More than 200 members of MARCHA elected a new president, passed resolutions calling on members to vote in the 2016 U.S. presidential election and another calling for an end to discrimination against LGBTQ people in the church.
The 45th assembly for United Methodism’s Hispanic/Latino caucus met Aug. 4-7 in San Juan with a theme of “Embracing New Horizons.”
Presentations, messages, devotionals and workshops promoted reflection and the need to discern the future of the church and to seek new forms of ministry in the formation of Hispanic/Latino disciples. They also learned more about the ministry of the Methodist Church of Puerto Rico (Iglesia Metodista de Puerto Rico) in Caño Martin Pena.
The assembly approved a call to action for Hispanic/Latinos to conscientiously exercise the right to vote in the 2016 U.S. elections, urging people who are eligible but unregistered voters to register and participate actively in the election process. The resolution also asks United Methodist congregations in the U.S. to conduct awareness campaigns on the importance of participating the election process, and invited churches to repudiate political discourse of hatred and fear against the Hispanic/Latino people in the U.S., Latin America and the Caribbean.
This resolution was presented jointly by MARCHA’s Board and the MARCHA Youth.
The assembly also approved a resolution presented by MARCHA Youth that called on members to recognize, repent and denounce discrimination and violence against the LGBTQ community. The resolution was approved after extensive dialogue and majority agreement among the members of the youth present at the event.
It calls for seven points of action on the issue of discrimination in the church and in society against the lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender and queer or questioning community, including Hispanic/Latino people. The resolution also called for training workshops in MARCHA 2017 to provide tools for productive and healthy dialogue on the issue to help the development of intersectional ministries on issues of justice and oppression.
The resolution also asked that MARCHA 2017 provide a space for open, secure and facilitated dialogue on the subject of human sexuality from a Hispanic/Latino perspective.
New board elected
Lyssette N. Perez was elected president of the assembly’s board for the 2016-2020 quadrennium. The new council includes representation from different jurisdictions in the U.S. and Puerto Rico, as well as from young adults and lay and clergy. Other board members are: Delia Ramirez, vice president; Cesar Linares, secretary; Joel Horitales, advocacy and strategy; Hector Burgos, communications; Imelda Román, administration and finance; Ilia Vázquez, education advocacy; Nora Colmerares, at-large; Jonathan Rodriguez and Natalia Olivares, MARCHA youth.
The new executive committee named Raúl Alegria as the new MARCHA treasurer.
The opening worship was led by Hispanic/Latino bishops Cynthia Fierro Harvey, Minerva Carcaño, Elías Galván, Rafael Moreno Rivas, Juan Vera and Hector Ortiz. During the service, a special offering was collected for the Methodist Church of Puerto Rico. The worship service had traditional Puerto Rican music, including the rhythm of the plena, a handheld drum.
During the closing worship, the Rev. Lizzette Gabriel, president of the Council of Evangelical Methodist Churches of Latin America and the Caribbean, shared an inspiring and challenging sermon that invited those present to embrace new horizons. She told the assembly to understand that the church of Jesus Christ, even if it is fragile and imperfect, with the power of Holy Spirit, can be an instrument of justice, peace and equality. The closing service included a special time of consecration of MARCHA’s new board.
Moments of celebration
The Puerto Rican Night, courtesy of the Iglesia Metodista de Puerto Rico, had an attendance of about 300, including people from local churches. It took place in the Rio Piedras Heights Methodist Church.
It was an evening of radical hospitality, indigenous music, a delicious traditional island menu and sharing. During the banquet, the progress of the Hispanic/Latino office of United Methodist Communications was celebrated, as well as the revival of the Spanish el Interprete magazine.
Awards were presented to MARCHA’s outgoing president, Raul Alegria, the leadership and contributors, Bishop Rafael Moreno and Sonia Vargas.
Changes to the MARCHA constitution
During the assembly, the body amended the constitution based on work done by a special team set up by the board of directors. Among the most significant changes is the creation of an executive committee within the board of directors that will handle administrative issues. The second change was in the structure of the board. The secretary of proceedings is now an elected position by the assembly and there will be a representative of ACLAMEN (national organization of Hispanic Clergy) added to the board.
Burgos is the communicator for MARCHA.