|Hispanic caucus urges immigration reform|
Members of MARCHA - Methodists Associated Representing the Cause of Hispanic Americans - hold hands in prayer following a communications training session at their Aug. 9-12 meeting in Newark, N.J. A UMNS photo by Corey Daniel Godbey.
By Amanda M. Bachus*
Aug. 24, 2007 | NEWARK, N.J. (UMNS)
The Hispanic caucus of The United Methodist Church will ask the denomination's top assembly to urge the U.S. Congress to pass comprehensive immigration reform legislation that emphasizes family unity, affordable education, fair treatment of laborers and a path toward citizenship.
About 150 members of Methodists Associated Representing the Cause of Hispanic Americans, meeting Aug. 9-12, chided Congress for passing the 1996 Immigration Reform Act. In a resolution, they said the act "severely restricted the opportunity for immigrants in this country to be reunited with their families and obtain permission to work legally and avoid being exploited by unscrupulous employers and employment practices."
MARCHA, one of five ethnic caucuses in The United Methodist Church, said the United States benefits from the work of immigrants but denies those same individuals such basic rights as fair wages, health benefits, social services and the opportunity to be with their families. "The law has not worked. The current immigration system is broken," the resolution said.
Fear, ignorance and debate over immigration have generated "dangerous racial dynamics" that have led to racial profiling, intolerance, racism and abuse of Hispanic/Latinos, according to Bishop Elias Galván, executive director of MARCHA.
Caucus members receive communion at a worship service at the MARCHA meeting in Newark, N.J. The Hispanic caucus of the United Methodist Church focused on comprehensive immigration reform and
a commitment to Hispanic ministries
in the United States and abroad.
A UMNS photo by Amanda Bachus.
The lack of comprehensive immigration reform has opened the door to hate groups, some of which have proposed ordinances that seek to deprive undocumented people of protection under the law, access to adequate housing and other basic human needs, he said.
"The United Methodist Church has historically stood against racism, cultural prejudice, and other forms of intolerance," he said. " … We as a church have affirmed and celebrated God's diverse human creation.
"It is the duty of the church to proclaim the good news of the Gospel, to oppose injustice and to speak for those who have no voice because they have been marginalized and made invisible: the poor, the stranger, the widow."
Caucus members also decided to ask the church's Council of Bishops to establish an advocacy plan of action to enable annual conferences to immediately respond to the needs and challenges of all immigrants. The programs would create service opportunities and equip local churches to respond effectively in their ministries.
The MARCHA theme was "Mañana, a Future with Hope," and participants included 40 students ages 15-24 who gathered for a four-day pre-assembly leadership training event.
Resolutions to General Conference
Other resolutions passed for the 2008 General Conference reflected MARCHA's commitment to Hispanic/Latino churches and ministries in the United States and abroad.
One resolution called upon The United Methodist Church to pay close attention to the critical needs in the Latin America/Caribbean region and to respond to opportunities for mission. The caucus called for the implementation of a coordinated Holistic Strategy on Latin America and the Caribbean as a Special Program, as outlined in Paragraph 703.10 of The Book of the Discipline. The 2004 General Conference mandated a study on the relationship of The United Methodist Church with the churches in that area.
MARCHA also called for continued support of the Encounter with Christ Permanent Fund on behalf of a mission partnership with the Methodist Churches of Latin America and the Caribbean, the Methodist Church of the Caribbean and the Americas, and other emerging Methodist churches and ecumenical organization in the region.
The caucus agreed to support three resolutions related to the autonomous Methodist Church of Puerto Rico: one on the island of Vieques, where the U.S. military's use of the island for test-bombing for many years was a concern; another on Puerto Rican political prisoners; and a third on the political status of Puerto Rico.
It also endorsed three people for bishop: Rev. Aida I. Fernandez, a district superintendent in the New England Annual (regional) Conference; the Rev. Roberto Gómez, pastor of El Mesías UMC in Mission, Texas; and the Rev. Jorge Luis Mayorga, a district superintendent in the Wisconsin Conference. United Methodists in the five U.S. jurisdictions will elect and assign bishops during jurisdictional conferences in summer 2008.
In a state of the caucus address, Galván exhorted meeting participants to not forget the beginnings and purpose of MARCHA. He reminisced about how the 36-year old caucus began, praised its founders and spoke about the organization's future.
More than 100 caucus members attend the "Mañana, a Future with Hope" meeting. A UMNS photo by Amanda Bachus.
Quoting theologian Justo González, he said, "Our dearest friend, professor and historian wrote in one of his books something like this: 'We study the past so we can understand today in order to be able to plan for the future,'" he said.
Galván added, "It would be nice if we had a written account of MARCHA's history. This could help newer generations to value the efforts of the past, serve as a model (for) the future, which could serve them in their own struggles towards the creation of a more inclusive and multicultural church that is in close relationship with the needs and aspirations of the Hispanic/Latino people."
He remembered past decades when the caucus was the lead institution that brought the attention of the church to important matters facing Hispanic/Latino people, and he praised the group's founders.
"We shouldn't forget their effort and hard work that made possible this institution of today," he said. "... We should keep them in our memory but be able to visualize towards the future onto what God is calling us to do as the Hispanic/Latino United Methodists."
González, who is also a Methodist historian, highlighted the event as the keynote speaker and received awards from MARCHA, the United Methodist Board of Higher Education and Ministry and the United Methodist Publishing House for his achievements.
"While we dream for a better tomorrow and wait for the celebration of that dream, we should look at it as if the dreaming of tomorrow could be made into a reality today," González said.
"Let's celebrate a fiesta when we all will eat of the same table of the Lord and will drink of the wine of life," he said. "Let's all share and celebrate in God's great fiesta!"
*Bachus is the director of Spanish language resources at United Methodist Communications.
News media contact: Linda Green, (615) 742-5470 or firstname.lastname@example.org.
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