A Buddhist in a Presbyterian World

September 30, 2000

Source: Los Angeles Times

On September 30, 2000, the Los Angeles Times told the story of Ai Tasedan. She has "attended services at St. Mark Presbyterian Church faithfully for the past 25 years. She got married there. She goes on church-sponsored mission trips and volunteers wherever needed." And, surprising to some, she is a Buddhist. "It's an ecumenical twist that doesn't bother the liberal Newport Beach congregation very much, if at all. St. Mark's elders decided in 1975 to help rescue Tasedan and her family, Vietnamese refugees who were in living in a crowded tent city at Camp Pendleton after the Vietnam War. Since then, Tasedan has been as much a part of St. Mark as the stained-glass windows. Now a successful accountant who is married with two children, Tasedan will celebrate the silver anniversary of the unexpected interfaith relationship by throwing a thank-you party for the congregation after the 9:30 a.m. service Sunday. 'The church has such wide-open arms for every walk of life,' Tasedan, 43, said. 'Nobody's a stranger at St. Mark. I always feel so much warmth. It has a very special spot in my heart.'" Why, then, has she never converted from Buddhism to Christianity? She explains that "I have a great understanding of the faith, but I don't want to convert because it would break my mom's heart. And that's one thing I wouldn't do."

"For Pastor Gary Collins, her conversion isn't necessary. And in Orange County's conservative Christian world, that's an unusual point of view. 'I'd love for her to become a Christian if that brings her closer to God,' Collins said. 'But if she's close to God as she is and feels spiritually connected, I'm fine with that.'"