The Episcopal Church with a Latino face

By Cesar Cardoza
Posted Jul 4, 2012

[Episcopal News Service – Indianapolis] Numbers don’t lie. According to the U.S. Census Bureau 2010 more than half of the population growth in the country is Latino.

The Hispanic population grew 43 percent between 2000 and 2010. The Episcopal community in the U.S. is becoming more “Latina” by leaps and bounds, and it is growing from within, with many of its younger members being first-generation Americans.

For Carlos de la Torre, this story is personal: this young seminarian immigrated to the U.S. when he was five years old. Today, he feels just as easy with the Peruvian culture of his parents and the culture of the country that opened the doors for them. “There is not a “typical Latino,” he says, “but in general [he or she] is someone who works hard, appreciates diversity and puts it to action.” The church is changing , he adds — there is no choice, “but the change is something good.”

The Episcopal Church is assimilating the cultural heritage of its members, from liturgy to the development of ministries for the present and the future.

The Rev. Canon Simon Bautista, diocesan missionary for Latino ministries in Washington, D.C., explains that he sees an example with his own children. “The older ones … one can tell that they have that mix … their Latino heritage and being born and raised in the U.S. On one hand they celebrate all things important for U.S. Latinos and they celebrate with just as much passion things related to their culture and the fact that they are Americans.”

A new way of being Episcopalian

For the Rev. Daniel Velez/Rivera, interim rector of the Church of St. Michael and All Angels in Baltimore, Maryland, the reality is quite similar. “The church is integrating … is like intertwining the Latino community with the English-speaking community, forming a single church — diverse, yet under a single roof.”

With the Latino population in the U.S. growing four times faster than any other demographic segment, it is not a surprise that the emerging population, inside and out of the Episcopal environment, celebrate Independence Day with fireworks and parades — as a prelude for “Sancocho, tamales and, of course, apple pie.

–Cesar Cardoza is a member of the Episcopal News Service team at General Convention.