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Bishop urges fight against racism


1:00 A.M. EDT August 31, 2011 | EL PASO, Texas (UMNS)

Bishop Minerva Carcaño says she sees a resurgence in racism in the United States. UMNS photos by Mike DuBose.
Bishop Minerva Carcaño says she sees a resurgence in racism in the United States.
UMNS photos by Mike DuBose.
View in Photo Gallery

In a blunt, yet compassionate, speech filled with tough words, Phoenix Area Bishop Minerva Carcaño told the 40th anniversary meeting of MARCHA that “true healing in the spirit of our Christian faith” will not be possible until racism is “done with, eradicated, eliminated, dead and buried.”

The bishop’s words were not limited to external forces in society.

“The life of our churches, the life of The United Methodist Church, and the life of our communities depends on our overcoming our internalized racism alongside overcoming the ongoing institutional racism in the church and in the world.

“All across this country United Methodists are advocating for the human rights of the immigrant through compassionate care and through efforts to gain comprehensive immigration reform,” she said.

Noting that the numbers involved in advocating for the rights of the more than 11 million undocumented immigrants in the United States are small, the bishop took to task church members who do not support the effort. She was speaking to about 200 members of Methodists Associated Representing the Cause of Hispanic-Americans, the denomination’s Hispanic/Latino caucus. The group met Aug. 11-14 at the Lydia Patterson Institute in El Paso.

“To make matters worse, too many of our Hispanic/Latino church members have joined the ranks of those who say ‘boot these immigrants out of here and build a higher wall so they don’t come back,’” she said. “I have no way of understanding this United Methodist Hispanic/Latino sentiment without seeing internalized racism.”

Need for holy conferencing

The bishop said she has been questioned by many whether her priorities fall on the side of defending and supporting Hispanic/Latinos instead of supporting all United Methodists.

“When I have spoken out in defense of immigrants, I have been accused by United Methodists from my area and from throughout the connection of only doing so because, as you can see from my face, I am one of them,” she said.

Bishop Elías Galván (left) and Raúl Alegría address the 2011 MARCHA meeting at the Lydia Patterson Institute.
Bishop Elías Galván (left) and Raúl
Alegría address the 2011 MARCHA
meeting at the Lydia Patterson
Institute. View in Photo Gallery

Tense disagreements between her and certain white church leaders are not treated as moments of holy conferencing or a means of grace, she added. Instead, she said, “I am accused of endangering the whole church and have been told that I bring shame to the episcopal office and should be removed.

“Perhaps our white brothers and sisters are right; these are not moments of holy conferencing but rather moments when we see just how alive our institutional racism is,” the bishop said.

Carcaño, who was elected a bishop by the Western Jurisdiction in 2004, acknowledged the step forward that the election of President Barack Obama represented.

“While the election of a person of color to the highest position in this country is a great marker on the way to overcoming racism, it is only a marker. No sooner had President Obama assumed the office of president when racism reared its ugly head. Was he truly an American? Was he Christian?” she said.

“There are today many more Hispanic/Latino leaders in the church and in the world because of those who have called themselves MARCHA,” Carcaño said. “But, there is yet much work to be done, sacred work that I know will bless us and bless others if we will but be faithful to the one we claim as Lord and Savior. There are tasks to be done and new challenges to face.”

Need to be self-sufficient

Carcaño told MARCHA attendees that she fears “we have become dependent on others to fund and maintain our ministries.”

The approach to ministry and mission has been affected by the time and energy given to getting a piece of the United Methodist pie, she said, and there is merit in challenging the institutional church to use its resources in ways that demonstrate the values of inclusivity, diversity and justice. But, she asked the audience to look within.

“While much good work has been done over the last 40 years, we have of late become, in my opinion, too inwardly focused,” the bishop said.

Discussing how the group should approach racism, she added, “We do not have to wait for the day when racism is banished, though that day will come by God’s grace.”

She told the conference it is time to break out of the box and fully be the people of God. “It is time for us as Latino/Hispanic United Methodists who have been a part of this church for a lifetime to become self-supporting and self-directing, for while we have eaten our portion of the connectional pie, our Hispanic/Latino communities languish, hungry for the manna of God’s gracious hand, manna that we should be sharing with the world.”

The Rev. Emilio Muller, director of Hispanic ministries at the California-Pacific Annual (regional) Conference, said the bishop’s words spoke not only to the work that has been completed but also to the work that is still to become a reality.

“This is indicative of the continued blindness and institutional racism that permeates our society, and it continues to be manifested today as it’s currently demonstrated in the attitude about immigration, in the planting of new congregations and in making it difficult for local leaders to answer their call to ordained ministry within our denomination,” Muller added.

The mariachi band from the Lydia Patterson Institute performs during the MARCHA banquet.
The mariachi band from the Lydia Patterson Institute performs during the MARCHA banquet. View in Photo Gallery

“It is well established our denomination is in need of trained clergy leaders to serve those who in 10 years will be more than a third of the population in the United States of America,” he said.

Bishop Elías Galván, executive secretary of MARCHA, noted the organization’s 40 years have been marked by struggles, negotiations and the endorsement of significant legislation.

He told the caucus that how it responds, challenges assumptions, participates in and contributes to the processes taking place today will either hinder or assist in the mission “to make disciples for Jesus Christ for the transformation of the world.”

The theme of this year’s conference was “Renewing our Commitment: New Spaces for Renewed People.” Sessions were in the Patterson Institute, the only United Methodist preparatory school historically serving Hispanic students in the southwestern part of the country. The participants were from several countries, including El Salvador, Cuba, Peru, Venezuela, Argentina, Brazil, Dominican Republic, Haiti, the United States and Mexico.

For more information about the United Methodist Church and immigration, visit www.umc.org/immigration.

*Bachus is director of Spanish resources and editor of el Intérprete magazine at United Methodist Communications.

News media contact: Amanda Bachus, (615) 742-5470 or newsdesk@umcom.org.

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Showing 24 comments

  • HHH_AAA 1 comment collapsed Collapse Expand
    for the moderator...the comments lost their format (they are all showing as individual comments when most are replies to previous comments) this can confuse reader as they try to make sense of people's opinions.
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  • John Vaughn 2 comments collapsed Collapse Expand
    I think a lot of this racism issue is pre-fabricated by the liberal media in an effort divide our nation.  I cannot believe that a true Methodist would ever be a racist.  Maybe I live in a different world.
    John Wesley Vaughn
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  • HHH_AAA 1 comment collapsed Collapse Expand
    perhaps you live in a different world...racism inside the church is not only real, but hurting us a lot. I know first hand what it is not to feel welcomed in a congregation because I was "different" - by that they meant, not white. People expressed their concern to the pastor that if one of "those people" came then the others would come...many times we normalize our reality to the point that it makes us blind to what really is going on in the world.
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  • RickSlv 1 comment collapsed Collapse Expand
    The trouble with Bishop Carcaño's statements is that she is ascribing racist motives to those she disagrees with.

    Isn't it possible to disagree with her position on immigration without being a racist?  Was *everybody* who wanted to see Obama's birth certificate a racist?  Really?

    The trouble with making sweeping accusations is that we become "The Boy Who Cried Wolf".  One day we will speak up against bona fide racism, but will anybody still be listening?
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  • Rampart Media 1 comment collapsed Collapse Expand
    Internalized racism causes legal Hispanic residents to be racist toward illegal Hispanics? I don't get it.

    The political agenda of the UMC:
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  • R. Warren Gill III 4 comments collapsed Collapse Expand
    NMex -- yes.  you are a racist.  and frankly we, as white people, don't get to decide what is racist.  our responsibility is to listen to people of color who tell us when we are acting in white supremacist ways.  our responsibility is to respond by repenting and changing our ways. our responsibility is to work to make change to be in right relationships.  this is the great commandment; this is what it means to love our neighbors.

    the long and short of it is: our laws are based on white supremacy.  if you closely read the article, you will note that Bishop has advocated for changing the laws, not to ignore them.  Bishop also advocates -- here and elsewhere -- that we ought to treat everyone humanely, regardless of their citizenship status.  jesus does not call us to care only for those who are our fellow citizens.  jesus calls us to share the love of god with all god's people.  the way the US government treats undocumented folks falls short of the commandment to love our neighbors.
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  • Eric 1 comment collapsed Collapse Expand
    So by your “logic” if I can find one black or Hispanic person to agree with us than we must be correct in our beliefs and not racist at all.  Oops sorry I almost forgot if they disagree with there Liberal masters they are just self hating blacks or Hispanics.  Someone around here is a racist, first get the board out of your own eye.
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  • Hravn 2 comments collapsed Collapse Expand
    It is interesting that this sermon by Bishop Carcano has not been posted to her own conference website.  Apparently some would prefer to imagine that she is infallible with regard to her actions and above criticism.  I think calling unnamed leaders in our conference racist, is cowardly.  I know there is racism.  But racism is not the  focus of our clergy and the church leaders I know.  There is concern about lack of leadership.
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  • DSC Communications 1 comment collapsed Collapse Expand
    In addition to the PDF linked in the article above, Bishop Carcaño's keynote address to MARCHA can now also be viewed on the Desert Southwest Conference's website at: http://desertsouthwestconferen...
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  • 25Advocate 3 comments collapsed Collapse Expand
    Yes, only a small percentage of our members are people of color. But racism IS a contributing factor. This country is at least 35% "nonwhite," yet our denomination does little or nothing to engage, build faith communities among, and walk with people of color--particularly those who are poor. We have turned away from John Wesley's imperative to be in community with the poor. It is easier to nay-say the messengers than to foster conversion in our own hearts and in our pews. The church is not ours and this land it not ours--they belong to God. And those of us who don't practice hospitality and courage and repentance are dooming ourselves to irrelevance and marginalization in God's kingdom. We're so busy trying to keep people out that we are distancing ourselves from God's works.
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  • Hravn 2 comments collapsed Collapse Expand
    Hispanic people are developing congregations in the Pheonix area.  Many if not most have a charismatic bent.  Perhaps there are other reasons why Hispanic folk do not choose the UMC as their denomination.  Perhaps they are not interested in traditional denomination structure.
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  • HHH_AAA 1 comment collapsed Collapse Expand
    @Hravn...this is the case across the board (almost all ethnic groups in our denomination) while many congregations are declining others are blooming in the same areas with a more contemporary/ charismatic style - even many of the UM churches striving around the connection are moving to this experience. Another aspect that it is hurting UM churches, is the lack of accountability. Low expectations, result in poor outcome.
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  • Dr 1 comment collapsed Collapse Expand
    I have to agree with the criticisms.  She is a great "up front" person for radical immigration, but look at her work as Bishop!  She has NOT reached the people she claims are so important, and her overall Conference membership is declining.  Seriously!  She says one thing, but her work/fruits shows she could care less about reaching hispanics.
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  • John Wolforth 4 comments collapsed Collapse Expand
    @Creed: I don’t understand what point you are making with the numbers. Do we make decisions about people based on how many of them with similar physical attributes are members? Isn’t that the definition of prejudice?
    @NMex: Illegal immigration is a misdemeanor, so is speeding. If we didn’t need them for low paying jobs they wouldn’t come here. It is prejudice because we separate out this group and treat them differently than other groups. Are there websites and videos all over the internet calculating how young families with children are not paying the full amount of what it takes to send their children to school? Do you blame the people who take low paying jobs at WalMart for the closure of the local hardware store? Of course not, but when there are Latinos involved, you change your perspective.
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  • Creed Pogue 1 comment collapsed Collapse Expand
    I'm pointing out that the "solutions" of Bishop Carcano and those who agree with her don't work.  Our lower numbers for Hispanics and blacks are due to cultural differences not institutional racism.  The overwhelming majority of Hispanics are Catholic.  Most of the remaining Protestants are Pentecostal, charismatic or evangelical.  More African-Americans are Baptist.  More of the Methodists are AME, AMEZ or CME.  We need to continue to be open and welcoming but we need to be realistic.  Merely putting in bishops, DSs or agency staff who are non-European thinking that will attract non-Europeans to our churches simply hasn't worked.  Instead we have traded one type of unChristian discrimination for another.  That would be bad enough if it wasn't accompanied by a misallocation of apportionment dollars which wind up doing a better job of enriching specific persons rather than making ministry happen.
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  • Eric 1 comment collapsed Collapse Expand
    No that’s not even kind of like definition of prejudice.  What you’re talking about would be closer to the definition of racism, but thanks for playing.  But even once we get past this etymological error', race has nothing to do with this. Hispanics are traditionally and culturally Catholic and conservative Catholic at that.  They are not in one or two generations going to leave the church that there family has attended for hundreds of years to rush off and join one of the most liberal denominations in the country, it just doesn’t work that way.
    Your absolutely correct speeding is a petty crime, but if you do it enough they take your
    license away, actions have consequences.  If you don’t want to get deported don’t sneak into this country, really pretty simple.
    The only reason the videos and sites that you speak of are up is to counter the ridicules argument that illegal aliens are some how net contributors to our countries tax base not what they are, net consumers.  If liberals don’t want people to respond to there ridicules lies don’t put them out as part of your argument.
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  • MethodistPie 1 comment collapsed Collapse Expand
    The numbers are telling.  I read someplace else that United Methodists have approached ministry to Hispanics as a social justice project, rather than befriending them into the body of Christ.  In other places, Latinos are flocking to hear the Good News of Jesus Christ--but that appears not to be happening in Desert Southwest United Methodism.  I wonder if the Bishop is not offering the stones of rhetoric and agenda politics and confusing these with the Bread of Heaven.  .
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  • byfaithalone 1 comment collapsed Collapse Expand
    The Bishop seems to have lost her “first love”.
    She has become a radical reactionary who assumes anyone that disagrees with her position is guilty of prejudice and racism.
    Illegal aliens are called “illegal” because they are here illegally.
    In Biblical terms “illegal squatters” are referred to as “Trespassers”.
    Trespassing is a “sin”.
    To “covet” what one does not have is a “sin” .
    Moses was never a “trespasser” he was “a stranger in the land” and the two are very different.
    The Bishop may want to remember Christ instruction in Matthew to the masses.
    Matthew 23
    Jesus Criticizes the Religious Leaders1 Then Jesus said to the crowds and to his disciples, 2 “The teachers of religious law and the Pharisees are the official interpreters of the law of Moses.[a] 3 So practice and obey whatever they tell you, but don’t follow their example. For they don’t practice what they teach. 4 They crush people with unbearable religious demands and never lift a finger to ease the burden.a] 3 So practice and obey whatever they tell you, but don’t follow their example. For they don’t practice what they teach. 4 They crush people with unbearable religious demands and never lift a finger to ease the burden.
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  • NMex 2 comments collapsed Collapse Expand
    I really get sick of Minerva (adjective deleted) Carcano.  So us whities in the UMC are racists if we think that people that break the law should go back to where they came from and enter the U.S. like the other million people that come in legally each year.  I am so proud of all of the immigrants that do it the right way and follow the laws - whether they be African, Asian, Hispanic, European, etc. But promoting illegal immigration like Carcano and so many other UMC leaders is a slap in the face of those immigrants who come in through the front door with their papers.  So am I a racist for wanting people to obey the laws of the country?
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    (Edited by a moderator)

  • Dale Bailey 1 comment collapsed Collapse Expand
    The idea is to pin the racist label on us, with the hope that we shall repent on account of the associated overwhelming guilt.  Well, it's not working and I'll be focusing on America and its bests interest much more, and on the church far less.
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  • Creed Pogue 4 comments collapsed Collapse Expand
    "ongoing institutional racism in the church"


    There are 49 bishops in the USA.  One of them is Latina.  So, that is 2% of the bishops.  However, less than 1% of the laity are Hispanic.

    In the Western Jurisdiction, 16.7% of the bishops are Latina.  Less than 2% of the laity are Hispanic. 

    The Desert Southwest Annual Conference has a Latina bishop but only 2.6% of the laity are Hispanic.

    In 2004, there were 935 Hispanic laity in the Desert Southwest Conference.  In 2009, there were 1,014 or an increase of 79 in five years.  However, the overall membership went from 43,979 down to 38,961 or a decrease of 5,018 or 11% in just five years.  This is one of the worst records of any of the bishops.

    It should also be known that the Phoenix Episcopal Area has the smallest number of pastoral charges of any of the episcopal areas.  It would be interesting to see the expenses paid from the Episcopal Fund for travel outside the episcopal area and which bishops have the highest bills.
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  • Jeffrey P 1 comment collapsed Collapse Expand
    Statistics and facts are such bothersome things.  Why would we want to know the truth when we have our delusions.
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  • HHH_AAA 2 comments collapsed Collapse Expand
    Have you considered that more than 70% of the people of Hispanic decent in the US live in poverty? Which means that there is no room for them in our middle class denomination. For most Latino congregations to be considered viable in our denomination they have to produce at a much higher rate than others in the majority group. Also, while most mainland denominations have intentional strategies to reach out to them as equals, still in the UM, we are having these type of debates. Bishops, if you are so for diversity, draw strategies that are intentional, not just "affirmative action". Our membership reflects who we are..and who we do not want to be. We do not want racial diversity (that's why we are almost a white denomination), we do not want younger people (that's why we have one of the highest median age around the Christian world), we do not want to be in mission (so we are even questioning our connectional system. I do not necessarily agree with all that Bishop Minerva Carcano expresses, but I respect her for she is saying more than most UM bishops in any matter. I pray for all those who will not be reached out for Christ, because we disagree...if it didn't matter who people were...then our reflection of the kingdom of God, would be more multi-color - whether we like it or not, is not.
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  • Creed Pogue 1 comment collapsed Collapse Expand
    I don't know where you are from, but we have plenty of United Methodists who aren't middle class.  Unfortunately, at least in Greater New Jersey, majority Latino congregations are paying a LOWER percentage of their apportionments than other racial groups.  We seem to be putting money into certain individuals based on what they look like and continue to be surprised when that doesn't result in bringing more people into our churches much less to Christ.
    show more show less

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