Ruben Armendariz, consultant for church development in Mission Presbytery and considered by many the expert on Hispanic ministries in the Presbyterian Church (U.S.A.), speaks proudly of “the rich heritage that Hispanics/Latinos bring from their cultural background and life.”
How will the PC(USA) benefit from this richness?
Hispanic Presbyterians from across the United States and Puerto Rico met Oct. 30-Nov. 2 to discuss the future of this ministry. The gathering was sponsored by the National Presbyterian Hispanic/Latino Caucus and the offices of Hispanic/Latino-a Congregational Support and Resources and Relationships with Hispanic/Latino Constituencies.
The meeting’s goals were to provide the church with concrete strategies to carry out General Assembly mandates: the Strategy for Ministry with Hispanic-Latino Constituencies, approved by the 215th Assembly (2003); and recommendations from the Hispanic/Latino-a Leadership Conversation Group, approved by the 220th Assembly (2012).
Conveners developed a timeline of the history of Hispanic ministries within the PC(USA) since the 1800s. This history, mostly unknown by the predominantly white denomination, tells a story of discrimination and marginalization toward Latinos and their culture and language.
Participants also remembered fondly the many achievements and good efforts by individuals, mentors and church organizations that supported ministries with Hispanics throughout the years.
But despite demographic data showing that Latinos are the fastest-growing ethnocultural group in the United States, participants agreed that the PC(USA)’s institutional efforts to reach out to this population generally lack both will and resources.
To reverse this trend, the participants propose these action plans and measurable goals:
- Distribute and promote the basic principles and provisions of the Hispanic Strategy throughout the church for study and implementation.
- Identify presbyteries and synods that without staff or strategies for ministries with Hispanics/Latinos and provide them with information on demographic and cultural changes in their areas and immigration issues.
- Encourage established local Hispanic/Latino congregations to cooperate with each other and their presbyteries to become better acquainted with their communities across different Latino nationalities and sub-cultures and especially with undocumented immigrants.
- Identify, resource and empower Hispanic/Latino Presbyterians for service in boards and committees of all PC(USA) agencies.
- Develop and keep current a data bank of potential and current Hispanic/Latino Presbyterian leaders for vocational ministry and seminary professorships in cooperation with local Hispanic congregations, presbyteries and seminaries.
- Encourage the Committee on Theological Education and the Presbytery Committee on Examinations to work with other entities and Hispanic/Latino leaders to develop linguistic, ecclesial and culturally sensitive ordination exams.
- Convene a consultation Presbyterian seminary leaders interested in developing creative programs for pastoral Hispanic/Latino leadership both at the Commissioned Ruling Elder and Master of Divinity levels.
- Encourage seminaries to revise their admission policies to allow undocumented or unauthorized immigrants to enter all programs of study.
To achieve these goals, Hispanic/Latino leaders will seek cooperation from PC(USA) mid-councils, committees and offices in the Presbyterian Mission Agency and the Office of the General Assembly.
The actions plans outlined above are prompted by the rapid demographic and cultural changes affecting society and church as well the call to create a truly inclusive church.
“Ministry with the Hispanic-Latino constituencies is a way to implement The Great Ends of the Church,” states the Strategy for Ministry with the Hispanic-Latino Constituencies. “To give meaning to the Strategy it is necessary to take into account the historic declaration of Presbyterianism. The Book of Order states, ‘The Church is called to be a sign in and for the world of the new reality which God has made available to people in Jesus Christ.’” (G- 3.0200a).
The Rev. Tony Aja is coordinator for Hispanic/Latino Ministries for Mid-Kentucky Presbytery.