Vietnamese Fellowship Marks Growth, Plans Restructure

Top view of hand holding teal ribbon on dark background with copy space. Cervical and ovarian cancer, sexual assault, pcos, ptsd, anxiety disorder, agoraphobia and scleroderma awareness concept.

ARLINGTON, Va. (BP) – The growth of the Vietnamese Southern Baptist Union of North America was reflected in decisions made during its 38th annual meeting June 29 through July 2 at the Crystal Gateway Marriott hotel in Arlington.

About 1,300 in all, including 180 youngsters and 390 teens and college-age adults participated, Executive Director Christian Phan told Baptist Press.

“The great thing is we have a lot of young people,” Phan said. “We have something special when we come together, more than just local church. There’s an awesome spirit.

Vietnamese Baltimore Baptist Church led worship for a portion of the meeting of the Vietnamese Southern Baptist Union of North America. (Photo by Sharon Mager)

“They really care for one another and want to know what each other doing,” Phan continued. “They want to have fellowship with each other. They want to learn more about the Word of God. They also want to well establish the Vietnamese Baptist Union. They care about the function of it.”

Structural changes
After the results of a year of study, 80 percent of the messengers voted to change its five-person trustee board’s responsibilities. With the growth of the Union-owned Vietnamese Baptist Theological Seminary and the Union’s mission board, the messengers determined the two entities need their own trustee boards, just as the SBC has separate trustee boards. The Union’s trustees’ responsibilities will be as a nominating committee, Phan explained.

Just as in the SBC, this major change requires a two-year vote, so it will be taken up again at the Union’s 2024 annual meeting in Atlanta.

A second major action also illustrated the growth of the Vietnamese Baptist Union.

The Fall of Saigon, which signified the end of the Vietnam War, was in April 1975. That same year, the first Vietnamese Southern Baptist Church in the United States was started in a San Diego suburb. Today there are 24 Vietnamese churches in California as well as other congregations that are part of Anglo churches.

Something for everyone
In addition to the adults gathering in two groups – Vietnamese and English – for four days of reports, business, workshops and worship, there was an all-day VBS for children, as well as age-specific worship and workshops for the teen and emerging adults group.

With its annual meeting theme of “Equip,” undergirded by Ephesians 4:11-12 as its scriptural base, the Thursday evening joint worship service included preaching by Victor Chayasirisobhon, outgoing first vice president of the Southern Baptist Convention.

Vietnamese Baltimore Baptist Church, with the help of Good Shepherd Baptist Church in Bear, Delaware, lent a helping hand leading a VBS throughout the conference. (Photo by Sharon Mager)

Other speakers during the four-day event: Peter Hong Le, John Duong Nguyen, Thinh Tran, David Tan and Christian Phan. Le is president of the Vietnamese Baptist Union and pastor of Faith Vietnamese Baptist Church of Dallas, Texas; Nguyen, pastor of Redeemer Vietnamese Baptist Church of Plano, Texas; Tran, pastor of Vietnamese Community Church in San Jose, California; Tan, pastor of Kirkwood Church in Houston; and Phan, the Vietnamese fellowship’s executive director.

Praise and worship was led by teams and bands from Dallas; Raleigh, N.C.; Washington, D.C., and Atlanta.

Vietnamese churches average about 100 members, so gathering together once a year for their Southern Baptist fellowship is important to them, especially since they’re able to combine it with a family vacation in a major city, the executive director explained.

Growth and appreciation
Across the United States, there are 160 Vietnamese Southern Baptist churches, plus seven in Canada also affiliated with the Vietnamese Baptist Union of North America. Nine have been added in the last five years, in West Palm Beach and Jacksonville, Fla.; Los Lunas, N.M.; Winfield, Ill.; Fredericksburg, Va.; Escondido, Calif.; Avondale, Ariz.; Las Vegas and Warner Robins, Ga.

The other major piece of business at the Vietnamese Union’s annual meeting: Messengers passed a resolution expressing appreciation to the Southern Baptist Convention, North American Mission Board and Southern Baptist churches across the nation for planting Vietnamese churches.

“By welcoming the Vietnamese to the new land with open arms, Southern Baptists have helped Vietnamese survive in a culture foreign to them, teaching them English language, leading them to believe in Jesus, guiding them to become His disciples, and working with them to build Vietnamese Baptist churches in the USA,” Phan said. “Today there are about 160 Vietnamese Baptist churches in 31 states.”

Ministry in Vietnam

During his report, President Le announced that eight leaders will be traveling to the central, south and north regions of Vietnam in August to provide training for pastors. An evangelistic event is set for Hanoi on Dec. 24-25, with Executive Director Phan as revivalist.

Worshipping at the Crystal Gateway Marriott hotel in Arlington, Virginia. (Photo by Sharon Mager)

The Union’s Vietnamese Baptist Theological Seminary has grown since it was started in 2002 to 12 professors with doctoral degrees and 27 instructors with master’s degrees, who serve 52 students in the United States and 553 students at more than 30 centers in Vietnam. This year, 32 students graduated with master’s or bachelor’s degrees.


A budget was approved by messengers that is up about 20 percent from last year. Of it, $156,000 is for the operation of the Union, which includes a salary for Phan, now starting his first year as the fulltime executive director. The Union’s staff also includes Trung Pham, a member at Emmanuel Vietnamese Baptist Church in Atlanta, Georgia, who handles finances; and Son Nguyen, pastor of Living Faith Baptist Church in Laurel, Maryland, who handles administration.

The Mission Board is allocated $92,800 from the new budget, most of which is for church planting. The seminary is to receive $172,000.

Le, pastor of Faith Vietnamese Baptist Church of Dallas, was re-elected to a second, two-year term. First Vice-President Phu Do, pastor of Emmanuel Baptist Church in Atlanta; and Second Vice-President Hue Kieu, pastor of River of Grace Baptist Church in Tacoma, Wash., were each elected to their first, two-year term.

“This year we actually have very, very good speakers,” Phan said. “Everyone was very happy for both Vietnamese and English speakers. It was a very productive business meeting because we made the structure better for more room to grow.

“I wholeheartedly give thanks to God for His wonderful works for us and for the Vietnamese people,” Phan said. “May God give us more grace and strength so that we can continue to carry out His Great Commission effectively. To God be the glory!”

Feature Photo: Officers of the Vietnamese Southern Baptist Union of North America are (left to right): Trung Pham, Son Nguyen, Christian Phan, Peter Le, Phu Do and Hue Kieu (Courtesy of Baptist Press) 

Karen L. Willoughby is a national correspondent for Baptist Press.