Meeting in Colorado and California, some of the nation's top urban outreach leaders agreed in November that racial reconciliation is not solely a black and white issue.
In Denver for the seventh annual Christian Community Development Association (CCDA) conference, opening night keynote speaker Manny Ortiz of Westminster Theological Seminary in Escondido, California, challenged the crowd of 2,000 to "move the discussion on race past black and white to include Latinos and Asians."
CCDA board chair John Perkins and president Wayne Gordon joined Ortiz, the keynote speaker at last year's historic gathering between the National Association of Evangelicals (NAE) and National Black Evangelical Association (CT, Feb. 8, 1995, p. 48), in calling for reconciliation efforts targeted to all Christians.
Meanwhile, in Long Beach, California, at the second annual Alianza de Ministerios Evangelicos Nacionales (AMEN) conference, Jesse Miranda of Azusa Pacific University confirmed this Latino-focused association is a willing partner with Christian groups of all ethnicities in accomplishing the mission of the church.
"Latino Christians coming together under the umbrella of AMEN is about specialization on a key area of need--Latino church development--not segregation from the church at large," said Miranda, AMEN's president.
Miranda noted that AMEN leaders have discussed joint ventures with Promise Keepers, AD 2000, the NAE, and Discipling a Whole Nation (DAWN) Ministries.
ROOTS OF RECONCILIATION: John Perkins, publisher of Urban Family magazine, is the force behind CCDA. Years before racial concerns gripped the evangelical church, Perkins urged leaders to be reconciled across racial lines.
Operating from Mississippi, and later California, Perkins carried on a long crusade during the 1970s and 1980s before helping to found CCDA.
CCDA serves as a forum for the honest yet healing dialogue many Christians desire. Chris Rice, coauthor with Spencer Perkins of "More Than Equals," notes that within CCDA, Christians "can get past white guilt and black anger and build a spirit of trust and commitment."
LATINO UNITY: Like CCDA, AMEN is a young movement. Born out of Pew Charitable Trust-sponsored gatherings of top-level U.S. Latino leaders in 1992, the first AMEN conference in 1994 (CT, Feb. 6, 1995, p. 38) not only created the organization, but also helped forge Latino Protestant unity.
"The community of Latino Christians is no monolith," Miranda says. "There is great diversity among ethnic backgrounds--Cubans, Mexicans, Puerto Ricans, Central and South Americans--as well as in denominational and theological positions, and finding common ground takes time and participation."
Latino Protestants number 5 million, and the selection of Miranda as AMEN's first president signifies the desire of this fast-growing sector of the evangelical church to build bridges, according to Danny DeLeon, host of the Spanish-language 700 Club television program.
"Bringing together different organizations, denominations, and doctrinal points of view is not easy, but Jesse has the ability to build unity within amen and with people outside it," DeLeon says.
INTERNAL RECONCILIATION: As CCDA and AMEN develop hopeful opportunities for better race relations in churches, each organization is confronting issues of internal reconciliation.
In his CCDA address, Ortiz cautioned members to avoid creating a new black/white majority that perpetuates the marginalization of Latinos and Asians. CCDA leaders took the critique to heart. During the conference, Perkins announced a board decision to increase Latino, Asian, and Native American board representation, and Gordon later affirmed that CCDA would continue inclusive efforts such as cosponsorship of a Hispanic ministry preconference track with the Hispanic Association of Bilingual Bicultural Ministries (HABBM).
"We want to grow to become a multi-racial association, where we see each other as equals and believe that each of us has inherent dignity because we were created in the image of God," Perkins said.
For AMEN, the organization's very existence is tied to reconciliation. AMEN members come from 21 different Latin American and Caribbean countries, as well as Spain and Canada, and represent 27 religious groups, from Southern Baptist to independent Pentecostal.
Another challenge of reconciliation, according to Luis Madrigal, executive director of HABBM and an AMEN member, involves accommodating U.S. Latino demographic shifts.
"Hispanics are thought of as Spanish-speakers and immigrants, and the majority of Hispanic churches reflect this perspective," Madrigal says. "But this perspective is reality for only half of the Hispanic community." Madrigal cites studies showing that the U.S. Latino community is bilingual and bicultural, with more than half of all Latinos being U.S.-born and speaking English as well as or better than Spanish.
To be sensitive to this linguistic and cultural diversity, AMEN members took a critical step voting for amen to be officially bilingual, the first national Latino church organization to place English prominently alongside Spanish.
Copyright © 1996 Christianity Today. Click for reprint information.
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