Creating a philosophy of ministry document is an attempt to unite Latino pastor within the denomination and those affiliating as pastors.
While each leader has certain skills, passions, and strengths the unifying factor among Latinos in Reformed congregations is how much tradition to integrate without impacting their identity and connection to the broader Hispanic community. Each person will have to wrestle with some of the cultural differences in worship practices. Latino leaders imagine a doctrinally Reformed and culturally Latino ministry within the CRCNA denomination.
Latinos…who are we?
We are people with the same language but with great cultural social differences in education, customs, and national history. The formation of next generation leaders magnifies the challenges in multiplicity in the origin of church goers, their ethnic and cultural diversity, the implications of communication in different languages even within the same homes. Latino leaders cannot ignore immigration problems and must consider ways to respond to family isolation or separation, and poverty. Pastors in Latino communities must teach just-in-time cultural competency to deal with the reality of different traditions and customs in their new setting. Latinos also face the reality and dangers of racism toward them for the first time in their lives.
Today’s globalization has turned the world into a great village that resists a faith practice rooted in ethnic tradition. Ministry leaders must be aware and deal with migratory movements, international economies, political and social situations that have transformed the world into an immense conglomerate of events that affect each other. It is necessary to understand deeply what is happening in the world to fully grasp ministry in this new context. What does it mean for proclaiming the gospel to diverse human groups in their contexts and connecting with them in a new reality? Pastors and congregational leaders have an important and integral role in shepherding unity and identity of Latino communities. This calls for a philosophy of ministry that will call into question the accepted forms of liturgy, styles of preaching, levels of emotional response, faith formation practices etc. In its place will be a greater level of ambiguity, uncertainty but a greater spirit of acceptance.
Identity is not only linked to origins but also to destinations. We could begin to consider that communities open to external influences also shape those entering the community. This is one of the reasons Hispanic pastors have great challenges in leading the church. We can develop vision and mission statements but without understanding the surrounding reality with its past and present problems in which we are ministering we will not understand the spiritual circumstances that affected our cities.
The effective vision not only points to where I want to go but also informs me of the obstacles that I will encounter along the way.
Latino leaders must understand their communities in a US context and confront the normal situations of individuals amid their cultural adaptation. They must pastor people who need to know how to deal with discrimination against them and their community. Pastors must also be patient as people deal with the complexity of maintaining ancestral traditions in a foreign land struggling to survive yet also seeking notoriety and presence in a hostile and adverse environment that is blind to their specific needs.
Hispanic communities in the United States live an identity and assimilation crisis. Part of the ministerial work is research for ministerial models and patterns that are relevant to them. They expect that their pastor will help them with their spiritual growth, financial planning, mental health, and emotional parenting support. These community of young parents expect leaders who understand their struggle in this country and with their children who assimilate into a new identity.
Latino Pastors are not like the North American vocational pastor. Hispanic pastors may pastor a church, but they are also having a patriarchal role over a community of families. The leader sees to it that families relate and fill emotional gaps being separated from loved ones. They act as bridges between the needs of those here and giving hope to those in their native country. Latino pastors and leaders are agents of change. They play an important role in an evolving society. Latino leadership are people looking to the future with hope.
These are characteristics that make us unique as Latino leaders and that may create need for navigating in a multicultural/multiethnic setting:
• Passionate about working for the Lord.
• Emotional worship
• Formal in the way we dress
• Visits eclipse time commitments
• Greeting in hugs and kisses
• Long Latino sermons
• Celebrations and parties
• When we meet, we eat
• Large families
• Shepherd is in great demand
• The table is a gathering center
• Diverse customs, food, etc.
• Inclusive and hospitable
• We talk non-stop
• Supportive and relational
• Testimonies are essential
• We are confident
• Noble and humble
• United around our families.
What identifies us as ministers and ecclesiastical leaders?
Calling in the Latino culture is affirmed primarily through acts that demonstrate a calling. Education and ecclesiological examination are secondary to the primary requirement of being active in ministry. Commission comes through a personal call, affirmation by others and then formalized through ecclesiastical ordination. Education is just in time. In addition, mentors play a very prominent role in bringing the person for ecclesiastical commission or ordination. Ephesians 4: 11&13: 11 And he gave some, apostles; and some, prophets; and some, evangelists; and some, pastors and teachers…the edifying of the body of Christ:13 Till we all come in the unity of the faith. While there is a diversity of callings affirmed in the church the role of the pastor as patriarch is especially pronounced in affirming a call in a church member.
The unplanned and freer movements are a form of spiritual discipline. While a routine in how the church worships and works is so much easier Latinos always complete a sentence “if the Lord wills” The result is an expectation for the miraculous to take place in corporate worship, corporate efforts ie missionary, community etc. and in the lives of people. 2 Corinthians 3:6: Who also hath made us able ministers of the New Testament; not of the letter, but of the spirit: for the letter killeth, but the spirit giveth life. So, while many including Latinos see a lack of order in comparison to the dominant North American culture, Latinos are in fact practicing a spiritual discipline that can be a gift to our denomination.
These are distinctive and similar characteristics of Latinos in the Reformed tradition:
• God provides work to members as a blessing for the church to expand His Kingdom.
• Call and purpose are eternal
• Community is essential to ministry.
• Joy and total dedication temper serving
• The word of God is our authority for all of life
• Christian life values are not negotiable
• Motivate others to achieve their life purpose
• Stewards distributing God’s manifold grace
• Spiritual discipline sustains life
• We love humanity and long for its salvation
• Jesus mission is entrusted to us and we obey it
What is our place on the CRCNA table?
We are an ethnic group joining a majority white ethnic denomination. Together we all belong to a Kingdom established by Jesus Christ and to a denomination with which we work together for similar goals. Most of the pastors in this denomination are full time vocational pastors. But most Latino pastors are bi-vocational. This is a reality due working congregation with low income families. This means that Latino pastors will not have the same flexibility to respond to denominational events held during working hours.
Latino’s and other culture leaders should consider a response to second and third generation English speaking Latinos that are bicultural and bilingual. They are Hispanic-Americans hybrid inter-cultural people. This fact should be a major influence on how a church planter and denominational leader incorporate language and cultural nuances when working with a Hispanic community. (Taken from Pedro Avilés’ book: Latinos, la nueva ola)
Many Latino pastors in, or coming into, the CRCNA are attracted to the denomination because of like-mindedness in doctrine and theology. However, the more traditional liturgies can be problematic for two reasons. The more expressive cultural aspects that are common in most Latino ethnic groups appeal and are more effective in connecting people to God and the church. The second reason is that while the North American church has in its distant past addressed theological issues with the Roman Catholics, the Latino problems with the Roman Catholic church in Latin America are more recent and a concerted effort to resolve them has not been undertaken. So, any liturgy that in any way appears like Roman Catholic liturgy which is loathing to most Latino church members. Latino’s prefer a Reformed faith with a Hispanic accent. This means acknowledging the diversity of where we come from and the complex spiritual needs of our community.
The need to articulate a Latino Philosophy of Ministry is to unite a collective mutual leadership with capacity to advocate for equality and dignity as it seeks to fit in to a majority denomination with 150 year history articulating what defines a church. This is a church that has engaged in community through development of institutions that have impacted society. Church pastors while taught to disciple not only people in their church but leaders in the community have in practice isolated their congregations as a community unto themselves. Latino leaders on the other hand do not trust institutions who have in the past been corrupt and oppressive. A Latino pastor in general would prefer working with a neighbor church than delegating the work and volunteers to an institution. The question is finding the path that takes the strength of CRCNA’s past successes and the expertise of Latino leaders to reach the growing diversity in most US neighborhoods.
The Latino community has intergenerational reverence. Most Latino’s have a vision for community renewal and collective collaborative initiatives. As a community, leaders would like to create regional capacity to invest in potential church planters and create a joint vision for all Hispanic churches. The polity of the Reformed church being the ultimate authority is also held by Latino leaders. But many Latino leaders worry that the Reformed church may slip into an isolated entity that is not effective at bringing members to spiritual maturity in terms of discipleship and community engagement. The ultimate concern being the church losing its place in being «light and salt» of the world in which it has been placed providentially. Hispanics understand that it is impossible to deny the social and transformative dimension that the church must always have in the context where it has been placed sovereignly by God and his purposes. For Latinos, the models of work need to be initiated through church leaders. They better understand relevance/connection to the local church work.
While the racialized history has happened and is a reality in the US it is not the priority to first generation Latinos. The language of white supremacy, history of slavery and Native American genocide and its relationship to mass incarceration, seem out of context as they adapt to a new way of living. The world view of Latinos is confronting multifaceted reality, an interaction of cultures that coexist in the world, diverse religious beliefs that define customs, life actions and reactions, and a vast and tangled network of varied identities that maintain influences from the past, which try define themselves in the present and that they pose their own perspectives of life towards the future.
The Latino sees the Church as an organism that represents the values of the kingdom of God in the midst of a secular world and openly launched into all kinds of pagan, idolatrous and hedonistic practices, is responsible for knowing and interpreting the channel that current society has taken and in order to remain current and contextual, it must be faithful to the diversity and multifaceted complexities of the modern world.
What do we want for our future?
As a community of Latinos, we want what every other ethnic group wants. However, because of the groups diversity it is not always easy to work as one group and to communicate as one group with denominational leadership. Latinos in the Christian Reformed Church envision a better future. It is a future of unity around worship practices and a Reformed World and Life View.
«The 2000 US Census estimated the Hispanic population at 35.3 million, 12.5 percent of the total population of the United States-, increasing more than 60 percent between 1990 and 2000. In 2010 the Census showed an increase 16.3 percent to the total US population making the Hispanic population 50.5 million people. This Hispanic community growth in the United States changed the demographic makeup of this country. The growth has also influenced a migration of Hispanics to US and Canada.
This is a great challenge that calls for a Latino Philosophy of Ministry to unite everyone and use the denominational strengths to answer God’s call these days. Latinos envision dynamic communities responding with innovative processes that can transform a complex work into actionable ministry. The Latino mindset is “Si se puede” or yes we can. The great aspiration among Latinos is to see hundreds of lives experiencing spiritual transformation. They see broken families restored and young people realizing their potential. Latinos with such a huge vision believe leaders need a call to courage and vocation to minister in the complexity of the day. Leaders need to interpret the divine will of God for His church «a glorious church, having no stain or wrinkle or the like, but holy and spotless» (Ephesians 5:27). RV1960
The challenge is in imagining such a ministry within the CRCNA. The CRCNA community developed strength and capacity to grow many good institutions but in the age of globalization the contradiction between a Reformed identity and community connection will not work to reach Latinos and many other minority ethnic groups. Latinos joining the denomination face a reality of losing touch with their community and joining an ethnic tradition that has been socialized to value being apart as a church, as families and as individuals. Latino culture is more collective and value working with each other as churches, families, and communities. Latinos within the CRCNA have gifts and skills to unleash to strengthen the denomination to reach all people in the US.