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Caucus honors theologian Justo González

The Rev. Justo González received awards from MARCHA — Methodists Associated Representing the Cause of Hispanic Americans — the United Methodist Board of Higher Education and Ministry and the United Methodist Publishing House during the Hispanic/Latino Methodist caucus meeting in Newark, N.J.
A UMNS photo by Amanda Bachus.

By Amanda M. Bachus*
Aug. 24, 2007 | NEWARK, N.J. (UMNS)

The Rev. Justo González holds forth a vision of God calling people into the future, and it is a future that should influence how people live in the present.

González sounded notes of hope as well as concern about issues such as immigration during remarks at the annual meeting of Methodists Associated Representing the Cause of Hispanic Americans. The United Methodist Church's Hispanic/Latino caucus, known as MARCHA, honored Gonzalez for his contributions and work at a banquet held Aug. 11 — his birthday — during the annual meeting.

"We should live the present in the light of the future, González said during one of three lectures at the MARCHA meeting." It is the future that pulls forward the present in a theological way.

"God is the future which is calling us today. The vision of the future affects the present," he added.

At the banquet, González seemed surprised when he was called to the podium to receive plaques and gifts from Neil Alexander, president and publisher of the United Methodist Publishing House, Otto Maduro, professor at Drew University in Madison, N.J., and the Rev. Saúl Espino, representing both Bishop Gregory Palmer and the Rev. Jerome Del Pino, top executive of the Board of Higher Education and Ministry.

"Every time I read what Justo has written, I thank God for the depth of his thought…," said the Rev. David Maldonado, president of MARCHA and director of the Center for the Study of Latino Christianity and Religions at Perkins School of Theology in Dallas. He said he is thankful for González’s "passion and commitment for the Gospel and his people. Justo is the theological voice of the Latino people. He is a giant within us, but a giant with a humble spirit and a servant."

Afterward, González told the audience: "I am so surprised. I feel like a mosquito in a nudist camp. I don’t know where to start!"

A prolific writer, González has more than 100 books to his credit, primarily on church history. Born in Cuba in 1937, he attended seminary there, then studied at Yale University, where he earned two masters’ degrees and a doctorate. In 1961, he became the youngest person awarded the historical theology doctorate at Yale.

"We don't fear the future because we've seen the future in the person of Jesus Christ."
-- Justo González

From Yale, he went on to teach church history at the Evangelical Seminary of Puerto Rico. In 1969, he moved to Atlanta to teach at United Methodist-related Candler School of Theology at Emory University, and he later taught at United Theological Seminary in Dayton, Ohio. He was ordained in the Rio Grande Conference of The United Methodist Church.

During one of his lectures, González told his listeners that hope is the "future pulling us forward. We don't fear the future because we've seen the future in the person of Jesus Christ. The hope and future we see should affect our present."

He specifically mentioned the undocumented immigrant as a symbol of courage, hope and determination. "The immigrant is a man that has the courage to leave his family, home and town behind in order to cross miles and miles of desert, many times on foot, risking his life. He reaches the border and crosses, sometimes not even knowing what to do, continually living under Damocles' sword that Immigration (authorities) may get him."

He added: "Our task is to let this country know that the reviled undocumented immigrant embodies in a much profound way the values we hold dear in this country."

González encouraged his listeners to be people of hope, and to teach others to be "daring in their hope."

*Bachus is the director of Spanish language resources at United Methodist Communications. Associate Editor Humberto Casanova contributed to this story.

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

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