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Hispanic/Latino plan coordinates ministries across church

June 7, 2006

A UMNS Report
By Allison Scahill*

The National Plan for Hispanic/Latino Ministries is the first coordinated effort of the United Methodist Church to focus on the development and strengthening of Hispanic ministries.

The plan?s creation was approved in 1992 by the United Methodist Church?s top legislative body, the General Conference. The idea for creating the plan was first discussed in 1987 at a meeting of MARCHA, (Metodistas Asociados Representando La Causa de los Hispano Americanos) the denomination?s Hispanic/Latino caucus.

?At that time, there were conferences that had some kind of Hispanic ministry, but there was no coordination, no overall plan,? said the Rev. José Palos, who led MARCHA at the time and became the plan?s first coordinator. The denomination had 38 conferences doing Hispanic/Latino programs. ?Each one was doing its own thing.?

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Bishop Joel Martinez
In 1993, Palos and Bishop Joel Martinez, who currently leads the United Methodist Church?s Southwest Texas Conference, got the plan going.

According to the plan?s vision statement, ?Ours is a vision of a church in which, as in the first Pentecost, all can hear the mighty works of God in their own tongue (Acts 2:8) ? which is not merely a matter of language but also of cultural identity, family traditions, etc.?

Since its start, the plan has helped many U.S. annual conferences develop comprehensive plans for Hispanic/Latino ministries in their areas.

By the beginning of 2002, conferences reported 75 newly chartered Hispanic/Latino churches, 208 missions, 900 community ministries, 600 faith communities, 300 church school extension programs and 70 revitalized congregations. According to the plan, conferences also reported 900 trained lay missionaries and 130 pastor/ mentors, 125 trained facilitators of workshops for lay missionaries or pastor/mentors and 32 commissioned missionaries.

?As we celebrate this tremendous and unique growth, we need to consider that the challenges we face ahead of us are even greater,? said the Rev. Saúl Trinidad, interim coordinator of the national plan. ?As we already know, the Hispanic/Latino population is experiencing a demographical boom. This is a challenge for all the conferences in the UMC.

?It is a divine mandate to reach people with the good news of the gospel and make disciples,? he said. 

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A UMNS Web-only photo by Amanda Bachus

The Rev. Saúl Trinidad (center) is the interim coordinator of the National Plan for Hispanic/Latino Ministries. The Rev. José Palos (right) is the former head and founder of the plan.
?Because of its socioeconomic, cultural and linguistic characteristics, the Hispanic population requires new principles and models of ministries to develop churches ? contextual and appropriate models of ministry,? he said. ?That?s precisely what the national plan is ? a strategic model, a tool designed for the development of churches.?

Top priorities

Trinidad said the National Plan for Hispanic/Latino Ministries has several priorities for 2004-08:

  • Mobilizing annual conferences and congregations to strengthen Hispanic/Latino ministries for growth, renewal and vitality.
  • Including and integrating ministries with the growing Brazilian communities in the United States.
  • Resourcing the non-Hispanic/Latino congregations that are in ministry with Hispanic/Latino communities.
  • Having an ?acompañamiento? (journey) with annual conferences in the development of strategic conference plans for Hispanic/Latino ministries.
  • Working with annual conferences and Hispanic/Latino congregations in developing and strengthening ministries with second, third and later generations.
  • Developing new Hispanic/Latino congregations and renewing and strengthening existing ones.  
  • Reaching out to the Brazilian community is also a priority, he said. ?In the past 20 years, the Brazilian community has emerged in a way that the United Methodist Church needs to develop ministries for them.?

    ?One more challenge is trying to make some conferences understand that this is not a Hispanic plan,? said the Rev. Miguel Albert, who served as coordinator for the plan for two years before departing last February. ?This is not the National Hispanic Plan, this is the National Plan for Hispanic Ministries. ? It?s a plan for the whole church, the whole denomination.?

    *Scahill is a recent graduate of Baker University in Baldwin City, Kan., and worked as an intern for United Methodist Communications in 2005. Amanda Bachus, director of Spanish-language resources at United Methodist Communications, contributed to this report.

    News media contact: Tim Tanton, Nashville, Tenn., (615) 742-5470 or newsdesk@umcom.org

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    Resources

    National Plan for Hispanic/Latino Ministries