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 usually 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.
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.
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.
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.
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 consider this my "other" church and 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.
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.
Sometimes, we need to remind ourselves of just how powerful we can be if we unite in the fight, which in this case is the resistance against unjust policies that are continually hurting the black and brown communities of the world. We are brown. We are Latinx. We are here to stay.
While the United States is heading toward a time where there will be “no clear ethnic majority, at this present time, it is the nation’s largest community of color at 25 percent of the population, followed by African Americans at 12.7 percent. By the year 2050, the Latinx population is expected to exceed 100 million individuals. While there are some in society that view all of the Latinx community as Mexicans, the reality is that there are many subgroups. There are Mexican, Honduran, Salvadoran, Guatemalan, Cuban, Chilean, Dominican, Colombian, Argentinian, Puerto Rican, Venezuelan, Ecuadorian, Bolivian, Peruvian, Panamanian, Costa Rican, Nicaraguan to name just a few. Each community has its own ethnic, political, racial, socio-economic, linguistic, and cultural diversity.
Older research places the Latinx population in the larger metropolitan areas in what is known as gateway cities including Los Angeles, Miami, New York, and Chicago. However, a 2016 Pew Research Center study found that from the 1990s onward the Latinx community were bypassing these traditional gateway cities due to available jobs and affordable housing. Now one can find large Latinx communities in North Carolina (particularly Charlotte), New Orleans, and even what is known as the Black Mecca, Atlanta, Georgia. A surprising fact is that North Dakota and Utah mostly white populations have been attracting a large amount of Latinos due to an oil boom that again brings jobs with it.
Religiously, the Latinx population is also quite diverse. There are Catholics, Protestants, Muslim, Buddhists, Santeros (worship of saints), Curanderos (a traditional Native healer, shaman who use herbs and spiritualism) and even agnostics and atheists. Yet, for the most part, approximately 93% of the Latinx community self-identify as Christian. Of this Latinx group that self-identify as Christian, more than “one million self-identify with the Assemblies of God (AG) across the United States and Puerto Rico, 700,000 plus of whom are noted in AG statistical analyses. The rest are Latinos who do not regularly attend church for various reasons, but who still self-identify with the AG.” In addition, Pentecostals make up approximately 64 percent of all U.S. Latino Protestants and 65 percent of the U.S. Latino Protestant electorate.
Politically, existing literature emphasizes that the Latinx electorate as a whole is showing signs of substantial changes that are worth noting. Bell states,
The potential Latino electorate has increasingly taken on the characteristics of the second- and third-generation immigrants filling its ranks. New voters are US-born, US-educated, and more fluent in English than the generations who preceded them, and their interests, political awareness, and sense of civic responsibility often diverge from those of their elders. They are increasingly taking up residence outside of the geographically-narrow enclaves of their parents and grandparents, and while Latino communities are not yet pervasive throughout the United States, their political influence is slowly extending across the nation.
Educationally, in 2011, 11.4 million Latino students were enrolled in public schools. It is expected that by the 2022-23 school year, 30 percent of public school students will be Latino. Researchers and educators alike assert that the success of Latino students is critical to the success of our nation as a whole. While more Latinos are attending college, there are still large bachelor's degree attainment gaps. In 2013, only 16 percent of Latinos ages 25-29 held at least a bachelor's degree, compared with 40 percent of white young adults. The percentage slightly increased during the 2014-15 academic year with a total of 22 percent of Latinos (25 and older) earning an Associate degree or higher. 
This information on the Latinx population is important to acknowledge as they have ushered in what David Carrasco’s coins the “the Brown Millennium” which he believes “will profoundly shape the spirit, ethos, and cultural complexion of American religion, politics and society.” Furthermore, Espinosa stresses the importance of the Latino Assembly of God members when he states they, “may be one of the movements in the vanguard of the browning of American Evangelicalism and Christianity.”
Because Latinx people have been the victims of racism, suffer through educational equity issues, and a host of other justice issues, it is not surprising that justice has become important to them as it became important to the Black community in the civil rights era. Espinosa writes “Contrary to popular perception, Latino Pentecostals have been involved in faith-based social, civic, and political civic action throughout the twentieth century. Although their work is not framed in terms of the Social Gospel or Liberation Theology movements because such movements are not Christ-centered enough for them.” Espinosa advocates for a blending of Pentecostal distinctives that has an emphasis on the power of the cross, supernatural healing and God’s grace. He elaborates further,
While traditional Evangelical and liberal Protestant churches have split evangelism and social justice into two different types of ministry, Latino Pentecostals blend them together in evangelistic social work and outreach. This approach seeks to use social action, civic engagement, political participation, and acts of mercy as vehicles through which to demonstrate and incarnationalize the love and saving grace of Jesus Christ to a broken and suffering world. …Latino AG leaders …call this blending Jesus Christ’s “agenda of righteousness and justice,” which combines Billy Graham’s vertical reconciling message of salvation and hope in Jesus Christ with Martin Luther King Jr.’s horizontal prophetic focus on civil rights and social justice.
To the Latinx Pentecostal community their understanding of missio Dei is to bring salvation to a world in need by whatever means necessary and that is la causa (the cause) that they all are driven by to this day. They embrace what Michael Gorman states, “The mode by which that salvation is conveyed to the world is the preaching of this good news both in word and in deed.” Samuel Rodriguez illustrates this beautifully,
…The cross is both vertical and horizontal, redemption and relationship, holiness and humility, covenant and community, kingdom and society, righteousness and justice, salvation and transformation, ethos and pathos; it is John 3: 16 and Luke 4, orthodoxy and orthopraxy, Billy Graham and Dr. Martin Luther King Jr., faith and public policy, imago dei and habitus Christus, prayers and activism, sanctification and service, the New Jerusalem and Washington DC.
In deed, or as Rodriquez states, the horizontal, is what some Latinx Evangelical Pentecostals feel many White Evangelicals dismiss. Of course, anyone can communicate scripture from the pulpit but biblical justice is living it out. Gorman states, “The Church is a living exegesis of the gospel of God. The church performs the gospel as a living commentary on it...it lives the story, embodies the story, tells the story.”
Are you part of the Latinx Evangelical community? How are you attempting to live out the gospel message in light of everything going on in today's America? Has your church's involvement in justice issues (whether too much, too little or not at all) impacted your church attendance? I'd love to hear about it. Please comment below or email me at firstname.lastname@example.org.
. Center for American Progress. August 2015. Demographic Growth of People of Color. Washington, DC: Center for American Progress accessed February 22, 2018, https://cdn.americanprogress.org/wp-content/uploads/2015/08/05075256/PeopleOfColor-Democracy-FS.pdf
. Havidán Rodríguez, Rogelio Saénz, and Cecilia Menivar, eds., Latinos/as in the United States: Changing the Face of America (New York: Springer, 2008), 10.
. Jorge. J. E. Gracia and Pablo de Grief (eds.), Hispanics/Latino in the United States: ethnicity, Race and Rights (New York: Routledge, 2000), 1.
. Hugo Martin, "Top 10 Cities for Hispanics to Live In: Where Latinos Love To Live, Work And Play." Hispanic, 08, 16-18, 2005. 20-22, accessed April 18, 2018, https://seu.idm.oclc.org/login?url=https://search-proquest-com.seu.idm.oclc.org/docview/237003580?accountid=43912.
. Renee Stepler and Mark Hugo Lopez, “U.S. Latino Population Growth and Dispersion Has Slowed Since Onset of the Great Recession,” Pew Research Center (Hispanic Trends), September 8, 2016, accessed April 20, 2018, http://www.pewhispanic.org/2016/09/08/latino-population-growth-and-dispersion-has-slowed-since-the-onset-of-the-great-recession/
. Gastón Espinosa, Latino Pentecostals in America: Faith and Politics in Action, (Cambridge, MA: Harvard University Press, 2014), 4. To further clarify “Christian”, Espinosa noted included people and/or with a Christian tradition, movement, or experience such as being born again, Pentecostal/Charismatic, and/or independent/nondenominational Christian.
. Ibid. 3.
. Aaron T. Bell, "Diversity and Potential: The Latino Electorate in The 2016 Elections." Contemporary Readings in Law and Social Justice 8, no. 2: 2016.243-262, accessed April 27, 2018 https://seu.idm.oclc.org/login?url=https://search-proquest-com.seu.idm.oclc.org/docview/1848083544?accountid=43912.
. A. P. McGlynn, Latino college-going & graduation rates moving up but gaps remain. The Hispanic Outlook in Higher Education, 24, 18-20. (2014, Sep 08), accessed April 17, 2018, https://seu.idm.oclc.org/login?url=https://search-proquest-com.seu.idm.oclc.org/docview/1562505767?accountid=43912
. Miriam Rinn,"Graduate Education: Maintaining Equal Access to Graduate School." The Hispanic Outlook in Higher Education, Jun 27,1997, 8, accessed April 17, 2018, https://seu.idm.oclc.org/login?url=https://search-proquest-com.seu.idm.oclc.org/docview/219297942?accountid=43912.
. Excelencia in Education “Latino College Completion: United States” Handout, 2014-2015 enrollment and completions data, National Center for Education Statistics (NCES), U.S. Department of Education, accessed April 28, 2018, https://www.edexcelencia.org/sites/default/files/LCCStateStats/Exc-2018-50StateFS-USA-04_0.pdf
. David Carrasco as cited in Gastón Espinosa, Latino Pentecostals in America: Faith and Politics in Action, (Cambridge, MA: Harvard University Press, 2014), 5.
. Ibid. 322.
. Gastón Espinosa, Latino Pentecostals in America: Faith and Politics in Action, 322. For more insight on this see Samuel Rodriguez, The Lamb’s Agenda: Why Jesus Is Calling You to a Life of Righteousness and Justice, Nashville, TN: Thomas Nelson Publishing, 2013).
. Michael J. Gorman, Becoming the Gospel: Paul, Participation, and Mission (Grand Rapids, MI: Eerdmans Publishing, 2015), 23.
. Samuel Rodriguez, The Lamb’s Agenda: Why Jesus Is Calling You to a Life of Righteousness and Justice, Nashville, TN: Thomas Nelson Publishing, 2013). Kindle, 2.
. Ibid. 43.
I am sure you have felt it. The person in the meeting who goes against everything you suggest. The person in your group activity that never seems to get your point of view. The person who stops talking when you enter the room or who sizes you up when you get there. You probably have a picture in your head of that person. Or maybe there are more than one.
Whether it is a need for control or a need to be right, these kind of folks can be annoying and sometimes even demoralizing. Contrary people can be exhausting and sometimes you have to decide what you want to do with that. If it is a work situation, obviously not everyone can get up and go and to be honest, in a work environment, you will probably have alot of that. You might just have to grin and bear it because you need that check. But if you believe the person is fairly reasonable at some level, have a talk. Ask, "is there a reason why you are always the contrary conversationalist?" You will be surprised of what people confess to. Some share about their family background where their voice was never heard and they will be damned if they don't raise it now with anyone on anything. Some will even say they did not realize they were doing that. But it is your call how you want to handle that kind of person at work. Worst case, you can try to avoid them. But what happens when this kind of person is in something you belong to for personal development, socialization or philanthropic reasons.
Here you still have a choice but you have more room to make it and you can weigh it against the things that matter to you other than money to pay your bills! Thank God. Here's what I think:
There are enough places in this world that can make you feel inferior, unwanted and disliked and where you have no control of the situation i.e. work, etc. But when you can take control of the situation do so. Where you are celebrated is where you will grow. Where people make it a habit of checking themselves and their interactions with folks is where it is healthier. Go find people, places and spaces like that or create your own.
Yeah, sometimes you just have to go and guess what, you will thrive. Being around healthy people has a way of helping you bloom. Go. Find. Them.
Recently, I have been thinking about the power of STORY. Actually for a few months before meeting my Professor Dr. Leonard Sweet for a seminary class in February. It was in that class that I understood even more the power of STORY especially in sharing gospel truths. I left that class with more information that stirred my spirit on this STORY story.
Dr. Sweet reminded us that there is always more to what we read in the scriptures than what we read in the scriptures! There is a story behind the story and our job is to uncover that so that we get the real story and can communicate the real intent of the passage. This line of thinking is the same for OUR STORY. There is more to anyone you meet than just want you sense or what you see. Everyone has a story. While we don't have to take the time to get to know everyone's story, if someone is interesting to you and you want to build a closer connection, you should ask "what's your story? over some cafecito.
Just last night, I saw the movie Coco by Disney's Pixar Studios. I loved the various messages embedded in the story line of the movie. But here's the thing that resonated with me the most, if we don't share the STORIES of the ones we loved from one generation to the next, they are forgotten as if they never existed. Story was important in this movie and it really is important in the real world too.
You see, from a legacy perspective, we tell our stories for ourselves and as a gift to future generations. How does telling our stories benefit us? We need to know and express our own stories. Difficulties arise not because we have a story, perhaps a very sad or painful story, but because we become attached to our stories and make them an essential part of our very selves.
Telling our stories is not an end in itself, but an attempt to release ourselves from them, to evolve and grow beyond them. We tell our stories to transform ourselves; to learn about our history and tell our experiences to transcend them; to use our stories to make a difference in our world; to broaden our perspective to see further than normal; to act beyond a story that may have imprisoned or enslaved us; to live more of our spiritual and earthly potential.
Annette Simmons in her book, The Story Factor shares that “we cannot wish old feelings away nor do spiritual exercises for overcoming them until we have woven a healing story that transforms our previous life’s experience and gives meaning to whatever pain we have endured.”
As I learned from the movie Coco and even from the fact that we have a New Testament today because first hand eyewitnesses were able to share stories with the gospel writers is that stories benefit future generations. How does telling our stories benefit them? Stories connect the past and present to the future. Our stories and our learning from them honors and respects our ancestors and us. They can awaken future generations to their potential. They model a way to use their stories to release themselves as they connect to their history and to our values.
In my first book, Don't Buy The Lie I share my story and how I had some belief systems that really came from my early years. They were not good ones. Later on in life, I learned that I was part of a meta narrative and that my life had meaning and purpose in spite of the pain.
And what have I gained by sharing my story? The ability to see beyond it. To notice that I’m not the only one who experiences disappointment and loss. I feel deeper compassion for those sustaining great losses. My respect for human resiliency has grown, as has my commitment to help people who must start over completely after devastating loss: rebuilding lives, homes, and hope.
In “The Spirituality of Imperfection: Storytelling and the Search for Meaning,” Ernest Kurtz and Katherine Ketcham said:
Release ... is experienced rather than “gotten,” received rather than attained. And so it does not work to tell one’s story in order to “attain” release; yet Release does emerge from the practice of telling one’s story ... The deeper release ... is of our attachment to the chains that bind us.
Because of the power of your story, I want to invite you to join me for a STORY breakfast this summer. where I share more about how you can get started in exploring your story and what you need to do to join God in co-writing your next chapter. It is an invitation to a journey to start where you are to explore who you are and who you want to be. I hope you'll give it a shot. It will be a fun way to meet new sister friends and/or make the bond you have with a sister you already know stronger. This will be fun, impactful and could change the direction of your life. Send me an email if you would like to know more here
When it comes to every kind of relationship, they say that, “everyone has a price." What price you ask? The value that you think you are worth. Now value is instilled in us from the moment that we have some cognitive ability. How our parent (s) treat us. How our friends treat us. How our significant other treats us. You get the picture. But I would like to suggest to you today that we give too much power to others for the price tag on us. Why do they get to decide our value?
The relationships around us sometimes leaves us feeling kicked, empty, and wondering if it’s all worth it—or if we are worth it. But God leaves no doubt of the tremendous value He places on every human life, including yours. God says that we were knit together on purpose, intricately and intentionally in Psalm 139. We are definitely worth more than birds according to Matthew 10:31 and we are valuable and honored so says Isaiah 43:4. I mean, if we were the only one in this world, Christ still would have died for us (Rom 5:8). So why on earth are we letting other people decide our value, if our Creator says we are all that and more!
But how exactly can you take the price ringer back and change your price tag? I think you can start by doing these three things:
It's New Year's Eve and like most people, I am in a moment of reflection. In the past few days (since I am off from work), I made some time to go see new movies and re-watch old ones. If you are like me, you come out of the movies either disappointed because it was a waste of time and money, pleased but not necessarily feeling like it was anything to write home about or moved to action or tears due to the message of the movie. Two such movies that moved me where Collateral Beauty and The Greatest Showman (which came out this month).
In Collateral Beauty, we see TIME in the form of a person sharing with Will Smith (who was in extreme grief due to losing his child) how we often complain about time, saying "there isn't enough time," "time is short," "the grey hairs are coming in," see clip below:
TIME in the movie says that it is abundant, it is a gift, even while we waste time complaining we are wasting it. In that is the lesson friends, we keep wasting time. Now in my very early fifties (smile), the thing that keeps being replayed every year's end is the question, "what did we do with our time?"
Every year brings sorrows, many that we didn't expect. You know like death of loved ones, relationships broken because of lies, betrayals, or misunderstandings and unforgiveness. Those are the things that usually take us into a cave that we can't find our way out of. But the thing is, many of us, keep doing the same thing over and over again yet every year we expect different results. The famous quote says that that is the definition of insanity.
So as we enter 2018 in a few hours, how will you determine to use your time? Will you stop having a pity party because life is unfair (and trust me I get THAT) and start using the time YOU have to be productive, to contribute joy, happiness to those around you and make the world a better place? Will you use the things you learned in pain to spur you on to acts of kindness towards others? Will you use the God-given talents and gifts bestowed upon you to finally get that book finished, start that new business or ministry?
I know that some of our dreams didn't come to pass. However, that doesn't mean that others won't. Keep dreaming.
I know that people have let you down talking from both sides of their mouth, voting for Trump, or simply not being who they said they were. However, that doesn't mean that other people can bring you joy, become friends and new mentors and cheerleaders in your life.
In the movie, The Fellowship of the Ring, Frodo says, “I wish it need not have happened in my time." Gandalf replies, "So do I, and so do all who live to see such times. But that is not for them to decide. All we have to decide is what to do with the time that is given us.
TIME really is a gift. Don't waste another second crying over the people who don't love you. Angry at the people who walked away. Wallowing in self-pity because this has not turned out to be the life you dreamed of. There is still much beauty to see and bring to this world. You can be a part of creating that beauty for those around you and for yourself. Use. Your. Time.
Another movie that has totally put me in the most pleasant of moods is The Greatest Showman. Predicted to be a flop by critics, people have been giving it thumbs up, cheering in theaters and crying in their seats. (Another example on why critics DON'T MATTER!).
This movie celebrated diversity, it showcased love, faith, risk, the family that we often have with friends we chose when our families haven't turned out to be that ideal picture we had hoped for. But the greatest stand out for me personally was this song, "This is Me." The lyrics go like this:
I'm not a stranger to the dark
Hide away, they say
'Cause we don't want your broken parts
I've learned to be ashamed of all my scars
Run away, they say
No one will love you as you are
But I won't let them break me down to dust
I know that there's a place for us
For we are glorious
When the sharpest words wanna cut me down
I'm gonna send a flood, gonna drown them out
I am brave, I am bruise
I am who I'm meant to be, this is me
Look out 'cause here I come
And I'm marching on to the beat I drum
I'm not scared to be seen
I make no apologies, this is me
Oh-oh-oh, oh-oh-oh, oh-oh-oh, oh, oh
A ministry friend asked me yesterday to put a book list together for someone he cares about. A young emerging Latina leader. It got me thinking about what I would have loved to learn from someone when I was younger. You know, someone who was considered part of the OG (Old Guard) by the new generation and had been there and done most of that. However, yesterday was not the first time I thought seriously about giving back something to the younger generation.
In the beginning of the year, through the preaching of my friend and cohort mate Richard Wilkerson at Trinity Church in Miami, I was challenged to consider that not only should everyone have a mentor but everyone should also be one to the emerging generation. Since that time, I just prayed, pondered and planned in my head how I would go about pouring into younger folks. I had not taken any action because after being in ministry for 28 years and transitioning out from a traditional pastoral role in a church to one of a community pastoral guide in a non-traditional faith community, I have been liking this season. Alot.
Then a few weeks ago, my husband and I decided we would start attending a new church on Sundays. The pastor is not even 30 years old yet and my new church family are mostly millennials. A group of people that I have also been writing about due to the epidemic of churchlessness in America (you can find my writings on that on this site as well). It is very different for me, but in this latter half of my life, I want to be even more intentional than ever about purpose and legacy because let's be honest, I have less time ahead of me than I have behind me.
So, with the request of my friend yesterday, I thought now would be a good a time as any to start with a simple post. Please know that a given for a faith-based person is to stay connected to God (because I've learned that someone will always be a critic and wonder why I did not mention that). With that said, this is for you, young one. Seven things I would tell my younger self and all the emerging young men and women (especially those contemplating ministry). I hope it is helpful in some way.
We have three months until the end of the year, start thinking about how you want to spend these last few months, what you need to do, who do you need to have or remove in your life and what environment do you need to be in to grow personally, spiritually and professionally? You will enter 2018 better for it.
Now tell me, what would you tell your younger self? Let's all share our life lessons. The younger ones don't have to experience the bumps and bruises we did just because the ones before us never felt the need to look back to give back. Let's not be those people.
(If you found this helpful, feel free to share on FB or Twitter). Thank you.
Over the last few weeks in my “Church Dropouts” series, I’ve alerted you to four reasons we’re losing devoted church members; shared some strategies to perhaps help disrupt these patterns; and sounded the alarm on a new category of people who are on the fringes of our churches hoping to be noticed before they actually leave.
My hope and prayer is to raise awareness in the midst of all the church growth plans and new church plants being born. While I’m all for celebrating the people that are coming into the church every Sunday, I also want us, as responsible leaders in the Church, to lament and respond to those who are deciding not to return. We must also acknowledge that those who already left still need a connection to God and to His people.
Throughout this article series, I’ve discovered and heard from some folks around the country, many of them former “traditional” pastors, who have voiced the same questions I’m asking. They have similar reasons for leaving their church positions, and in many cases their livelihoods, to pursue their call differently. They are creating spaces and places for those who still love God but not necessarily the local church, as we know it. I think you’ll be stirred and challenged by their stories:
Daron Earlewine, a former church planter, started Pub Theology in 2009 in Indianapolis, what he calls “1/3 a party, 1/3 charity event and 1/3 church service.”
After six years in church planting, Daron had a “missional freak out” moment when he realized that he did not have any meaningful relationships with people who did not know Jesus. In trying to have a conversation with his unchurched neighbor, he realized it was an “awkward conversation.” When he told his wife about it, she told him bluntly, “That’s because you’re not a real person anymore. …unless you’re talking about church, at church, doing church, or around church people, you don’t know know how to just hang out and be normal.”
That conversation started Daron on a quest. Through prayer, Pub Theology was birthed. Essentially, he and his team are the entertainment at local bars but they get to speak about Jesus and raise money for a worthy cause. As Daron puts it, “we wanted to introduce people to the heart of God before we introduce or re-introduce them to God.” While most patrons expect an ordinary bar night, they instead encounter a time of hearing stories of compassion and see people being generous to a cause.
“Recently, we raised $6,000 for a young teenage girl who was fighting leukemia. We had her and her family share their story. There people are moved heart and soul by compassion, generosity and hope by loving our neighbor. After we share about the cause and get people to hear the stories, I go up and share a four-minute talk that points to Jesus.”
Daron helps people make sense of what they may be feeling after experiencing that atypical bar night by sharing how God created them to be connected to others and to give back hope to the world. As a follow-up, he invites people to come back to Cocktails and Conversation where questions about life, God and everything in between can be asked with people who are also hungry for answers. Pub Theology nights led to Daron being invited to host a three-hour radio show called Radio Theology on one of Indianapolis’ top secular stations. Now known around Indy as the “Pub Pastor” Daron’s ministries attract the unchurched, dechurched and churched out. His rationale for doing these out-of-the-box outreaches is simple: “We believe that we learn to live our lives by doing what Jesus did. He came from Heaven to earth to have conversations with people just like us. He went to parties and hung out in the everyday places of life so that people could get to know Him better.”
This is a paper submitted in my Systemic Theology I class, Summer 2017. I felt the message was important enough to share with a wider audience. Note that I am aware this is not fully developed in "academic" terms but it nevertheless expresses my convictions in the age of Trump. I hope to further develop it in the future. I would for you to share and/or provide feedback.
What does love look like? It has the hands to help others. It has the feet to hasten to the poor and needy. It has eyes to see misery and want. It has the ears to hear the sighs and sorrows of men. That is what love looks like. --Augustine of Hippo
The love professed by Christians, especially Evangelicals has for all intents and purposes been lost in translation. Based on what we hear coming from the White House, the continued debate on health care and immigration, I do not see how a Christian can reconcile continuing to support this administration and say they are filled with Spirit of God and are “loving Christians.”
The 2016 Presidential election with Donald Trump’s victory revealed what many people of color knew was lurking under the surface, racism and social class backlash. The result did not just inform America of its new President, it revealed to America a great division between gender, race and education and a greater divide between White Evangelicals and Evangelicals of color. One of the most hurtful revelations was seeing that many who call themselves “followers of Jesus” and for the most part, (based on what is espoused in churches across America) biblical literalists, did not take the Bible literally when it came to the poor, the immigrant and the disenfranchised.
Since Trump’s inauguration America has simply slipped into social mayhem. Every day the news or social media outlets inform the public on the current administration latest fiasco and of the hate around us. Especially hate for people of color, the immigrant and the Muslim. Being a Puerto Rican who was born and raised in New York city, I grew up in a melting pot where there was tolerance for everything. It was a Sancocho that New Yorkers happily embraced. A Sancocho is a Latin American soup that consists of meat and different root vegetables in a delicious sauce. The dish has variations depending on what Latin American country one comes from but it is always a soup and always embraced as central to Latin American cuisine. This is where I get my Sancocho theology idea from. I believe when it comes to a biblical perspective on caring for the poor, we all may have variations but in the end the Bible is very clear on what was on God's heart and what Jesus made sure he did when he walked this earth. Whether or not a person is a literalist or somewhere in between, the only document used by believers as a compass is the Bible. But what is notably clear is that the voices of the poor and dis-enfranchised continue to be shut out of the discussions where the power brokers are making the decisions that impact their lives. Sancocho theology is simply a bridging of ecclesiology, missiology, social justice, theology of place and the good news of Jesus Christ.
Sancocho in the Latin American community is something people look forward to tasting. In some homes, it is the very act of making it ‘together’ that brings the families closer in Spirit. The Psalms say “taste and see that the Lord is good…” but can brown and black brothers and sister see the good news and for that matter, the Lord of Lords as good when so many of those who profess to know him and speak for him are so hateful, so dismissive of the plight of people who do not have the privileges they were born with simply because of the color of their skin, the family they were born into, the legacy of being on the “right side of the tracks.” Is it possible that there will ever be a time when there is true listening to what the other voices have to say and a real desire to make those on the outside of the theological borders welcomed? Can we theologize together about the current plight of our America and as is so customary to the Sancocho making process, put our unique perspectives in the soup that impacts the soul?
History shows that the [Black] church was pivotal in the civil rights era. My own research has revealed that Latino Pentecostals got involved much later in activism and developing organizations to help people through drug addiction, the HIV/AIDS crisis, mental health issues, teen pregnancy and families with children with disabilities because of their faith and interpretation of scripture. Many Latinos especially Puerto Ricans due to succumbing to a dualistic theology and tradition placed a higher emphasis on the spiritual dimension of human existence at the exclusion of what was happening in the physical world. Yet, in New York City there was more of an awareness perhaps because of the more social conscious churches in the NYC-Metro area. Many of us also grew up knowing that Jesus, our Lord, was also a flipping tables kind of Savior. In seeing Jesus in this way, Latinos who were able to see that they could be meek and they could also have righteous anger at the way things are sometimes found at the ‘temple’.
I find myself now, in South Florida nothing like my New York City, surrounded by churches who seem not to care about the unjust actions of an unqualified and undignified President. In fact, it was many in the White church community who handed him the reigns to the Presidency with what seems like no regard for the what the Bible has to say for the poor, the immigrant, the widow, etc. The bible looks very different when viewed from people on the margins. Leonardo Boff asked “in what sense can the Trinity be called “gospel,” good news, to people, especially to the poor and oppressed?” Boff seemingly understood that the world that Jesus lived in was very much like the Latin American world he lived in, his response to the message of the gospel was to produce a liberation praxis for Christians who believe like he did that “the Trinity has to do with the lives of each of us, our daily experiences, our struggles to follow our conscience, our love and joy, our bearing the sufferings of the world and the tragedies of human existence; it also has to do with the struggle against social injustice, with efforts at building a more human form of society, with the sacrifices and martyrdoms that these endeavors so often bring.” This is a radical challenge to the established order then and now and it is a compelling vision for a new kind of humanity that Christians can help create for a world that does not see good in our gospel especially in light of the people who claim to represent the “pure” gospel and their quest to reclaim American and make it “great again.” The question that was asked during the campaign and is still being asked today is “great for who?” It certainly seems that yet again, Evangelicals especially in the West, have found a way to keep people at the margins.
Many evangelicals of color feel they no longer have a place amongst traditional Evangelical denominations as 81% of white evangelicals voted against the values dear to them. I, along with many of them, do not consider ourselves on the left but we most certainly do not see ourselves on the right either. It is our understanding of Scripture, our Sancocho theology that has us wandering… but as the great philosopher J.R.R. Tolkien said, “not all those who wander are lost.” Theology matters because people were already leaving the church, after the presidential election more left and that is expected to continue. Some have left because of the pastor’s position on politics and some have left because the conversation continues to be one-sided as it has always been in the world of theological discourse. It has always been a sign of arrogance to believe that Western or European Voices were superior to Non-Western voices. As William Dryness himself discovered, you do not know that you do not know until you find yourself in unchartered territory trying to affix your usual thinking to an unusual circumstance. It was in that place in Manila that he “began a crash course of theological reflection.”
Perhaps this Trump era is the unusual circumstance and the rallying cries of the ones that Dario Lopez Rodriguez said Jesus had a special love for, “…the poor and the marginalized, including the fragile, those on the periphery, the needy and the destitute, the ragged of the world, and the “nobodies” that predominant society has condemned to social ostracism and the basement of history” is the crash course alert for all the Evangelicals who believe they have this good news gospel interpreted 100 percent correctly. Class is in session but they have chosen to be absent. They have chosen to ignore what they can learn from people with stories they have never had to live.
What comes to mind is the quote shared by Dr. Timothy Tennet in the Week 8 class forum video who quoted John Abiti (a pioneer of African Theology): “we have eaten theology with you, we have drunk theology with you, we have dreamed theology with you. But it has all been one-sided. It has been in one sense your theology. We know you theologically but the question is do you know us theologically? Would you like to know us theologically?” Unfortunately, the answer in many spheres of the Western world continues to be no.
Rodriquez shared that “Luke develops a theology of poverty influenced by social, political, and economic factors present in his specific context.” Faith has always driven black and more recently brown people of faith to rise up and speak for those who have no voice and speak out against injustices, often times carried out by the very government that is supposed to watch out for all citizens. We have numerous examples in Scripture as Rodriquez points out with Lucan theology being one of them, on how Jesus always stood for the poor against the religious elite and the powerful government. A true good news gospel is one that is not afraid to engage in politics if it is to stand up and care for the poor. There is no other way to see it. As we also saw from various videos of churches during class forum discussions, those who felt filled by the Holy Spirit, those who prayed, all were led to be the hands and feet of Jesus.
Their theology was “do as Jesus did”. Jesus was the model. A Sancocho theology is needed that recognizes all the non-western voices that bring the meat to the soup and understand “sticky rice”, “rainy season, and “leaky roof” with the Western voices that are more privileged and have the learning opportunities to know and speak of “incarnation” or “atonement” but cannot speak the language of poverty or ostracism.
The political figures and religious elite that have wrapped evangelicalism around like a scarf have done irreparable harm to the name of Jesus and the people who have understood the liberating mission of Jesus and fight to carry on that mission in the era of a Trump Presidency.
 Amanda Marcotte, “New Election Analysis: Yes, it really was blatant racism that gave us President Donald Trump,” Salon, April 19, 2017, accessed May 30, 2017, https://www.google.com/search?q=was+there+prejudice+lurking+before+trump+election&ie=utf-8&oe=utf-8
 Alec Tyson, “Behind Trump’s Victory: Divisions by race, gender, education,” Pew Research Center, November 9, 2016, accessed May 30, 2017, http://www.pewresearch.org/fact-tank/2016/11/09/behind-trumps-victory-divisions-by-race-gender-education/
 Deborah Jian Lee, “Betrayed at the Pools, Evangelicals of Color at a Crossroads”, USC Annenberg, April 27, 2017, accessed May 30, 2017, http://religiondispatches.org/betrayed-at-the-polls-evangelicals-of-color-at-a-crossroads/
 Psalm 34:8. NIV.
 Elizabeth Rios, “The Ladies Are Warriors”: Latina Pentecostalism and Faith-Based Activism in New York City,” in Latino Religions and Civic Activism in the United States, edited by Gaston Espinosa, Virgilio Elizondo and Jessie Miranda, 197-217. (New York: Oxford University Press), 2005.
 Reference to Matthew 21:12.
 Alister E. McGrath, Ed. The Christian Theology Reader, 4th Edition, (United Kingdom: John Wiley & Sons, 2011), 196.
 Ibid. 197.
 Elizabeth Rios, “Church Dropouts: Four Reasons Why We’re Losing Devoted Churchgoers,” Influence Magazine, May 11, 2017, accessed May 31, 2017 https://influencemagazine.com/practice/church-dropouts
 William A. Dryness and Oscar Garcia-Johnson, Theology Without Borders: An Introduction to Global Conversations, (Grand Rapids, MI: Baker Academics, 2015), 25.
 Dario Lopez Rodriguez, The Liberating Mission of Jesus: The Message of the Gospel of Luke, (Eugene, OR: Wipf & Stock Publishers, 2012), 2.
 Timothy Tennent. “Theological Education in the Context of World Christianity.” Lausanne movement. (May 30, 2012). Accessed June 21, 2017. https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Blh399dDtpU.
 Dario Lopez Rodriguez, The Liberating Mission of Jesus: The Message of the Gospel of Luke, (Eugene, OR: Wipf & Stock Publishers, 2012), 3.
 Kosuke Koyama as quoted in William A. Dryness and Oscar Garcia-Johnson, Theology Without Borders: An Introduction to Global Conversations, (Grand Rapids, MI: Baker Academics, 2015), 25.