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Methodists in support of immigration reform march down Martin Luther King Jr. Boulevard outside the 2016 United Methodist General Conference in Portland, Ore.

File photo by Mike DuBose, UMNS

Methodists in support of immigration reform march down Martin Luther King Jr. Boulevard outside the 2016 United Methodist General Conference in Portland, Ore.

Bishop Elias Galvan,  executive director of MARCHA, speaking during the opening worship service at the annual MARCHA Assembly in August 2016 in San Juan, Puerto Rico.

Photo by Rev. Gustavo Vasquez, UMNS

Bishop Elias Galvan, executive director of MARCHA, speaking during the opening worship service at the annual MARCHA Assembly in August 2016 in San Juan, Puerto Rico.

The Rev. Lyssette N. Pérez, president of MARCHA, speaking at the annual MARCHA Assembly in August 2016 in San Juan, Puerto Rico.

Photo by Rev. Gustavo Vasquez, UMNS

The Rev. Lyssette N. Pérez, president of MARCHA, speaking at the annual MARCHA Assembly in August 2016 in San Juan, Puerto Rico.

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In election’s aftermath, Hispanic groups challenge church

 

By Sam Hodges
Nov. 18, 2016 | UMNS

Hispanic/Latino groups within The United Methodist Church have issued a flurry of statements since Election Day, calling on the denomination to strengthen support for immigrants and refugees, and insisting denomination leaders speak out forcefully against discriminatory rhetoric and actions.

U.S. President-elect Donald Trump acknowledged on CBS News “60 Minutes” that he was saddened to hear his victory has resulted in reports of harassment of minorities. He used the interview to say: “Stop it.”

MARCHA (Methodists Associated Representing the Cause of Hispanic/Latino Americans) issued a lengthy post-election statement noting reports of hundreds of such incidents, and highlighting harassment of Hispanic youth attending the North Carolina Conference’s Pilgrimage 2016 event.

“Amidst our political and ideological differences, we are now confronting a greater conflict: intolerance, persecution, discrimination and hatred,” said the statement, signed by the Rev. Lyssette Pérez, the group’s president, and Bishop Elías Galván, its executive director.

The MARCHA statement calls on United Methodist bishops to offer “support and care” to immigrants under duress, and asks that denominational agencies provide more resources for combatting all forms of discrimination.

Given Trump’s promise to step up deportations, MARCHA asks local churches “to become a sanctuary for immigrants, refugees and other victims of persecution.”

The MARCHA statement also requests that the North Carolina Conference work with church agencies to prevent any repeat of harassment of the kind that marred Pilgrimage 2016.

North Carolina Conference Bishop Hope Morgan Ward said she's aware that minority communities across the country, including in her state, are experiencing anxiety in the post-election period.

“We continue to repent of all that creates danger and fear in Hispanic communities and other communities,” she said by phone on Nov. 18. “We ask God to help us engage and intervene in ways that sustain and help.”

Ward noted that her conference has made combatting racism a focus, and will continue to do so.

“We have been engaged in anti-racism training and have teams trained in each of our districts to convene conversations and help people live in a diverse world in ways that are faithful and gracious and just,” she said.

Bishop Bruce Ough, president of the Council of Bishops, offered comments in writing.

“I affirm MARCHA’s recent statement that calls for the global UMC ‘to serve as an instrument of peace with justice’ and to specifically stand against all expressions of hatred, discrimination, oppression and exclusion,” Ough said.

A time for discipleship

The Committee on the National Plan for Hispanic/Latino Ministry of The United Methodist Church issued an open letter to Hispanic youth who attended Pilgrimage 2016.

 “The hostile situation your group experienced is not becoming of the church we love,” said the committee, whose members include bishops, agency leaders and others.

The MARCHA Youth Council issued its own statement, saying the Council of Bishops had not forcefully denounced campaign rhetoric by Trump that the council believes has created an atmosphere of intimidation.

“We feel ignored and abandoned by the leadership of our church,” the council said.

The youth council goes on to make a number of specific requests, including more funding for National Justice for Our Neighbors, a United Methodist ministry to provide legal representation to immigrants.

The Hispanic Latino Committee of the North Carolina Conference issued an open letter to the full conference, saying, “Our nation’s recent election may have serious consequences for Hispanic-Latino/a communities, women and other marginalized groups.”

The letter calls on churches to serve as sanctuaries and for church leaders to denounce racism even if that alienates some members and compromises congregational giving.

“This is a time that demands proof of our Christian discipleship for the transformation of the world, a time to stand with those whom Jesus calls the least of these his sisters and brothers,” the letter said.

Ough’s statement, issued Nov. 18, echoed that of the Hispanic groups:

“As followers of Jesus, we renounce the spiritual forces of evil in the world, our respective nations and our church. We are called to serve the Christ and to love whom Christ loves. Failure to bear witness to Jesus' universal and unconditional love and failure to eradicate hate and discrimination in all forms and settings contributes to the climate of fear, insecurity and normalization of racism and xenophobia.”

Hodges, a United Methodist News Service writer, lives in Dallas. Contact him at (615) 742-5470 or newsdesk@umcom.org