Commission on Ethnicity Gains Women Voices
The Commission on Ethnicity meets annually to bring focus to the growing ethnicity of the Assemblies of God. As the chairman of the Commission on Ethnicity, General Superintendent Doug Clay moved this year to make sure the women’s perspective was well represented in the commission.
Connecting with Scott Temple, the director of the AG Office of Ethnic Relations, and Dennis Rivera, the director of AG Office of Hispanic Relations, Clay asked the two men to each recommend a woman, who they believed would be a strong addition to the commission, to serve a two-year appointment.
Yoriko Yabuki, the director of Japanese Women’s Ministries in the U.S. Japanese Fellowship, was Temple’s recommendation to serve as the representative for women of the Language/Ethnic Fellowships. Yabuki is also a missionary in residence with her husband, Daisuke, at Central Assembly in Springfield, Missouri, serving and assisting with international ministries there since 2009.
Rivera’s choice for representative of the women of Hispanic districts was Silvia Carrizo. Born in Argentina, she immigrated to the United States and studied at the Latin American Bible Institute in La Puente, California. Carrizo has served as the secretary/treasurer of the Southern Pacific District Council since 2012. “She is one of just a few female Executive Officers serving in a district office,” Rivera says. “She brings to the table an understanding of both Latin American and U.S. cultures.”
Carrizo, who is well aware of the strong growth in Hispanic districts and churches in the AG, as evidenced by the great impact Hispanics have had on the growth of the U.S. Assemblies of God over the last few decades, understands the importance of her role in representing women.
She explains that in the Hispanic districts, there is now a strong and growing minority of women credential holders, and she believes potentially a majority in women lay people.
Over the next year, Carrizo plans to connect with Hispanic districts and speak with female credential holders as well as lay workers.
“My plan is to listen,” she explains. “In order to plan for the future, we need to listen to their needs.”
Another goal for Carrizo is to help communicate to the women of Hispanic districts and churches, at all levels, that they are welcome in the AG fellowship.
“Among Hispanic churches there are different cultures that can create barriers [to communicating and bringing people together] — that will definitely be a challenge,” she observes. “But I believe if we listen and create bridges, we can navigate through the challenges by demonstrating an openness that shows every woman, credentialed or not, that she is a welcomed part of this Fellowship.”
Yabuki, who is a D.Min candidate through the AG Theological Seminary, says that when she was first appointed to the commission she was unsure of what her role should be. As she prayed about it, the Holy Spirit gave her a nudge.
“My D.Min project was on the four cultural challenges Japanese women face in getting involved in leadership and ministry,” Yabuki says. “The Japanese culture is a shame-based culture, women face isolation and loneliness, their way of thinking is not to stand out, and the value of women is perceived as less because the culture tends to be male dominated. Those four issues keep Japanese women from leading, but the Bible has the answers for all those challenges.”
Although every ethnic and language fellowship likely has its own unique cultural challenges, Yabuki’s desire is to assist the 22 Language/Ethnic Fellowship presidents in achieving their vision for seeing more women in leadership and ministry positions.
“I want to use my doctoral materials to help women in different cultures self-identify and overcome their own challenges that are keeping them from being fruitful and out of leadership,” she explains.
Yabuki, who has relied heavily upon the mentoring of Carol Taylor, president of Evangel University; Kay Burnett, director of AG Women’s Ministries; and Beth Grant, executive presbyter and minister to Eurasia, says her position isn’t one of directing. Instead, her goal is to serve as a voice for Language/Ethnic Fellowship women on the commission and be a facilitator in helping fellowship presidents establish Women’s Ministries programs with strong women leaders who produce more strong leaders and ministers.
“Yoriko has been a strong leader, organizing women’s conferences from coast to coast,” Temple says. “She brings vast personal experience, a true zeal for ministry, and a heart for the women in the Language/Ethnic Fellowships to the table. I believe God has her here for His purpose.”
“I feel like God has expanded my mission field in giving me the opportunity to serve other nations,” she says. “My desire is to work with fellowship presidents to host a retreat with key women representatives from each fellowship early next year to talk, exchange ideas, inspire each other, and develop relationships. If that is approved and goes well, I hope to explore the possibility of a larger gathering at General Council in Orlando next August.”
For now, Yabuki believes what will make the most impact on bringing all these cultures successfully together and finding the unique keys to women in leadership for each culture is prayer.
Please keep the women in our Language/Ethnic Fellowships and this effort to empower them in prayer,” Yabuki says. “In our own strength, there is no hope; with the Holy Spirit’s intervention, there are no limits.”
Carrizo agrees, adding that she’s “excited for the future, to learn what the needs of the women in the Hispanic districts are, and to help them as a part of the AG movement.”
IMAGE: Silvia Carrizo