|MARCHA leaders seek stronger ties
between U.S., Latin churches|
Dec. 13, 2005
By Amanda M. Bachus*
SAN JUAN, Puerto Rico (UMNS) — Leaders of the United Methodist Church’s
Hispanic caucus want to strengthen relationships between Methodists in the
United States and Latin America.
Those relationships were weakened during the years when Methodist churches in
Latin American countries were becoming autonomous from the United Methodist
Improving those ties was one of the issues at the 34th annual assembly of
MARCHA – Methodists Associated Representing the Cause of Hispanic Americans –
held Nov. 17-20 in San Juan.
“The Latin American churches have felt hurt after their own separation from
the United Methodist Church and the type of processes in which the autonomies
were handled in the past,” said Bishop Juan Vera-Méndez , leader of the
Methodist Church of Puerto Rico. The relationship and missional work with Latin
America was deeply affected and still suffers today because of the lack of
relationship with the United Methodist Church, he said.
He suggested that the United Methodist Church increase its mission
support work with Latin America.
“We are living in a globalized world,” Vera-Méndez said. The United Methodist
and autonomous churches are trying to build new relationships with one another,
he said. “The autonomous process should go into revision. Now that we have what
we call connectionalism, we should intentionally start to build communications
bridges and don’t leave the rest (Latin America) in isolation.”
Vera-Méndez noted that the Puerto Rican church has sent more than 100 pastors
to the United States, is a major purchaser of church resources and a part of the
Board of Global Ministries’ Partners in Mission program, and that it has more
than 300 missionaries serving in Honduras and other countries in Central America
and the Caribbean.
MARCHA heard an update from a member of a study group reviewing
relationships between the United Methodist Church and the autonomous Latin
American Methodist denominations. The group was created in 2004, after General
Conference approved a proposal from MARCHA. It was formed by the Council of
Bishops, the United Methodist Board of Global Ministries, the Commission of
Christian Unity and Interreligious Concerns, the Council of Evangelical
Methodist Churches in Latin America (CIEMAL) and Methodists in the Caribbean and
During their meeting, MARCHA leaders also focused on issues such as the
emerging needs of Hispanic/Latinos in the United States, particularly
immigration. Participants discussed how MARCHA, as an advocacy organization, can
request justice and fair treatment for immigrant workers through legislation and
encourage concerned church members, caucuses and other groups to make their
voices heard by lawmakers.
Participants also pondered a question raised by Bishop Aldo Etchegoyen,
leader of CIEMAL and the Methodist Church of Argentina: Why are people
emigrating from Latin America to the United States?
MARCHA will send resolutions on immigration-related issues to the
church’s agencies for consideration by General Conference. The denomination’s
top assembly meets in 2008.
Hispanic/Latino bishops from around the Americas — including United
Methodists Minerva Carcaño, Elias Galván and Joel Martinez — attended the
gathering, as well as staff from United Methodist agencies and seminaries.
Delegations of youth leaders also participated, representing some of the U.S.
jurisdictions as well as organizations such as the Youth Academy, sponsored by
the Mexican American Program at Perkins School of Theology in Dallas.
Led by Bishop John R. Schol, the Baltimore-Washington Conference delegation
was one of the largest, with 12 people. Schol said it was important for him to
“What I’m hearing and experiencing is if we are going to be a church for all
people, we have to pay attention to how to include all people,” he said. “I’m
hearing that Hispanic ministry is going very well despite bad support. We need
to continue to wrestle in developing leadership and giving leadership
In other business:
- In her report, MARCHA President Ana Haydee-Urda expressed concern for
funding cuts that all of the United Methodist Church’s ethnic caucuses are
facing in coming years.
- The Rev. Yolanda Pupo-Ortiz, who recently retired as assistant general
secretary of the Commission of Religion and Race, was honored during a
banquet. Raised in Cuba in a Quaker family, she later converted to Methodism
through marriage. She was honored for a lifetime of working for justice for
small groups that lack a voice in the church.
- The assembly recognized a Puerto Rican delegation for its work in making
autonomy possible for the Methodist Church in Puerto Rico. The gathering also
honored Bishop Elias Galván; Bishop Victor Bonilla, who was the first
Methodist bishop of Puerto Rico; the Rev. Germán Acevedo, a Board of Global
Ministries staff executive; the Rev. Michael Rivas, a former Global Ministries
executive; and others who supported the signing of the concordat between the
United Methodist Church and the Methodist Church of Puerto Rico.
*Bachus is director of Spanish-language resources at United Methodist
News media contact: Linda Green or Tim Tanton, (615) 742-5470 or firstname.lastname@example.org
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