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Monday, February 9, 2015

Pastorgraphs: “Ministerio Hispano”

E-Vangel Newsletter

February 9, 2015

Christ United Methodist Ministry Center

“Christ in the Heart of San Diego”
3295 Meade Avenue - San Diego, CA 92116 - (619) 284-9205
Pastorgraphs: “Ministerio Hispano”

When Bishop Minerva Carcaño constitutes Exodus Church Sunday night at 5:00 p.m., she will charter a multi-ethnic congregation that is one-third Hispanic. In the past, I have highlighted the story of the other groups. It is time to tell the story of Ministerio Hispano, Unidos en Cristo.

First a word of candor. United Methodists are not alone, but we have historically done a poor job in reaching our Hispanic brothers and sisters right here in San Diego. And we are on the Mexican border where 1 in 3 residents is Hispanic/Latino.

When I retired from the pulpit three years ago, there was not one UMC Hispanic congregation in San Diego I knew of that worshiped in the main sanctuary at 11:00 a.m. That holy hour and sacred space was usually reserved for white/Anglos. The Hispanic ministries I knew of, including ours, worshiped in the Chapel, basement or fellowship hall at a time no one else wanted those spaces. [Note: our Hispanic ministry moved to the main Sanctuary for 11:00 a.m. worship as soon as Christ Church became Christ Ministry Center. They have since, by their own choice, moved to a 1:00 p.m. service.]

Methodists are doing much better now in San Diego with several Hispanic senior pastors at strategic churches.

Like so many urban churches that closed because they refused to change with their neighborhoods, mainline denominations continue to decline in the fastest growing areas and among the fastest growing populations. Our history to “evangelize” Hispanics usually meant: “You come to OUR church, learn to speak English, dress, sing and pray as we do, and we will LET you be members of OUR church.”

How did that work out? Our Conference Journal summed it up pretty well last year: “There were efforts to assimilate Hispanics into Anglo churches, but this often became a denial of Hispanic culture. There was membership loss and anxiety about the future of the Hispanic Church. … The membership continued to decline between 1957 and 1978 as it has for the total church.”

In 1981, Ministerio Hispano began as a part of San Ysidro UMC on the US-Mexico Border. In 1989, Guillermo “Bill” Prince, a native Mexican Methodist minister, became pastor. The congregation became South Bay Hispanic Ministry in 1994 and worshiped for a while at Nestor UMC. In 1996, the name changed back to Ministerio Hispano and settled here at Christ UMC, still under the leadership of Pastor Prince and his wife Noemi, who served the congregation well into their late eighties. Rev. Prince died two years ago at age 91.
Do the math. According to Pew Research, the Hispanic population will triple in the next four decades. If trends continue, by the second half of this century the United States will become a majority Hispanic population. Half of our national population growth over the last decade came from our Hispanic/Latino residents. The median age of Hispanics is 27, compared to 41 for white/Anglos. 80% of senior citizens in America are white. So, to use Pope Francis’ candid terminology, unless white baby boomers start “breeding like rabbits” (and I mean a lot of them) that trend is not going to change. Bet on it not changing.

This is not just a California thing. The fastest percentage Hispanic growth over the past decade was in Alabama (158%), followed closely by South Carolina and the rest of the Old Confederacy. Even Mississippi had a 117% growth in Hispanic population in just one decade.

It is sad, but not surprising, that many see “the solution” as building a ten mile high border fence, breaking up families and shipping parts of families back to “where they came from” (the same “solution” I heard in Mississippi in the 1960s); or making sure Hispanics get no education or social services. Imagine what America will be if we follow that path. Before long our majority population will then be illiterate, sick, and in poverty. No society with a majority illiterate/poverty population has ever survived. And if you think that will not impact your children and grandchildren, you might want to reconsider. So if you cannot love your Hispanic sisters and brothers for Judeo/Christian reasons, do it for practical economic reasons. Either way, it just makes good sense.

One of the children who grew up under Pastor Prince’s ministry is Jonathan Reyes. Jonathan has felt God’s call to ministry. He and his wife Nora are now continuing the work Pastor Bill Prince hoped one day would be chartered as a United Methodist Church. I’m sure Pastor Prince will will be smiling down from Heaven Sunday night! I'm very proud of Jonathan, and that he has several Hispanic pastors as mentors in San Diego.

If Christian churches want to end the decades long decline in membership, we must do a better job of welcoming Hispanics, the largest “minority” in the United States.

So as excited as I am that Exodus United Methodist Church is almost constituted, I am just as excited about the opportunity this presents for United Methodists to do right by our Hispanic neighbors this time.

For Christ’s sake,
Bill Jenkins

From The Quote Garden:
“We are the church, and the church welcomes the downtrodden and the outcast, the suffering, and the lost. Some of us can give witness to the fact that through our work with immigrants, time and time again, we have hosted angels unaware.”
~ Bishop Minerva Carcaño, St. Peter's Catholic Church, Charlotte, N.C. (Sept. 4, 2012)

Photo credits: UMC Hispanic/Latino logo, the late Rev. Bill Prince, Lay Minister Jonathan Reyes and wife Nora

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