Leaders in the Episcopal Church have recently taken steps to establish a coalition for Latino ministry, beginning with a national assembly to take place in Arizona in September. In ENS Weekly bulletin inserts for April 11, Bishop Leo Frade of Southeast Florida and the Rev. Canon Carmen B. Guerrero of the Diocese of Arizona explain the new coalition's goals and how they plan to integrate their ministry with the work of the Episcopal Church's office for Latino/Hispanic ministries, led by the Rev. Canon Anthony GuillÃ©n, program officer.
Latino coalition aims to expand voice, create network to strengthen ministry
By Pat McCaughan
Leadership development, service, evangelism, peace and justice advocacy, immigration, Twitter and Facebook are just some of the topics up for discussion Sept. 15-18 when the first assembly of CoaliciÃ³n de Episcopales Latinos gathers in Arizona.
The newly created Coalition of Episcopal Latinos or CEL aims to expand the Latino/Hispanic voice and establish a collaborative network throughout the Episcopal Church, according to the Rev. Canon Carmen B. Guerrero, canon for peace and justice in the Diocese of Arizona.
"We're incorporated; we've got members joining everyday," said Guerrero, a founding board member, during a recent telephone interview from her Phoenix office.
Guerrero said that ideas for formation of the CEL have been around a while, but never lasted. But after General Convention 2009 in Anaheim and a fall summit on immigration she realized, "We need a united voice, and an independent voice, so we can say what needs to be said. It appears as if this is the time," she added.
With at least 16 Spanish-speaking congregations in his diocese, Bishop Leo Frade of Southeast Florida said he is frustrated with the Episcopal Church's sluggish efforts to reach out, not only to immigrants but also to the second and third generations and middle class Latinos/Hispanics.
"Too often they were presumed to be Roman Catholic when in reality they were unchurched people," said Frade, a keynote speaker for the upcoming September event. "We need somebody to say, 'hey, we're missing a great opportunity.'"
CEL could also address the historic underfunding of Latino ministry. Frade noted that the General Convention 2009 budget allocation of $300,000 was considerably less than the $2 million requested to fund a strategic vision for Latino ministry development.
"As a diocesan bishop, many times I struggle to make sure the voices of Latinos are heard, especially in budget times. We love this church and we want our community to know more about what the Episcopal Church is."
He said the church ought to put together two obvious facts: "that we have ability to be the church of the 21st century" and that Latinos are among the fastest-growing populations.
Too often churches have blocked Latinos rather than ministered to them, he said. "But they will continue to come and will be part of our lives whether we like it or not."
Frade praised the ministry of the Rev. Canon Anthony GuillÃ©n, the Episcopal Church's program officer for Hispanic/Latino Ministries, and said the new group hopes to support that work but also to advocate apart from church structures.
GuillÃ©n said the coalition is being formed to work in the areas involving Latino/Hispanic ministry that his office does not or cannot address. "In that way we are complementary and distinct. I look forward to collaborating with the coalition in the future," he added.
Some 325 Spanish-speaking Episcopal congregations in the United States and another 370 in the church's Province IX, "are growing at a fast pace. We do not have adequate clergy to do the ministry and thus we employ many laity, both paid and volunteer to develop our Latino/Hispanic congregations," he said.
Province IX includes dioceses in Colombia, the Dominican Republic, Central and Litoral Ecuador, Honduras, Puerto Rico and Venezuela.
About half the clergy serving in Spanish-speaking congregations in the United States "are Anglo and many are women," GuillÃ©n said. "In my estimation this is due in part to women clergy being willing to work for less pay and/or part-time."
A disproportionate number do not receive full-time pay, health-care benefits, pensions, and have not taken a vacation in years, he said.
GuillÃ©n's office focuses on assisting dioceses and congregations in initiating new congregational ministries, planting churches and revitalizing congregations, as well as Christian formation, liturgical resources and leadership development.