News Archives

Ethnic caucuses focus on Katrina, immigration

LINK: Click to open full size version of image
The Rev. Chester Aumua
Dec. 15, 2005

By Linda Green*

NASHVILLE, Tenn. (UMNS) — Issues of justice and equity must be addressed as the hurricane-stricken Gulf Coast is rebuilt, according to leaders of the United Methodist Church’s ethnic caucuses.

They agreed they must be vigilant about who is getting what and why.

Meeting Dec. 2-3, the denomination’s Interethnic Strategy and Development Group strategized about how “our faces” can be around the table of decision makers in the hurricane recovery and rebuilding process, to ensure fairness to Hurricane Katrina survivors. Group members also emphasized the importance of being involved in repairing the destroyed Gulfside Assembly in Waveland, Miss., a historic United Methodist facility founded by African Americans.

While the “faces” of hurricane victims were primarily African Americans, numerous other people of color were also severely impacted by Katrina, said the Rev. Chester Aumua, chairperson of the interethnic group and pastor of Trinity United Methodist Church in Tacoma, Wash.

LINK: Click to open full size version of image
A UMNS photo by Linda Green

Bishop Melvin Talbert, with Black Methodists for Church Renewal, updates Diane Johnson, Board of Global Ministries, on caucus concerns.
“The pictures were all of our faces too, and …we are putting together our efforts ... to see what we can do for putting together reconstruction of that area,” he said. “It is a lot of churches affected, ministries affected. It is not just the physical damage of the house, trees and roads. It is the ministry.”

Hurricanes Katrina and Rita destroyed or damaged more than 112 churches in Louisiana and Mississippi when they struck in late August and September.

The interethnic group comprises the chairperson and executive director of the Native American International Caucus, Methodists Associated Representing the Cause of Hispanic Americans, Black Methodists for Church Renewal, the National Federation of Asian American United Methodists and the Pacific Islander National Caucus of United Methodists. Directors of the denomination’s national ethnic plans and general agency staff are also members.

The group shares concerns and issues related to the five ethnic caucuses of the United Methodist Church and seeks common ground where the caucuses “can work together as one body with open minds, open spirits and open hearts,” to see that no one is left behind, according to Aumua.

LINK: Click to open full size version of image
A UMNS photo by Linda Green

Eliezer Valentin-Castañon and Ann Saunkeah share a moment during the Interethnic Strategy and Development Group meeting.
Bishop Melvin Talbert, executive director of the black caucus, announced his leadership of a special commission of the National Council of Churches for the strategic rebuilding of the Gulf Coast.

“As the church, we cannot sit idly by without giving some oversight to all kinds of decisions that are being made,” he said. “We will be focusing on justice for people who are the victims and equity in the rebuilding, so that building contracts are not just awarded to people who bring in people from the outside and local people are not even a part of the process.”

In other business, the group discussed immigration issues, particularly the denial of visas to United Methodists from outside the United States who need to enter the country to attend churchwide meetings.

An effort is under way with the U.S. State Department to address that issue, so that adults, youth and young people can participate in church business, according to Kenia Guimaraes, director of central conference relations for the denomination’s Division on Ministries with Young People. The interethnic group is going to assist in advocacy initiatives throughout the church to increase awareness of the problem.

LINK: Click to open full size version of image
A UMNS photo by Linda Green

The Rev. Mark Nakagawa, National Federation of Asian American United Methodists, gets an update from Pita Lauti on the Pacific Islander caucus.
Representatives from the ethnic plans also provided updates on church growth, membership development, training, agency collaboration and issues impacting their work.

The Rev. Mark Nakagawa, chairperson of the National Federation of Asian American United Methodists, described the challenge of addressing the needs and interests of the 10 recognized sub caucuses in the federation.

The broadness and diversity within the Asian community impedes the federation’s work, he said. “Because we have 10 national, recognized Asian sub-ethnic caucuses, there is the risk and reality of tribalism,” he said. “Everybody feels the need to support their own community first and ... the needs of others gets shoved aside. This is where we find ourselves.”

*Green is a United Methodist News Service news writer based in Nashville, Tenn.

News media contact: Linda Green, (615) 742-5470 or

Related Articles

UMW looks at race, class issues raised by Katrina

Commentary: We must rebuild on a rock of justice


Rights of Racial and Ethnic Persons

Ethnic Funding



Native American International Caucus

Asian/Pacific Islander Concerns