By Kim Plummer Krull
LCMS leaders from Hispanic ministries and the president’s office took a step toward their mutual goal of strengthening ministry to and with Latinos in the United States when they began work on a mission statement and strategic outreach plan Aug. 30-31 in St. Louis.
“Considering the opportunity that Hispanics now make up about 15 percent of the total U.S. population and that Hispanics make up only about .04 percent of the LCMS, the mission statement envisions mission efforts directed intentionally at making the membership of the LCMS reflect the national demographic over time,” said the Rev. Dr. Leopoldo Sanchez, director of the Center for Hispanic Studies at Concordia Seminary, St. Louis, and president of the fifth Hispanic National Convention (HNC).
The meeting at the LCMS International Center followed an invitation from LCMS President Rev. Dr. Matthew C. Harrison and a resolution adopted at the fourth HNC in June at Concordia University, Ann Arbor, Mich.
Participants included presidents and vice-presidents of current and past HNC assemblies and Harrison, among others.
Sanchez served as the moderator for the dialogue that included identifying specific objectives, including:
- coordinating efforts through a strategic director for Hispanic ministries.
- increasing the number of Hispanics for church-work careers through LCMS universities and seminaries.
- developing a Lutheran ecclesiology of mission that promotes work among Latinos and other ethno-cultural groups.
- completing and disseminating the results of the LCMS Commission on Theology and Church Relations report about immigration issues.
- identifying and field-testing healthy models of Hispanic rural, urban and suburban ministries in the U.S.
The Rev. Aurelio Magariño, president of the fourth HNC and executive director of the Hispanic Lutheran Mission Society of Metro Washington, D.C., said the meeting featured “the essence of true dialogue — talking and listening to each other with hopefulness and understanding in the whole process.”
“The president and his staff have a good understanding of the issues and a great deal of empathy for our convictions,” Magari–o said.
Growth spurs opportunities
He also noted that Hispanic leaders are concerned about the “overall mission of the church and the big picture of fulfilling the Great Commission.”
“Hispanic ministry is only one element, and we have many opportunities right now because of the growth of the Hispanic community,” Magariño said.
The Rev. Carlos Hernandez, director of LCMS Church and Community Development, said the meeting’s most important outcomes were the desire to “move forward with a more intentional outreach to the growing second and third generation that is bilingual” and for “greater Hispanic access to the LCMS educational system, especially the Concordia University System” (CUS).
An example of one goal to strengthen Hispanic ministry, Hernandez said, is for 15 percent of CUS students to be Hispanics preparing for professional church-work careers.
The group’s next steps, Sanchez said, are to polish the objectives, gather additional feedback on the best means for implementation and present the objectives in a “memo of understanding that will state the expectations and responsibilities of various stakeholders to meet the objectives in the next two to five years.”
While that document is not yet complete, the Rev. Bart Day, executive director of the LCMS Office of National Mission, said the leaders have “a great outline and agreement on many points where our collaborative work can expand.”
“There is no doubt the face of the LCMS needs to change as the Latino population grows and expands,” Day said. “What a great opportunity for the LCMS to share the Gospel with the world who is coming to our door!”
Harrison agreed. “I’m deeply grateful that these Spanish-speaking brothers so graciously responded to our invitation to talk. I learned a great deal,” he said. “Midst all the challenges the issue of Hispanic ministry raises in the LCMS, it is clear to all of us, I believe, that there is a way forward. And it’s time to get on that way with a joyous vengeance!”
Others taking part in the meeting included: the Rev. Laerte Tardeli Voss, fifth HNC vice-president; the Rev. Dr. Samuel Gomez, the Rev. Dr. Alberto Garcia, the Rev. Alex Merlo and the Rev. Eloy Gonzalez — all former HCN officers; the Rev. Gregory Williamson, LCMS chief mission officer; and the Rev. Jon Vieker, senior assistant to Harrison.
Kim Plummer Krull is a freelance writer and a member of St. Paul’s Lutheran Church, Des Peres, Mo.
Posted Sept. 7, 2012