The relationship between Christianity and politics is complicated and complex. And yes, exhausting to try to explain outside of face to face conversations, yet here I am trying.
Tim Keller once reminded everyone in an article that, Christians don't FIT into a two party system. But he didn't say they don't VOTE in a two party system.
We must keep in mind that no one party is entirely good or entirely bad. We live in a fallen world, and thus will always be led by fallen people at all levels of government. But especially in this election, I am concerned when people say, “Well, I won’t vote because I can’t support either person.” You should vote, even if your choices are limited!
Also why are so many thinking government will save us!? Let's be clear while we of course should work toward good government, good laws and good judges, let's not be naive in thinking that government can rescue us from the abyss of moral and spiritual failure. One day perhaps we will get it, that the GOOD NEWS this nation needs will not come from the people in Washington, but from the lips and lives of people who say they follow Jesus.
I think as believers and as citizens, we have an obligation to get involved in politics. What that looks like will be different for everyone. Some might run for office. Some have the money to donate, others have the energy to canvass the community and work the polls. Each of us has to ask: Lord, what will You have me do?
As an individual, I think it is noble to attempt to stay neutral in politics as a Christian.I know it will cause you less headaches to attempt to stay neutral.I know some will think you are a TRUE Christian when you attempt to stay neutral.
But the thing is, you shouldn't stay neutral. God requires us to make a decision.
Maybe I am wrong, I'm certainly no expert scholar but I don't see neutrality in the Bible as an option. Joshua told Israel to choose to serve either God or the gods of their fathers. There was nothing in-between. Elijah told another generation of Israelites to choose between God and Baal. There was nothing in-between. In Luke 10:25-37 Jesus told the story of the Good Samaritan. A man heading to Jericho was beaten and left for dead. The Priest and the Levite didn't want to get involved, they wanted to be neutral. But the Samaritan got all in the business of his neighbor. And what did Jesus tell those other two? GO AND DO LIKEWISE. Neutral wasn't an option.
Or what about Revelation 3:15-16 “‘I know your works: you are neither cold nor hot. Would that you were either cold or hot! So, because you are lukewarm, and neither hot nor cold, I will spit you out of my mouth." Lukewarm (Neutral) gets you spit out!
So here's the thing friends, get involved, really listen (if you haven't) to what each party is saying, which one aligns most with what Jesus said was important to HIM, what Jesus took the time to do when HE was among the living and then decide. BUT PLEASE DON'T SAY, I'M SITTING THIS ONE OUT (AGAIN).
As Christians we should feel like no political party is home. We were not made to live in any of them but we should be holding each accountable and exercising our right to vote and see how best our voices can be heard in the halls of power to bring shalom to our cities. We may live in the political in-between as Christians but our country in crisis demands an answer. Neutral is not an option. No party is God's party and no party perfectly aligns with 100% of our values but we should still DECIDE to DECIDE. This election is as important as any in our history. Vote whatever way you wish. I know I will and I will not be considering anyone else's voice but the still small voice within me.
As you go forth remember this...
“Washing one's hands of the conflict between the powerful and the powerless means to side with the powerful, not to be neutral."― Paulo Freire
Latinos face a paradox in the United States of being both ever-present and invisible. You do not have to be an academic to know that the Latino community is a growing population in North America. Most people who listen to the radio, watch television or read the newspaper have already heard that fact a few times in the last few years.
On the one hand, their presence in society has just about changed everything from the workplace, pop culture and even the political landscape. As the largest ethnic minority group expected to make up one-fourth of the U.S. population by 2025 and one-third by 2050 most cannot escape their influence in our communities.
Yet, there is a problem. While being this ubiquitous Latinos are still quite frankly invisible in top leadership roles not only in top corporate leadership but in top religious leadership across the country as well. According to the Hispanic Association on Corporate Responsibility (HACR) Corporate Governance Study, Latinos hold only three percent of seats in the boardroom of Fortune 500 companies and only two percent or 10 Fortune 500 CEOs are of Latino heritage. This study along with lived experiences point to the reality that Latinos remain woefully underrepresented at the decision-making tables of the Fortune 500. Therefore, it is no surprise, that we find very little Latinos in top leadership roles or sitting on boards of religious organizations across the country.
Businesses and marketplace leaders are reacting to the trends by developing councils and human resources practices that will attract and retain top Latino talent. Yet, the religious community has been slow to wake up to the fact that while it may feel easier to keep the status quo at their churches and nonprofits, the lack of the Latino voice on staff or on boards will hurt them sooner rather than later.
Five Tips to Help Bring Latino Leadership into your Organization
Latinos are a large portion of the country and that is not slowing down anytime soon. By 2050, Latinos will represent 30% of the total U.S. population. Yes, we are everywhere yet we still find ourselves invisible in churches and religious board rooms which doesn't make sense since studies continuously point to the fact that the people your organization is trying to reach will most likely have a high concentration of people who look like us.
NOTE: I will be sharing more about the rise of Latinos in the U.S. and how churches can adjust their practices to attract and retain them as leaders at the Exponential Orlando event.
Unless you have been hiding under a rock, by know you must have heard about the controversy surrounding the infamous John MacArthur and his “Go Home” comment when asked about Beth Moore at a conference a few months ago. Everyone understood his “go home” comment as a “lady shut up and close the door behind you, we don’t want to hear from you again.”
Social media was all the buzz from women clergy and the men who support them responding in marvelous ways and emphatically stating to all who would read their words, “not going home.” While I do not want to waste any more words on a man that obviously is living in what Richard Rohr would say is, “his false self,” I do want to say thank you. Especially as we head into Thanksgiving week when we take a little more time to reflect. Thank you John MacArthur for accidentally giving called women of God more boldness to dig their heels in and say, we are not going anywhere and you haven’t heard the last from us yet. But more importantly, thank you for reminding me to be grateful for the women who came before me who did not go home but instead built a hall of faith similar to Hebrews 11:31-34 for the generations of women who would also accept their call to teach and preach the Word of God and learn from their example.
Women have always been making incredible sacrifices to spread the gospel and I would like to highlight a few of them here. I am thankful Jarena Lee did not go home. Jarena Lee was a 19th century African American woman who was the first woman authorized to preach by Richard Allen, founder of the African Methodist Episcopal Church, in 1819. Eight years after Lee heard God calling her to preach, she was finally able to convince her pastor to let her behind the pulpit. She beseeched him, "If the man may preach, because the Savior died for him, why not the woman, seeing he died for her also? Is he not a whole Savior, instead of half of one?"
I am thankful that Phoebe Palmer did not go home. Palmer became one of the most influential women in the fastest-growing religious group in America at the time. She began to organize and preach at camp meetings, where approximately 25,000 people converted to Christianity. She was instrumental with the founding of the Church of the Nazerene.
I am thankful that Susie Villa Valdez did not go home. After her conversion in 1906 at the Azuza Street revival she left her job to become a singing evangelist. Rev. Susie was an early Assembly of God Pentecostal preacher who reached out to prostitutes and others who lived on skid row in Los Angeles with the love of God.
I am thankful that Rosa De Lopez did not go home. She ministered with her preacher husband, Abundio at the Azusa Street revival but also in open-air areas preaching the good news to all who would hear.
I am thankful that Emma Osterberg did not go home. Emma was a Swedish immigrant who was at the Azuza Street revival. She preached the Word of God to migrant farm laborers in Riverside and San Bernardino counties in California.
I am thankful that the Ana Villafane and Leoncia Rosado aka “Mama Leo” (pictured below) did not go home. Both of these women started programs to help those who were addicted to alcohol or drugs find a way out of that life and find a path to Jesus.
I am thankful Austin Channing Brown did not go home. She’s a writer and speaker and wrote a book about her experience as a black woman in white evangelical spaces. Her voice is one of the most influential ones in this generation. Her book is titled, I’m Still Here: Black Dignity in a World Made For Whiteness.
I am thankful that Dr. Brenda Salter McNeil did not go home. As an Author, Pastor and social justice advocate, her writing and her preachings have stirred thousands to embrace the full gospel and work toward racial reconciliation.
I am thankful that Lisa Sharon Harper did not go home. As an author and speaker, her words have peeled the paint off walls and called people to repentance. Her call to shalom restoration and helping people understand that the gospel has to be good for everyone or it’s not good for anyone is challenging many to take a look at some of their messed up embedded theology.
I am thankful that many of my preaching, teaching, serving and giving sisters have not gone home. Their voice is needed now more than ever to help usher in not only a grand revival to the land in the true way of Jesus but also to give women of all ages the courage to stand up and use their voice for the common good.
As we get closer to saying goodbye to 2019, start planning to support the work of women in ministry by purchasing their books, sharing their posts, exposing others to their work. We are living in a time many of us expected many isms would be behind us. Since we are not, what you do every day to support women and in this case, women of color, helps them keep doing what they do when so many others are telling them to go home and be quiet.
Today, as an act of kindness, encourage a women of color who has been using her gift and has impacted you in some way. They need to know that many people they do not even know never want them to listen to the voices that tell them to "go home" or "be quiet".
I recently defended my dissertation and passed with a few edits to make. This means I graduate on December 13, 2019. A three year journey comes to an end. I went to a Pentecostal Seminary on purpose. I wanted to 1) be taught by professors who believe in the power of God's Spirit and 2) I wanted to experience the Spirit of God in my education. I do not regret my decision.
Now as I realize that I am getting my life back, I am purposely taking time to rest and reflect before jumping in to an already developing busy schedule in 2020. One of the first reflections I had post defense was that I end this educational journey in a posture of humility. I realize that I had and will always have so much to learn and more importantly, I know nothing. Sure, I have information in my brain. I can dialogue on a number of topics but when it comes to La Vida/Life with its twists and turns and roller coaster thrill rides, I graduate with questions not answers. I graduate with uncertainty not certainty but I also graduate being ok with that.
I think whether you end up going through formal education or not, life intends on giving us lessons that will eventually take us to that point of being ok with not knowing anything with certainty. I was first thrust into that journey when my second son, Daniel Jeremiah was born at 26 weeks of gestation. I was doing all the "right" things and still something I would have never dreamed of happened. Even though hundreds of folks joined us in prayer for healing over my son, he is twenty and still has a boatload of medical issues that we have learned to live with and thrive in as a family. DJ was my first teacher that $#it happens even when you love God, serve others and have checked off the 'to do list' of things Christians do.
After that I had a series of things happen that continued to remind me that life is what it is and if I was going to be at all at peace in life and carry some kind of joy, I had better learn to embrace it as it was instead of keep dreaming about how it should be "that way" and bitter about how it was "this way." Yeah, if you know me personally you have probably already seen big changes in me. I for one love who I have become and am so excited about the person I am still becoming. But today, as I glance over what has been my life up until this point, one thing I know for sure is that I know nothing and I'm okay with that.
Celebrating with your family of choice is just as important or maybe even more important as celebrating with DNA family. Yes, that distinction needs to be made.
In 2015, the Pew Research Center did a study that documented the reality that most of us already knew. The American family is changing. Divorces are up, two-parent households are down, single parent households are up and family dynamics are as complicated as ever. Another study stated that there is alot of family dysfunction in America and more and more articles like this one are being written because there is a chance that you or someone you know has had to learn how to deal with toxic family members.
But I don't want to waste time talking about all that. I simply want to point out the fact that all families do not look like the Hallmark movie you just watched yesterday. This is the time of year, the beginning of the holiday season, when many of us long for that ideal family gathering. Yeah, but uh no. Not everyone has a family to gather with and some rather not gather with the family they do have for a variety of reasons. Families are complicated. And that's why Friendsgiving matters so much.
Gathering with people who actually like you maybe even love you is always better than just gathering with people just because you share DNA but don't like or love you as shown by behaviors, attitudes, etc. For me, this is not about the Christian forgiveness "talk" it is about mental health. Many people I know have forgiven or have asked to be forgiven. But they still don't feel like they can even tolerate one night together without a fight or without having to fake a smile. Who wants to spend holidays like that?
Friendsgiving with people who either already like and love you or people who you are interested in getting to know deeper is a way of having a community that everyone needs. Everyone wants to be known and accepted for who they are, baggage and all.
Friendsgiving celebrations have become more popular as of late and they are all done very differently but they are all done with the hope of not only sharing a meal but sharing our heart.
My friend Silvia started a tradition last year of hosting Friendsgiving for her friends. I actually look forward to it as it starts my holiday season festivities but more importantly, like family we have seen many sides of each other and we have CHOSEN to work things out, forgive, start again, believe in the gift of friendship and stay connected because we each mattered to the other.
Choosing a person and working on relationship is not easy and many family members simply do not know how to do it and won't put in the work on themselves to learn. Many family members do not know how to start over. They only know how to tear down perhaps because that's all that they have seen in a family that is used to talking about each other or whatever drama that particular family is good for. And you see, to be a healthy family or have healthy friendships and relationships in general, you are going to need to learn how to start over.
Friendsgiving is sometimes a person's way to start over. With a new set of family and friends or a way to dig deeper in building those relationships. Silvia always does an amazing job of setting the environment and even giving her guests a gift as they leave to remind them just how special she thinks they are. Friendsgiving with Silvia reminds me that I am not unloveable, that I am valued and celebrated for whatever it is I bring to her life. Sometimes gathering with DNA family reminds you of the opposite - all the mistakes you've made, how unforgivable you are, how you no longer fit the picture they want to see of you. No one who values their mental health would willingly put themselves in that kind of toxic environment.
Soooooo, Friendsgiving matters to some of us because those friends are our chosen family. For some, their chosen family is people from church. That's actually how many of these folks became fam to me. Some I knew from my home church in NYC and we go way back to teen years and others I met here in my pastoring days and we are still connected. Thrilled about that.
As I go into the last few weeks of the year, I am settling in on what is and not on what is not in my life. So every opportunity I feel driven to connect with folks, I'm doing it. Do you host a Friendsgiving? How do you go out of your way to connect with those you love or look forward to getting to know?
This Sunday, I'm coordinating a Friendsgiving through the church I attend in this season of my life. It's open to anyone who is seeking community and/or is part of the church and wants to connect outside of just a wave on Sunday. If any of this reasonates with you, I hope you'll consider attending. Regardless of your story and your 'family' story, regardless of whether you have tons of friends or not, if you know another friend or two would make your life even sweeter, come on out. Register here. Maybe you will see why a yearly Friendsgiving will matter to you too! Hoping to meet you and make sure you come up to me!
With 58 million Hispanics in the U.S. according to a Pew Research Study and the second fastest growing racial group, a study on Hispanic Church Planting was in order. That study conducted by Lifeway Research was released on July 2019 found here and there were some surprises that a few of my friends and colleagues have already written on. Such articles can be found here and here. But since the release of the study, I also found some surprises that has kept me thinking. One that I would like to elaborate on is my first surprise. Stay with me.
When we were told the survey was going to denominational planters represented by the study's advisory council that consisted of representatives from Assemblies of God, Baptist Missionary Association of America, Converge, Evangelical Free Church of America, Vineyard and others, I was sure we would get a range of ages.
The first surprise was that the planters who actually took the time to do the survey that was sent to a broad number of people across denominations were for the most part (80%) first generation, Spanish-speaking immigrants over 50 years old who identified predominately as Mexicans (24%). Seven out of ten of them (70%) started their church plants with the intention of reaching "ALL" Hispanic people and 64% of them were conducting services only in Spanish. Not so surprising was that 24% of the new church plants surveyed were in my new adopted home state of Florida.
My first thought was obviously that we need to do another study! I know way too many church planters who could have given us some crucial information but they either did not get the survey or did not think they fit the "criteria" to answer it. Which brings me to my second thought that there are many Hispanics who do not see themselves first as Hispanics or even as exclusively planting Hispanic churches. The survey also revealed that 73% of the first gen, immigrant churches had no plans to transition to English. Only 22% said they were considering either adding an English service or going to a bilingual service.
So here are the issues I have:
Juan Francisco Martinez shares the complexities of the Hispanic reality in his book, Walk with the People. It has served as a teaching tool for me with planters seeking to work with or plant Hispanic churches. There are a number of Latino Sub-Cultures that anyone looking to plant should be aware of. As has been said and written about extensively, Hispanics are not a monolith. The training of our church plant organizations have to help planters define who they are targeting and if they say, “we want to plant a Hispanic church” a new kind of training must take place where they can identify the various levels of Hispanic culture and identities. Rodriguez identifies seven types of identities in our culture:
I think it is time church planters (even Hispanic ones) know who they are and who their target population is. Take the time to identify the Hispanic in your Hispanic church planting dream so that you as the planter have a chance at succeeding with your goal and the myriad of Hispanics looking for a church that gets them can find you. They find you when you know the language they speak and how they identify in the complex world of Hispanic ministry. I am rooting for you!
 See Daniel A. Rodriguez, A Future for the Latino Church: Models for Multilingual, Multigenerational Hispanic Congregations (Downers Grove, IL: IVP Press), 16.
 See Juan Francisco Martinez, Walk with the People: Latino Ministry in the United States (Eugene, OR: Wipf & Stock), 5-8.
"No longer satisfied with easy answers, I started asking harder questions." -RHE
Today the world woke up to the news that Rachel Held Evans (known simply by the acronym of RHE), a popular progressive Christian author died at the young age of 37! I literally gasped then cried for a solid hour as my husband watch and asked, "Liz, what what happened?" I couldn't even get it out. Eventually I explained, "a woman who impacted my life greatly is dead."
It was just a few weeks ago, on April 14th when she sent a tweet out into the twitterverse that she was at the hospital with a bad reaction to antibiotics and she was bummed she was going to miss Game of Thrones. Today, I had to re-read the statement her husband had posted on the medical update blog that was started to keep her fans and followers abreast of her condition. Reporters have already tried to encapsulate the life and impact that was RHE...Washington Post, Religion News Service, and others.
RHE had a profound impact on my spiritual journey. She was there when I was asking the questions many others were asking and made me feel welcomed in a world of uncertainty. Troubling for a person who was told all her life that when it came to her theology x equaled y with certainty. I don't remember how I found her but I remember that I was grateful I had. Finding her helped me find another tribe that have kept me believing in God even while in deconstruction. Additionally, I was honored to be on book launch team for her last book, Inspired. But this post is not written to do what others are already doing. They are much better qualified for that. What I want to do is ask a question.
What can we learn from this particular life gone too soon?
We are all used to talking about the great impact of people after they leave us. It's what we do and yes, it is honorable to do that. But as I reflect on the life of RHE, I believe we need to reflect on what she did that moved us so and then commit to doing the next right thing, in this way, we keep her legacy alive.
One of the biggest things I admired about her was her guts. I didn't know her personally, so I can't speak to the characteristics of her persona that someone up close could. But as a distant observer of her life, as a reader of her books, I can say this young 37 year old woman had the guts to go up against the machine that we know of as white evangelicalism without flinching. She was going to battle before any of us know there was a war going on. She was writing fighting words before anyone even knew she was there. But then one day, everyone noticed. Who is this RHE? She's fighting for truth. She's fighting for inclusion. She's fighting for the right to ask questions that we were told should never be asked. She was saying it is ok to leave what you have always known because it no longer feeds your soul and makes no theological sense. We found in her a champion. We found in her a warrior. We found in her a person who was willing to take the hard hits for US so that the dialogue could stay open. So that the "machine of evangelicalism" could take notice that she was not merely speaking for herself but many.
Here's what I think we can learn from her life gone too soon...
There will never be an RHE. That is the beauty of the way God creates us. Unique in design. Distinct in our contribution to the world. But now as we mourn the incredible, courageous life of this life gone too soon, as we sit with our feelings trying to understand yet again, how this fits into God's story for our world, we have to ask ourselves what part of Rachel will I take with me as I continue to walk the path of Jesus as people of the way. What part of her work will I pick up and add to? How can I in my own simple way honor her memory?
What would you say you can learn from this life gone too soon?
When we feel a tug on our heart and a stirring in our soul for more that is usually God's way of getting our attention. The thing is, once He has it, He will also usually point us in a direction that is way outside of our comfort zone. And if we are honest, we are often afraid to venture past our comfort zone, aren't we? Outside our comfort zone is where we experience the true awesomeness of God. Just take the plunge and say yes!
That one word has an extraordinary power to change our life forever and have eternal consequences.“By an act of faith, Abraham said YES to God's call to travel to an unknown place that would become his home. When he left he had no idea where he was going!” (Heb. 11:8, MSG)
When I have tried to say yes to the many things I feel God leading me to do, I’ve always felt way out of my comfort zone. I have said yes to things that turned out to be amazing and some things that turned out to be flops. However, all of my yes's were lessons and although, I may have had a hard time with some of them, I regret none of them. Thank goodness I am not the only one who said yes to something with no clue about where it would lead or where I was I going.
If you read through the Bible about all the men and women who decided to say “yes” to God, you will find that it was always a task that came with a side of crazy. Let’s see, there was:
Noah had the choice of building an ark or not. He said yes!
Moses stood before the burning bush, knowing that listening to God would put his life in danger. He said yes!
Mary, in the midst of what was perceived to be a scandalous situation, said yes and broke out into song singing, “my soul magnifies the Lord.”
Though I don’t exactly recall saying yes quickly or busting out in Elizabeth’s Magnificat, I did say yes. All of us who say yes to this crazy, rollercoaster ride called church planting, that first pulpit preaching, leave our jobs and trust God for our income or anything else for the kingdom have entered into an extraordinary faith journey. We are saying yes to the story He is creating in our hearts and through our abilities, dreams, and faithfulness. It’s not just a special story—it’s an extraordinary one that each of us, with God, will experience together.
God asks plain, ordinary people like you and me to join Him in an adventure. He finds us in overlooked places and expects us to do extraordinary things. God issues us an invitation to a fuller life that makes a difference.
By saying, “yes” to God we are essentially saying that He is the most important thing in our lives, and that we trust Him even though we have no idea how things will turn out or where we will end up. I most recently said yes to being on a national council (to be revealed later) that I honestly didn't feel qualified for mostly because I'm a brown girl in a white world and imposter syndrome creeps up when we say yes to walk into the spaces where we usually don't see too many that look like us. However, saying yes will be your greatest act of faith on this journey.
It took me longer than it should have to say “yes,” to my most recent invitation and when I think of it, many others. As I look back now, with the perspective that comes with time, I realize that God has been asking me to trust Him even when I couldn’t trace Him. I also know I got to this point because a single “yes” naturally leads to the next one.
By continually saying yes to God, we can have the satisfaction of knowing that we made a life-altering decision that will have eternal consequences not only for our own lives, but also for the generations that follow us and for every person that we come into contact with through the work that we do for the kingdom.
Remember that fact when the work gets tough, when the world gets colder and when the ones that were supposed to be by your side walk away. The satisfaction you will experience is similar to that of the Apostle Paul who near the end of his life, knew he had “fought the good fight, finished the race. and kept the faith.”
So let’s celebrate that we went beyond our comfort zone and said yes to God. We are a group of world changers even if no one ever knows our name beyond our local tribe. By saying yes, you altered destiny. Lives have been and will be transformed. Hell will lose souls while heaven will gain them. Light will win over darkness. And that, my dear friends, is all because of the life-altering, eternal consequence of one simple word…YES.
This Independence Day, I'm going to celebrate the Brown that makes America Great. William H. Lamar IV, a preacher from Hyattsville, MD reminded people a few years ago via a Huffpost article that we actually have the right not to celebrate on July 4th. In it he asked: "How can I celebrate liberty with bondage — economic bondage, educational bondage, political bondage, health care bondage, and religious bondage — all around me?"
So instead I am opting to celebrate the Brown people among us who are fighting the good fight. Standing up and raising their voice through various mediums to continue to advocate for all people in America. Perhaps you know some of them, perhaps not, but would you join me in sharing a thank you to them for what they do, where they do it and for whom they do it for? I know most of the people on this list and have been blessed to work with, under or alongside many of them. By no means is this an exhaustive list and I realize that so don't get crazy. I would just love for you to know them. I get it when people say "I hate lists" because inevitably someone gets left out. I did leave out folks that I think are famous - meaning get alot of exposure and is usually the person everyone goes to as "the" person that speaks for "all brown evangelical people". No one really does. There are so many of us doing great things so I want to showcase the ones that usually do not have a light shone on them. The whole purpose of this list is to help my friends know some of my other friends, mentors or people I simply admire.
However, if you know of others that you feel is doing great things, I would love for you to comment and let me know who they are. It's just a way for more people to know of others they may not have heard about and maybe even support. We good? Ladies and Gents, I present to you my Just Us League List. Please do share this list so your friends can know these folks too.
The Frontrunners (They Laid the Foundation)
Rev. Dr. Raymond Rivera
Rev. Ray founded the Latino Pastoral Action Center (LPAC) in 1992, which started as a division of the Manhattan-based NYC Mission Society, the city’s oldest and largest social service agency. He's the author of the book Liberty to the Captives: Our Call to Minister in a Captive World and is the Board Chairman of the National Latino Evangelical Coaliton (NaLEC). He is beloved in the urban ministry community for his contributions to field and his model of holistic ministry. He was my boss for 10 years and I consider him one of my Spiritual Dads and mentor in the work of justice.
Rev. Cortes founded Esperanza in Philadelphia in 1987 after seeing the prevalence of poverty, addiction, and homelessness among the Hispanic community in Hunting Park. The goal of Esperanza is to strengthen Philadelphia’s Hispanic community through economic, social, and educational development programs — for example, one-on-one housing counseling, a legal service for low-income immigrants that has helped naturalize 90 new American citizens, and a job training program that serves 2,500 welfare recipients each year.
Noel leads the charge at the Christian Community Development Association (CCDA). He has worked in full-time ministry in Latino urban communities since 1982, serving in youth ministry, church planting, advocacy, and community development in San Francisco, San Jose, and Chicago. Noel was the founding pastor of Chicago’s La Villita Community Church. He has a deep passion to serve and invest in the lives of leaders committed to serving the poor. Noel is the coauthor of A Heart for the Community and New Models for Urban and Suburban Ministry and has contributed to various other books and publications including Deep Justice in a Broken World, A Heart for the City, and Crazy Enough to Care. He and his wife, Marianne, have three children and make their home in the barrio of La Villita in Chicago. Update: Noel no longer serves as CCDA Executive Director but we know that his next step will include being a blessing in the area of community development.
Practitioners & Pastors (Continuing the Work)
Rev. Dr. Gabriel & Pastor Jeannette Salguero
Rev. Gabriel Salguero and his wife, Rev. Jeanette Salguero, are senior associate pastors at Calvario City Church in the Orlando, FL area. Rev. Gabriel Salguero is the founder of the National Latino Evangelical Coalition (NaLEC) which offers an important leadership voice for the close to 8 million Latino evangelical in our country. Rev Dr. Gabriel Salguero is a graduate of Rutgers University with a B.A. in History and Spanish. A member of Phi Alpha Theta History Honor Society. He also has an M.Div (magna cum laude) from New Brunswick Theological Seminary and did PhD work in Christian Social Ethics at Union Theological Seminary in New York. Salguero also received a Doctor in Divinity (honoris causa) from Eastern Nazarene College in Massachusetts.
Lisa Trevino Cummins
Lisa founded Urban Strategies out of her desire to make a difference within communities in need.
In 2001, Lisa was recruited to help launch the White House Faith and Community-Based Initiative. During her two-year tenure, Lisa was instrumental in creating initiatives that welcomed small community and faith-based organizations, advocated for increased accountability of federal resources, and encouraged the removal of barriers that prevent new entrants into the federal funding stream. Since leaving the White House, Lisa has been a catalyst for several initiatives that have resulted in more than $40 million in new programming primarily focused on the Latino community.
Lisa earned her BS in Accounting from Trinity University San Antonio and her MBA from University of Texas in San Antonio. She currently serves on the boards of the Christian Community Development Association, the Seed Company, World Vision, and the Latino Advisory Group for the Campaign to Prevent Unwanted and Teen Pregnancies. Lisa, her husband, and their three children reside in the Washington, DC area
Minerva Garza Carcaño
Bishop Minerva is the first Hispanic woman to be elected to the episcopacy of The United Methodist Church (UMC), The second-largest Protestant denomination in the United States. She also serves as the leader of the United Methodist Church's Immigration Task Force.
Sandra Maria Van Opstal
Sandra is a second-generation Latina, pastors at Grace and Peace Community on the west-side of Chicago. She is a preacher, liturgist and activist who re-imagining the intersection of worship and justice.
She's worked with InterVarsity Christian Fellowship, mobilizing thousands of college students for God’s mission of reconciliation and justice in the world.
Sandra’s influence has also reached many others through her leadership and preaching on topics such of worship and formation, justice, racial identity and reconciliation, and global mission. Sandra serves as a board member for Evangelicals for Justice and the Christian Community Development Association. Sandra holds a Masters of Divinity from Trinity Evangelical Divinity School in Illinois and has been published in multiple journals. She has authored God’s Graffiti Devotional, Still Evangelical, The Mission of Worship and The Next Worship. She is married to Karl and has one son, Justo.
Rev. Dr. Michael Carrion
Michael Carrion serves as the Senior Pastor and General Overseer of the Promised Land Covenant Churches located in the North and South Bronx. He serves as the founding Chairman and Superintendent of the Bronx Academy of Promise K-8 Charter School in the Mott Haven section of the South Bronx; Dr. Carrion also serves as the Regional Coach for Church Planting and Development for the East Coast Conference of the Evangelical Covenant Church. His family consists of his wife, Elizabeth, five children, three grandchildren and three pitbulls. Pastor Mike resides in the Bronx.
Theologians, Educators & Thought Leaders (Molding Minds)
Elizabeth Conde Frazier
Rev. Dr. Elizabeth Conde-Frazier was the Academic Dean and Vice President of Education at Esperanza College of Eastern University until recently. This month, Asociación para la Educación Teológica Hispana (AETH) announced that Dr. Conde Frazier will be serving as their Coordinator of Theological Institute Relations. Previously she was a professor of religious education at the Claremont School of Theology and taught Hispanic Latino/a theology at the Latin American Bible Institute. She was also founder of the Orlando E. Costas Hispanic and Latin American Ministries Program at Andover Newton Theological School where she developed programs for ministers and lay leaders including youth. She is a mentor to Latino/a scholars and leaders of the church and has written in the areas of multicultural education, practical theology, theological education, Christian higher education in the urban setting, Participatory action research, the spirituality of the scholar and Evangélica theology. She has been a mentor to me personally and was the first to open the door of opportunity to me in academic writing. She continues to push me. She's like the big sister I never had and I appreciate her immensely.
Joanne Solis Walker
Rev. Dr. Joanne is an ordained minister of The Wesleyan Church in the Florida District and serves as Assistant Dean Global Theological Education at Wesley Seminary at Indiana Wesleyan University, where she also teaches as an adjunct professor. Dr. Solis-Walker is committed to the formation of Hispanic-Latino/Latina pastors and leaders. She also earned a Ph.D. in organizational leadership and development from Regent University, holds a Master of Divinity with a focus on pastoral studies/theology from Asbury Theological Seminary and a bachelor’s degree in Psychology-Industrial Psychology from the Universidad Interamericana de Puerto Rico.She is married to Rev. Dan Walker and they have a miracle daughter, Adriana Nicole. The Walkers recently relocated to Indiana from Florida.
Rev. Alexia does so much I was not sure which category she fit best! I was recently introduced to her due to my own work for my dissertation and she was so willing to share her work. Rev. Alexia Salvatierra is the author with Dr. Peter Heltzel of “Faith-Rooted Organizing: Mobilizing the Church in Service to the World” (Intervarsity Press) and the founder of the Faith-Rooted Organizing UnNetwork.. She is a Lutheran Pastor with over 35 years of experience in community ministry, including church-based service and community development programs, congregational and community organizing, and legislative advocacy.
Dr. Robert Chao Romero
A few months ago in researching for my dissertation I came across this scholar's book, Jesus for Revolutionaries. Then last month, my former boss, spiritual dad and mentor actually met him at a conference and told me I need to speak to him. I reached out and he was so down to earth. He's not only a scholar but a practitioner with a new non-traditional church based out of Jesus for Revolutionaries book.
With a Mexican father from Chihuahua and a Chinese immigrant mother from Hubei in central China, Romero’s dual cultural heritage serves as the basis for his academic studies. His research examines Asian immigration to Latin America, as well as the large population of “Asian-Latinos” in the United States. His first book, The Chinese in Mexico, 1882-1940 (2010), tells the forgotten history of the Chinese community in Mexico. The Chinese in Mexico received the Latina/o Studies Section Book Award from the Latin American Studies Association. Drawing upon his background as attorney, Romero’s second area of research examines the legal history of Chicano/Latino segregation as well as immigration law and policy. His most recent research explores the role of spirituality in Chicana/o social activism. He recently wrote a book to be published on the Brown Church and we are excited about what the church at large will learn about Latinos and our role in church and society.
Romero received his J. D. from UC Berkeley and his Ph.D. in Latin American history from UCLA.
Rev. Dr. Jules A. Martinez-Olivieri has a Ph.D. in Systematic Theology from Trinity Evangelical Divinity School. He has five years of academic teaching experience and 14 years of pastoral ministry experience in the USA and Puerto Rico.
Dr. Martinez served as Assistant Professor of Theology at the Seminario Teológico de Puerto Rico. He is an Adjunct Professor of Religion and Theology at the Interamerican University of Puerto Rico, the Seminario Evangélico de Puerto Rico, Trinity Evangelical Divinity School, Nyack Theological Seminary, and Seminario Teológico Centroamericano (SETECA) in Guatemala. Among his recent publications is A Visible Witness: Christology, Liberation and Participation in Latin American Protestant Theology. Minneapolis: Fortress Press, 2016. He blogs over at Theodrama.com.
Juliany González Nieves
Juliany is an Puerto Rican evangélica fourth-year M.Div. student at Trinity Evangelical Divinity School in Deerfield, IL. Her interests include systematic theology, Majority World theologies, and discipleship. She is a blogger and I know we will see much more from this wise Latina.
Young Bloods - a new emerging force
Rev. Enid Almanzar
Enid Almanzar is the director of scripture engagement at American Bible Society, a 200-year-old ministry that works to make the Bible available and alive for people in the most difficult circumstances around the world. She recently was installed as the Assistant Pastor of Civic Engagement at my home church in NYC, Primitive Christian Church. Rev. Enid lives in New Jersey with her husband Samuel and two children.
Pastor Dan Prada (Cuban Costa Rican) is a local South Florida radical pastor preaching truth from the pulpit of Heartway Church in Davie Fl. He's sharing on topics in ways that SoFlo has never seen. I am a full-fledged fan of this young pastor who is authentic, transparent and is simply about Jesus and Justice (my two favs). A church filled with millennials, he is a pastor on his way to major impact in the Broward county area and beyond. He graduated from Palm Beach Atlantic University with a Bachelor of Arts in Ministry Leadership, and from The Southern Baptist Theological Seminary with a Master of Divinity. He has served in a multitude of ministerial capacities over the years, including several pastoral and chaplaincy positions in both mega-churches and non-profit organizations. Pastor Danny is also in the process of working towards his Doctor of Ministry degree at Fuller Theological Seminary. Update: I recently decided to make this my home church in Florida and look forward to serving here as it grows in its development as a JUST church.
David Rosa Jr.
I was introduced to Pastor David (a fellow Boricua) by a mutual friend and when I saw what he was doing in his church, I knew he would shake the foundations of Hollywood. David knows the streets because he came from the streets. Drugs, violence and poverty is whee he says his story began and although he dropped out of school in the 7th grade, he eventually returned to finish and be trained as a church planter. With his drive to #PoundTheConcrete and his commitment to justice, I am sure Hollywood and surrounding areas will be positively impacted for the Kingdom.
I am always proud when my fellow Brown brothers and sisters believe for great things and attempt great things for God. It isn't easy doing what any of these folks do, so when possible, support their efforts. Go to a special event, show up on a Sunday and say hi, donate to a cause. While there are many working for the kingdom, sometimes we need to take a moment and support our own. We simply do not do that enough. Sometimes it even feels like JUST US. So... pray for them, invest in them, or join them. But whatever you do, don't ignore them.
A friend of mine posted on her Facebook page a while back that life is not easy, although social media makes it look as if it is. She then went into a detailed account of how some of her days look "behind the veil." As I read her post, I immediately was reminded of something an inner circle chica had told me once. She said, "Liz, you make it look easy. People think you are able to do all you have done because you are just smarter or haven't had the trials some of us have had." To which I replied, "that is absolutely not so." She then said, "well how would we know. You don't share your struggles." I never forgot that talk. Since that time, I have been very intentional about sharing defeats as well as wins. With social media nowadays, our failures are usually very much on display for all to see. But today, I thought I'd share again.
I was raised by a single mom who struggled to raise two daughters. The extent to which I still only imagine because she was not one to share her pain or struggles, always opting to show herself strong in an effort to raise strong daughters. My half sister and I are seven years apart. We are similar in that we have both fought for what we now have. None of us was handed anything in life. I don't remember much of my dad. Although I do know he left my mom with nothing when I was two. A "religious" man, a store front church preacher, he was also violent. My mom has a scar on her arm as evidence from his barber toolkit.
Much of my early life is a haze. I guess my brain did its best to protect me from pain. Anyway, being a child of a single parent was not a picnic. Economically, we struggled. In the religious community, one that celebrated two parent homes, we were shall we say "not celebrated." I used to dread both Mother's day and Father's Day as a teen. Why? Because my mom did not come to Jesus until late in life thus she was not in church attendance when I was until much later. So every Mother's Day, when they called the mother's up with their families, I was alone. I would encourage myself by telling myself that "at least I had a mother in my life." On Father's Day, alone again, I felt worse because I could not tell myself "at least I had a Father in my life."
Most of my teachers did the absolute minimal work in class and I never heard an encouraging word. As a matter of fact, I remember in 10th grade at my high school, I would skip school because as a "church girl" I could not wear pants and was not seen as a cool chick. One day the guidance counselor called my mom and told her of my absences and told her to come in. I was called down to her office to find my mother there. I was then part of what seemed to be an hour long lecture on why I would NOT pass my Regent's exam and why I would NOT go to the next grade. Guess what? I not only passed my Regent's with flying colors, I also went to 11th grade. I never liked people telling me what I could or could not do based on THEIR opinion. That always served as fuel for me to exceed expectations.
In my book, Don't Buy The Lie: Eradicating False Belief Systems that Keep You From Your Destiny I share how even in the church some folks thought I would not amount to much because of a silly teenage mistake. Let's just say, I proved them wrong too.