A Historical Sketch of PAAM

Early Missions to Asia and the Pacific

The UCC ministry with PAAM has its roots in Congregational traditions and missions at the beginning of the 19th century.  The UCC American Board of Commissioners for Foreign Missions (ABCFM, which later became the UCC Board of World Ministries, UCBWM), sent missionaries to Hawai’i in 1820 and continued missionary activities to peoples of the Pacific sphere (Hawaiians, Chinese, Japanese, Samoans, Filipinos, etc.) up to the turn of the 20th century.  Among the first Asian churches established in American in the 19th century are the San Francisco, Berkeley, and San Diego Chinese Congregational  Churches, the First Chinese Church of Christ in Hawaii and the Hilo (Chinese) United Community Church.

Later migrations of Asian and Pacific Island peoples slowly gave birth to more Asian and Pacific Islander churches in the continental USA and Hawaii.  These included Taiwanese, Samoans, Koreans, Asian Indians, Marshallese, Kosraean, Pohnpeian and Chuukese.

The Early Years of PAAM

Conversations about organizing a UCC Asian American caucus began in 1972 when Methodist Bishop, Roy Sano, shared the experience of the United Methodist Asian American Caucus to the Council of Japanese American Churches in a meeting held at the Sycamore Congregational Church in Northern California.  The council voted to explore the possibility of establishing a caucus to relate Asian American concerns to the national level of the UCC and later voted to provide funds for Mary Tomita and Julia Estrella to attend the 9th UCC General Synod in St. Louis to raise Asian American concerns and explore funding for a national organizing fathering of a UCC Asian American caucus.

At the Synod, funding was secured from Dr. Charles Cobb, Esecutive Director of the Commission for Racial Justice (CRJ).  A task force was subsequently established for the organizing conference.  This was headed by Ben Fujita together with Mary Tomita, Julia Estrella, Rev. Kay Sakaguchi and many others.  Dr. Teruo Kawata, from the UCC Christian Life & Leadership, was seconded as staff to the task force.  These efforts had the valuable support of Rev. George Nishimoto (Council for Church & Ministry, Church Vocations Secretary), Rev. Garry Oniki (former Executive Director, the UCC Copmmission for Racial Justice) and Rev. Dr. Mineo Katagiri (assist to the UCC president at that time)

Focus & Vision of PAAM

The organizing conference was held at the YMCA in San Francisco in April, 1974 with over 100 people participating from five regions including Pacific Islanders.  The conference agreed to call the organization “Pacific Islanders & Asian American Ministries” and articulated the following vision:

  1. To promote the leadership and identities of Pacific Islanders and Asian Americans in order to empower them and their churches in the United Church of Christ.
  2. To identify concerns of PAAM ethnic groups and advocate strategies for developing solutions
  3. To recognize and celebrate the unique insights and contributions of Pacific Islanders and Asian Americans in the life of the United Church of Christ.
  4. To encourage Pacific Islanders and Asian American of all ages to affirm their unique ethnic and cultural identities and to develop their theologies.
  5. To facilitate the involvement of Pacific Islanders and Asian Americans in instrumentalities, agencies, task forces, conferences, associations and all other settings of the United Church of ?Christ
  6. To combat institutional racism and promote pluralism within the United Church of Christ in the struggle for justice towards the goal of reconciliation of all peoples.

The early meetings of PAAM were focused not only for fellowship but was also an Opportunity for sharing justice issues and spiritual concerns: e.g. issues in bilingual churches, local church leadership development, Christian Education and worship resources from our diverse heritages, discrimination of Koreans in Japan, human rights issues in the Philippines, etc.

One important contribution was made by Miya Okawara, who served as the editor of the National PAAM Newsletter for the first 18 years, as a dedicated volunteer.  The newsletter became a voice for PAAM regarding peace and justice issues.

PAAM in the United Church of Christ

In 1975, the 10th UCC General Synod recognized the Pacific Islander & Asian American Ministries (PAAM).  In 1983,m the 14th General Synod created the Council of Racial and Ethnic Ministries (COREM).

COREM provided a place where the UCC’s racial and ethnic groups can collaborate and develop a common agenda regarding the mission life of the church and advocate for racial/ethnic concerns within the UCC.  In its decision making capacity, COREM is comprised of 10 persons who meet regularly.  Two persons represent each of the five groups: the Council for American Indian Ministries (CAIM), Council for Hispanic Ministries (CHM), Ministers for Racial, Social and Economic Justice (MRSEJ), Pacific Islanders & Asian American Ministries (PAAM), and United Black Christians (UBC).  COREM played a key role in writing the UCC Mission Statement which was adopted at the 18th General Synod.

PAAM also participated in the October 16-17, 1992 UCC Commission for Racial Justice Drafting Committee in proposing the pronouncement calling for the UCC to be a Multiracial and Multicultural Church.  This was adopted in the 19th General Synod meeting in Sat. Louis, MO on July 15-20, 1993.

In 198j9, The General Synod gave the responsibility for implementation oof the proposal for action:  The UCC, with PAAM Implementation Committee.  The primary purpose for action was to advocate for justice for Marshallese and other Micronesians who have been victims of nuclear testing and we continue to be advocates for this cause.  Those who were initially appointed, and stayed until its end, were David Hirano, Wallace Ryan-Kuroiwa and Federico Ranches.  At the closing ceremony at the National Office on February, 2005, Lese Tuuao and David Hirano pass the documents on to the Collegium’s Associate General Minister, Edith Guffey, who in turn passed it on to the PAAM Moderator, Rev. Norma DeSaegher.

The organization and Ministry of PAAM has helped Asian Americans and Pacific Islanders be more visible in all setting of the UCC ministry.  From leadership participation to the establishment of new PAAM UCC congregations. To date there are more than 200 PAAM churches nationwide and more are still in the process of joining the UCC.  PAAM is organized into 6 regions comprising of Hawaii, Norther California Nevada, Southern California Nevada, Pacific Northwest, Midwest and East.



We have been blessed with the dedication, vision and
spirituality of our moderators.  We continue to learn
from their expertise and faith.

1974 – 1976

Harold Jow

1998 – 2000

Ronald Fujiyoshi

1976 – 1978

Frank Chong

2000 – 2001

Ferdinand Rico

1978 – 1980

David Hirano

2001 – 2002

Iese Tu’uao

1980 – 1982

Tyrone Lee Reinhardt

2002 – 2004

Iese Tu’uao

1982 – 1984

Julia Matsui-Estrella

2004 – 2006

Norma Nomura DeSaegher

1984 – 1986

Ben Junasa

2006 – 2008

Eppie F. Encabo

1986 – 1988

Dorothy Wong

2008 – 2010

Melissa Woo

1988 – 1990

Yoshiko Shimamoto

2010 – 2012

Eppie F. Encabo

1990 – 1992

Federico Ranches

2012 – 2014

Christopher Ponnurag

1992 – 1994

Rose Lee

2014 – 2016

Ernesto Reyes

1994 – 1996

Tyrone Lee Reinhardt

2016 – 2018

Dick Hom

1996 – 1998

Bennie Malayang