Wenh-In Ng – 2023 Companion of the Centre

Wenh-In Ng – 2023 Companion of the Centre

On April 26, 2023 at the Annual Service of Celebration, the Centre for Christian Studies recognized Rev. Dr. Wenh-In Ng as a Companion of the Centre. In her reflections on being named as a Companion, Wenh-In remembered the cloud of witnesses who have accompanied her, and offered an “intercultural understanding of the communion of saints, sages, and ancestors.”

At the ASC, CCS Principal Alan Lai introduced Wenh-In with this citation:

It is my honour to introduce to you the Companion of the Centre recipient this year, The Rev. Dr. Wenh-in Ng.

Wenh-In is an ordained United Church minister, an educator, and an advocate for anti-racism and interculturalism. She was ordained by Toronto Conference in 1986 and received an honorary degree, Doctor of Divinity from Victoria University in 2010.  She is described by one of the people who nominated her as “a fabulous educator” who specializes in “helping students overcome their own biases to engage others who are different, especially those who are historically marginalized.” 

Born and raised in the former British colony of Hong Kong, Wenh-In became grounded in global citizenship via a childhood in Macau and Hanoi. Secondary education in mission schools grounded her in pre-Vatican II Christianity, later expanded by the Reformed faith of the China Congregational Church in Hong Kong. Following two post-secondary degrees at the University of Hong Kong, Wenh-In found her fluid sense of “home” reinforced by doctoral study years at Columbia University in New York City, while her ecumenical awareness blossomed in neighbouring Union Theological Seminary. Both were strengthened by several years as a lecturer at Trinity Theological College in Singapore. Upon her young family’s move to Canada, she brought these strands of herself into her first contributions as a writer of mission education and church school curricular resources in the final “simplified” phase of The United Church of Canada’s Core ‘New’ Curriculum.

This integration of church education and theological education has characterized Wenh-In’s subsequent teaching-learning ministries – five years as Christian Development Officer of Hamilton Conference (1981-86), nine years at the Vancouver School of Theology (1986-1995), and until her retirement in 2002, at Emmanuel College, Victoria University in the University of Toronto.  Other characteristics include practising and teaching a feminist, liberative pedagogy, enabling and leading Bible study based on postcolonial biblical interpretation, preaching and liturgical development from intercultural and inclusive (including Asian/North American Asian) perspectives, and incorporating a justice dimension in all societal and ecclesial endeavours.  

This last conviction was lived out in her interim position as General Council Minister for Racial Justice, and as Toronto Conference’s Conference Minister for Social Justice and Ethnic Ministries (2005-2009), in her continuing involvement on CEARN (Canadian Ecumenical Anti-Racism Network), and in contributing a chapter addressing anti-Asian hate and violence to a new edition of Injustice and the Care of Souls (Fortress Press 2023). 

Wenh-In is a trailblazer! She is one of the first ordained women of Chinese descent in the United Church of Canada, the first Chinese to be made a tenured professor at Emmanuel College, and the first Chinese faculty at Vancouver School of Theology. She was one of the first Chinese scholar to be elected President of the Religious Education Association (2000-2001). And now, the first woman of Chinese heritage ever to receive this Companion award.

Wenh-In loves mentoring and nurturing younger ‘minority’ students and younger scholars, especially those who often lack support in their own ‘majority’ institutions in both the US and in Canada, as a faculty advisor in the movement PANAAWTM (Pacific Asian North American Asian Women in Theology and Ministry). 

Wenh-In has participated in conferences and lectured at many different Protestant Denominations in Canada and the USA; and internationally in China, Thailand, and at the World Council of Churches Centre in Bossey, Switzerland. 

These days, Wenh-In stays connected to Emmanuel College by co-chairing its Committee on Asian/North American Asian Theologies (CANAAT) in Emmanuel’s multifaith Centre for Religion and Its Contexts. To sustain herself, Wenh-In practises an embodied spirituality by engaging daily in the Eighteen Movements of Taiji-Qigong, supplemented by Chinese brush calligraphy, and writing hymns. Her current goal is learning how to be a worthy elder and, eventually, become a good ancestor.

Personally, I have known Dr. Wenh-In Ng for years. Back to the year 2000, if I chose to attend Emmanuel College instead of Columbia University for my doctoral work, Dr. Ng would have been my mentor. Now, we are alumni of the same university! Wenh-In was the first Chinese-descent professor teaching religious education at Vancouver School of Theology; I succeeded after her as the second. 

I come to know Wenh-In as a passionate educator of racial justice, equality, and Asian theologies. Kind and approachable; Dr. Ng believes in students’ potential and patiently guides them to their own journey of discoveries. One needs to listen to her and feel her passion in burning issues such as post-colonialism, LBGTQ2+, migration and so on.

Wenh-In isn’t a diaconal minister. But she is CCS’s friend, ally, and companion in the truest sense of the word. She promotes justice learning, intercultural ministry, inclusive practices and anti-racism and many other areas of Christian service in a different platform. She did it in an environment that educates practitioners and scholars alike. That platform isn’t antithetical to what the CCS does. Quite the opposite, academic vigor and practical-reflective actions are interrelated. One can’t truly live out one’s presupposed mission without the wisdom of the other. Dr. Ng has done a wonderful service to the mission of the United Church of Canada. She has prepared passionate leaders to serve in a chaotic and confusing world such as ours. And because of Wenh-In’s contributions and dedication to the vision of justice and equity, the United Church of Canada is blessed to have reached this current stage when we are actively pursuing anti-racism not just in the society at large, but within the four walls of the church. She has done her parts to shape the church in fostering intercultural leadership, and she continues to challenge us all to relate to one another through the lens of equity.

I am fortunate to call Dr. Wenh-In Ng my colleague, elder, and friend. She has made tremendous impact in the theological world, practices of educational ministry, and religious communities beyond the United Church of Canada. She is such an inspiration to so many people. We at the Centre of Christian Studies are delighted to give this year’s Companion of the Centre Award to her.