Dear Sisters and Brothers in Christ,
I write this letter to you all, not to create division, but to bring unity much as Paul called the Corinthian church to unify. This letter is not by any means meant to place blame on any one person or group of people, but it is meant to call all of God’s children together as people seeking to love God and love our neighbors.
The presidential election is over and we have a new president, one who has given legitimacy to racist and hateful rhetoric whether he meant to or not. I come to you not as an immigrant who had the honor and privilege of becoming a U.S. citizen, but as a Pastor called to serve God and neighbor in the United Methodist Church. As individuals we have our differences of course, however in our Baptismal covenant we commit to one another in love and care. We have all taken the same vow that says “With God’s help we will proclaim the good news and live according to the example of Christ.” We are also called to do anything that is in our power to increase each other’s faith and hope so that we may be perfected in love.
“Experiencing Fear and Anxiety of Persecution”
Unfortunately, our Hispanic/Latino and immigrant community in general are suffering and experiencing the fear and the anxiety of persecution. Speaking on behalf of Primera Iglesia and Ministerio Ebenezer, both Hispanic/Latino United Methodist congregations in Nashville, this is painful. It is painful not for what our president-elect may do, but what he has already done. The church has failed to use its prophetic voice and speak up against the rhetoric and language used towards the Hispanic/Latino community. The promises of President Elect Donald Trump to deport millions of Hispanic/Latino people and the ways he has painted us as criminals has given legitimacy to racist words and actions throughout our country. We are aware that this violent rhetoric has been used throughout Immigrant communities in Nashville.
“Welcoming someone goes beyond opening the door.”
The wounds go even deeper when within our shared space we claim that “God moved his hand and intervened in the result of the election.” This is dangerous theology because it becomes a statement that says “You, because of the color of the skin and where you are from are not welcome here because God said so, or it is God’s will.” Many have communicated this message to the public by word or by a simple social media “like” or comment. When people actively participate in these racist acts and we do not actively speak out against them, we strip the element of hope from the church. We strip the grace of God that is open for anyone. We strip the “safe sanctuary” where we can come together, one and all, and experience God’s healing. Welcoming someone goes beyond opening the door and sharing a space, but rather, we welcome each other and do everything in our power for everyone to experience “Sanctuary” and the unity that is in the Triune God.
The question our hispanic/latino communities are asking your churches is simple: Are you with us? Is your church building, and most importantly, your congregation a safe sanctuary for us? If we come to your church today seeking “sanctuary” will we be welcomed and loved by your congregation? Will you speak up against the racism and persecution we are experiencing and will experience in the days to come? Is your church willing to care for a Hispanic child, or youth, or adult that needs pastoral care in your community? If that is the case, SAY IT ALOUD!!!! Make a statement and let the community know. There are people in your community and possibly in your church that are living in fear because of the racist rhetoric and actions heightened because of this election season and final results. Many are also very fearful of the policy changes that President Elect Donald Trump may pass. These policies could rip apart families, friends, and close-knit communities. This isn’t simply a “political” issue. It is an issue of faith when people are treating our brothers and sisters in Christ as if they are not made in the image of God.”
“Now is the time for the church to be the church.”
Unfortunately, many families are so wounded that they won’t come back to church, at least not in the immediate future because of fear that they will face this same racist rhetoric even in their congregations. As a father of a Hispanic two-year old, I can understand why. I am afraid for my family, and the families that we worked hard to help feel that they are part of the body of Christ. Today, our community lives in fear, and some of our children are already experiencing unrestrained racist bullying at school. In some cases, this bullying comes even from people that share the same church. You have an opportunity to stop this hate and be prophetic. What is done in the political sphere is done, but now is the time for the church to be the church and live out God’s greatest commandments to love God and neighbor.
The question our hispanic/latino communities are asking your churches is simple: Are you with us?
If you want to be the church that will proclaim the good news and live according to the example of Christ, this is what we call you to do:
- Individually and as a church, pray for the different ethnic groups and minorities in your community. Then pray for your church.
- Speak up against the racial prejudice from the pulpit and other discipleship outlets in your church.
- Ask yourself, and then your congregation: Is my church building and our congregation a safe sanctuary? If your church is not, it is better to be honest than to portray a fake reality or bear a false witness.
- Minister to the children and youth in your community regardless of their race. Believe me “They speak English.”
- Teach your children to be a sanctuary for other children in their school when they see oppression. Teach your children that all people are made in the image of God and Christ calls us to love all people regardless of the color of their skin or where they or their parents are from.
If your church has made a statement, and you are confident that your congregation will be a safe sanctuary for our community, please let us know. We are creating a database of churches that are willing to care for those who are living in fear. Send us an email to firstname.lastname@example.org.
Carlos Uroza (Primera Iglesia Metodista Hispana)
Myriam Cortes (Ministerio Metodista Ebenezer)