Chaplain Angulus Wilson announced that Family Groups is moving from the Discipleship Ministries cabinet in the Chaplain’s Office to the Koinonia cabinet in the Office of Multicultural Development (OMD) in an email to students on Feb. 15.
Wilson said the transition is primarily the result of staff reductions in the chaplain’s office and across campus.
“Due to a staff shortage and fiscal challenges, new ministry collaborations are needed to support our ministries,” Wilson said in an email interview on Feb. 14.
Family Groups, a network of community groups for students from Asian, Asian American and Pacific Islander backgrounds, is dedicated to ”discipl[ing] wholehearted followers of Christ.” Each co-ed group of 10-18 students participates in hospitality and fellowship through weekly dinners.
Unlike the other two ministries under the DM umbrella, Discipleship Study Groups (DSGs), a system of Bible study groups, and Strongholds, which are peer mentorship and accountability groups for students struggling with issues of sexuality, Family Groups do not focus on studying the Scriptures together.
Student leaders of Family Groups said they were startled when they heard about Wilson’s official decision on Dec. 2, more than two months before the student body was informed.
“I was initially confused because there had been several conversations asking whether Family Groups wanted to move to the OMD or stay with DM [Discipleship Ministries],” said Ellie Ho, senior psychology major and director of Family Groups. “We always said we wanted to stay with DM and felt as though we were being listened to.”
The Chaplain’s Office has reevaluated the structure of DM, including Family Groups’ place within it, in light of recent staff reductions and the departure of Raymond Chang ‘06, who resigned in August to become a senior director of the Fuller Youth Institute at Fuller Theological Seminary in Pasadena, Calif.
Family Groups “was one of the ministries that we saw had a greater chance to partner and grow and thrive and do some of the same things in a different space,” Wilson said. “The others didn’t have that sort of option. There was no other place I could partner with DSGs because it’s so big. Or Strongholds, there’s no other place in the institution that’s doing that.”
Some leaders of Family Groups have said they believe that the move was linked to the differences in structure and activities between Family Groups and other DM ministries.
“Primarily, the concern [for the chaplain’s office] as I understand it was that the activities or programming [of Family Groups] was not primarily spiritual/devotional, so it did not fit within the parameters of discipleship,” said Jordan Ryan, professor of New Testament and faculty adviser for Family Groups.
Wilson responded to this concern by saying that Family Groups’ discipleship style did not factor into his decision making.
Ho told the Record that Family Groups leadership spent the next seven to eight weeks after the decision was made debating whether to pursue some kind of appeals process, despite the fact that the DM cabinet had been told the decision was final. The student leadership “felt it generally fit our mission better,” Ho said. “Since ministry is at the heart of our mission, just through an Asian/Asian American lens, and not the other way around. Overall, we wanted to stay in DM more. ”
After many meetings with the chaplain’s office, the group decided to accept the move two or three weeks into the spring semester.
“Family Groups has consistently been an organization where AAPI students have managed to find home, identity and community,” Ryan said. “We’re hoping that transitioning to the OMD is going to allow them to re-envision Family Groups without changing the core substance of what it looks like.”
Ho said she is grateful for the hospitality and kindness of Koinonia and the OMD and that the current DM groups “are still family even if Family Groups is moved.”
Both Family Groups and Koinonia leadership are hopeful for a peaceful merger, especially since they’ve partnered together before. Family Groups started as a large group of AAPI students meeting regularly and was adopted into the Koinonia cabinet where the two groups operated harmoniously, but independently. In 2017, Chang invited them to join DM.
Audrey Kim, senior psychology major and president of Koinonia, said she is excited to welcome Family Groups back into the OMD because Koinonia is nearing the end of a three-year mission plan, and now they have a chance to plan new priorities and projects alongside Family Groups.
“There are some points [of our mission plan] that have been difficult to fulfill because we don’t have a small-community aspect,” Kim said. “So bringing in Family Groups and reintegrating is what we wanted for Koinonia.”
Despite institution-wide cuts and concerns about staff support, Koinonia Faculty Advisor HeeJung Kim said that Student Engagement, the Chaplain’s Office, and the Office of Multicultural Development have agreed to find a way to provide some financial support for the expanded Koinonia cabinet.
Over the course of the next semester, the director of Family Groups will become the vice president of community advocacy, under whom the coordinators will operate, in keeping with Koinonia’s cabinet structure. The Koinonia chaplain, currently in charge of Koinonia’s yearly chapel service, will be reassigned to Family Groups and report to their vice presidents. This new role, participants hope, will allow Family Groups to keep the devotional aspect they developed while being part of DM.
Group leaders are also invested in creating a different, more organized structure than the one they had in 2017.
“This is not just a one plus one,” HeeJung Kim said. “It’s putting together and creating a new structure for all of us. We all think it will take some time to settle down, [but] somehow, it’s been a peaceful process and I’m really thankful.”
Family Groups is moving forward with their recruitment process for next year’s president and vice presidents under David Cho, the director of the OMD, and HeeJung Kim. With the changes, the student leaders said the process of recruiting and choosing next year’s leaders will likely take longer than usual.
“With all the changes and transition going on, I don’t want to make a lot of decisions,” Ho said. “I want next year’s leaders to make as many decisions about what next year will look like as possible.”