ATLANTA – The struggle for racial justice in the U.S. and our beloved church has been part of the Latino story since before Cesar Chavez and the Rev. Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. worked on behalf of the poor in this country. On the heels of the formation of Black Methodists for Church Renewal (BMCR) in 1967, Methodists Associated Representing the Cause of Hispanic Americans (MARCHA) was founded in 1971 as a commitment to advocacy and equity in the church and society.
MARCHA advocates for a holistic and multicultural church, recognizing that the Latinx people in this country are as diverse as its musical styles. This multiculturalism has always existed in the Latinx community. Our shared stories of migration and immigration recognize the lived experiences of our countries of origin. Whether one came here fleeing poverty and violence or as a product of American colonization, our stories make true Dr. King’s statement, “We may have all come on different ships, but we’re in the same boat now.”
Over the years, political and social dynamics have tried to continually separate us or make us believe that one group is greater than the other. However, The United Methodist Church (UMC) has been instrumental in creating a shared vision of solidarity amid diversity. In 1988, the MARCHA caucus, under the leadership of Bishop Elias Galvan, the first Hispanic/Latino bishop in the UMC, gave voice to this vision and called the church to respond to the growing need for ministry with and for the Hispanic/Latino population. This led to the creation of the National Plan for Hispanic/Latino Ministry (NPHLM) in 1992.
Since then, the plan has diligently strategized with annual conferences in training both laity and clergy to highlight the unique gifts the Latinx community brings to the church. For example, in the Tennessee/Western Kentucky Annual Conference, the Rev. Myriam Cortes is committed to helping the laity become lay missioners and develop new faith communities. This December, we will celebrate with Ebenezer UMC as it becomes a chartered congregation and births a new faith community in another conference location with a lay missioner trained by the plan.
This growth is possible because of a strong commitment from conferences and our ongoing partnerships with general agencies of the UMC that embrace a multicultural expression of church. It is also possible because of the plan’s continued process of “acompañamiento,” journeying with annual conferences. In the U.S., there are more than 500 United Methodist Hispanic/Latinx congregations and faith communities.
Now more than ever, all these years of developing multicultural Latinx congregations might pay off to help inform and shape a new vision for a new church if we are willing to listen.
The Rev. Dr. Lydia E. Muñoz is the executive director of the National Plan for Hispanic/Latino Ministry of The United Methodist Church.
RACIAL AND ETHNIC MINISTRIES
In recognition and celebration of the increasing diversity of the United States, Global Ministries administers four of The United Methodist Church’s six ethnic/language ministry plans, also known as the U.S. “national plans.” These four ministries serve Asian American, Hispanic/Latino, Korean and Pacific Islander communities in the United States. The national plans strive for unity within diversity. They aim to expand the ministry of The United Methodist Church in a way that does not compromise the ethnic and cultural context of each of the communities they serve.