calls to vocation and “manner of life”.

If Fr Vang is personally called to be married (and a possible spouse is personally called to be married to *him*), AWESOME!

But re “my culture expects”? In Christ, there is NO Greek, or Jew…or Hmong.

JC Fisher

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