Carcaño speaks out for modern-day outcasts

United Methodist Bishop Minerva Carcaño of the church's Phoenix Area preaches during morning worship on April 27 at the 2008 General Conference. A UMNS photo by Paul Jeffrey.

United Methodist Bishop Minerva Carcaño of the church's Phoenix Area preaches during morning worship on April 27 at the 2008 General Conference. A UMNS photo by Paul Jeffrey.

The church must be empowered by a "hope beyond ourselves" if it is going to eliminate poverty, a United Methodist bishop told the denomination's top legislative body.

That hope comes only through faith in Jesus Christ, said Bishop Minerva Carcaño of the church's Phoenix Area during the April 27 worship service at General Conference. The United Methodist Church has declared ministry with the poor as one of its four areas of focus for the immediate future.

Using the Gospel story of the Gerasene demoniac named Legion, found in Mark 5:1-20, Carcaño drew parallels to many in today's world who are sentenced to dwell in a wasteland, as the Gerasene who lived in the community cemetery.

"Where I live," said the bishop of the Desert Southwest Annual (regional) Conference, "a desert swallows up men, women and children every year." Her conference encompasses Arizona and part of Nevada.

She called these immigrants — struggling to cross the desert from Mexico to the United States — modern-day Legions. Most people would consider them to be lost causes.

"Jesus is not an American, German, Filipino, Liberian or even Nazarene. Nor is Jesus beholden to U.S. immigration policies or the policies of any nation." — Bishop Minerva Carcaño

While recognizing that immigration is a polarizing issue in The United Methodist Church, Carcaño lifted up those working to alleviate immigrants' suffering, including those United Methodists who provide water to travelers in the vast Sonoran Desert. United Methodists volunteer with Humane Borders, a faith-based organization supported by the United Methodist Committee on Relief, which provides water tanks in the desert.

In appealing for a change in approach to immigration in the United States and abroad, Carcaño said, "Jesus is not an American, German, Filipino, Liberian or even Nazarene. Nor is Jesus beholden to U.S. immigration policies or the policies of any nation." Her statement was met by enthusiastic applause throughout the arena.

The roots of poverty

Carcaño widened the scope of those stranded in the Gerasene cemetery to the hundreds of thousands of refugees suffering a "legion of torments."

"Poverty affects too many of our brothers and sisters," she continued, pointing to the "economic machine" and cultural understandings that root people in poverty.

"I cannot preach from this pulpit made from a tree that fell in Hurricane Katrina without speaking of the needs of those affected," Carcaño proclaimed, noting that institutional racism left people vulnerable and racism slowed the response to the hurricane's devastation. The pulpit at the General Conference is made of wood from the grounds of the Gulfside Assembly, a United Methodist retreat at Waveland, Miss., much of which was destroyed by the 2005 hurricane.

Racism and classism are not limited to the United States but are factors in global poverty, the bishop continued. "As United Methodists, we have committed to overcome poverty in community with the poor," she said. "I'm not so sure." Is this a reachable goal? "I do not lose hope."

Paralyzed by fear

Her reservation about the focus on poverty concerns fear. She said there is fear of the enormity of the task, of being overwhelmed, of losing identity as a church and of "the Legions of the world."

"Grow up," the preacher said in response to these fears. "Let us grow up and quit hiding behind fear."

Carcaño said the church needs to confess that it may be complicit in poverty, that many U.S. members may have more than they deserve and are not faithful in using their resources wisely. Faith and confession, she said, will lead to freedom from fear.

With the song "The Whole World in God's Hands" playing in the background, worship closed with a slideshow of people considered the Legions of today-people stuck in grinding poverty and those who are ministering to them.

*Scott is the communications director of the United Methodist Committee on Relief.

News media contact: Marta Aldrich, e-mail: [email protected].

Phone calls can be made to the General Conference Newsroom in Fort Worth, Texas, at (817) 698-4405 until May 3. Afterward, call United Methodist News Service in Nashville, Tenn., at (615) 742-5470.

Related Articles

General Conference headlines

Church urges humane treatment of immigrants

Resource

General Conference 2008

Welcoming the Migrant to the U.S. 

United States-Mexico Border

Sermon Text: A Hope beyond Ourselves


Like what you're reading? Support the ministry of UM News! Your support ensures the latest denominational news, dynamic stories and informative articles will continue to connect our global community. Make a tax-deductible donation at ResourceUMC.org/GiveUMCom.

Sign up for our newsletter!

UMNEWS-SUBSCRIPTION
Human Rights
A view of the U.S. Supreme Court. United Methodists have varied reactions after the Supreme Court on June 24 overturned Roe v. Wade, holding that there is no longer a federal constitutional right to an abortion. Photo courtesy of the Architect of the Capitol.

United Methodists react to end of Roe v. Wade

United Methodists alternately expressed fear and contentment with the U.S. Supreme Court decision released June 24 that holds there is no longer a federal constitutional right to an abortion.
Immigration
People wade or ride rafts made from inner tubes across the Suchiate River, which forms part of the border between Guatemala and Mexico, near Ciudad Hidalgo, Mexico. The busy, informal crossing is used by migrants as well as by people hauling commercial cargo in both directions. A ride across on one of the inner tube rafts usually costs between 10 and 20 Guatemalan quetzals, roughly $1.25-$2.50 U.S. Photo by Mike DuBose, UM News.

Church leaders explore ways to help migrants in Mexico

A group of leaders from the Methodist Church of Mexico and The United Methodist Church traveled to southern Mexico in April to meet with groups working with immigrants crossing into the country.
Immigration
Migrants at a makeshift camp near the border crossing in Tijuana, Mexico, receive food and other relief supplies from the New Covenant Methodist Church and San Pablo Evangelical Church in Tijuana. Some 1,500 immigrants settled there, many of them hoping to file asylum claims with U.S. immigration authorities. Photo by Mike DuBose, UM News.

Mothers on border share stories of desperation, hope

Three immigrant mothers describe the ordeals they have faced fleeing crime and violence in hope of finding a better life in the U.S.