As I’ve mentioned, the House of Bishops is meeting in Phoenix, AZ from September 16 to 21. Here’s the wrap-up of today’s activities as it was provided by The Episcopal Church Office of Public Affairs:
- Bishop John Rabb of Maryland introduced a guest, Bishop Samson Das of the Church of North India. Rabb added this was the first time a bishop from the Church of North India attended a HOB meeting.
- Bishop Kirk Smith of Diocese of Arizona presented a video depicting an overview of the recent border trip. He talked about undocumented Episcopalians who participate in church life. He called Arizona “the epicenter of discussion in this country about immigration,” naming it the human rights issue of our time. Smith shared statistics: In 2020 one-third of the United States population will be Hispanic, and in some states it will be 50%. The United States is the second largest Spanish-speaking country in the world, surpassed only by Mexico. He pointed out that the church has been slow to respond, and doing Hispanic ministry requires understanding a whole new concept. “These people are our people,” he said. “They are God’s people.” Bishop Smith emphasized that immigration is THE civil rights issue of our time.
- Joe Rubio, senior organizer of the Valley Interfaith Program presented an overview of political and economic issues. “This country deals with this issue every 25-30 years,” he said. “The last time was 1986 with the Immigration Control act signed by President Reagan.” While it provided amnesty, it did not provide a means for people to come into this country. Arizona is the main way into this country from Mexico and noted that frustration is on all sides. Arizona Bill 1070 was the flashpoint and he predicts the situation will get more dangerous. He pointed out: “There is no way we are going to be able to deport 12 million people” which would cost an estimated $240 billion. Immigrants pay $2.4 billion in taxes. Immigrants work mainly in construction, hospitality, and agricultural industries. Underscoring the complexity of the issue of immigration, he pointed out, is that there is a benefit to a younger immigrant population balancing the aging population of the United States. His suggestions for the future: “We need to work on comprehensive immigration reform. We need to bring 12 million people out of the shadows. It needs to be bipartisan.” He said the passage of the Dream Act would be significant if it passed. The story needs to be changed to show that “people are willing to come here, work hard and educate their children. Immigration has always changed the way this country worked, but in a positive way.”
- Speaking in Spanish, translated by the Rev. Canon Carmen Guerroro, “La Senora,” an undocumented worker who wished to stay anonymous, told her story with deep heartfelt emotions. When her mother died, she needed to return to Mexico. In order to return to the United States and family, she walked with 45 others for two days with no water in the desert. She asked HOB, “Please say to President Obama, just because we are Hispanic, it does not mean we are criminals. We just want a better life for our children.” She wants her children to say in the future, “Because my mother took humiliation from the Americans, my mother is taking all of this to give us a better life. The only reason I am here is because I want something important for my children. They are not criminals.” When the law was signed by the governor of Arizona, her eight-year-old son asked what happens if she is taken away. “It was a very hard thing to hear,” she said, adding that he fears coming home from school and her not being there. Through tears she told of her husband’s recent heart attack, and asked for prayers. “He is a very good man, a very good father, a very good husband.” Her presentation was concluded with a standing ovation by HOB.
- The Rev. Seth Polley shared vignettes of life that have made an impact since he because border missioner, including people leaving the church as a result of immigration issues, the understanding that the border patrol provides humane service and should not be demonized, and the death of a rancher by drug dealers in the desert, which prompted him to note: “This country’s insatiable appetite for drugs killed the rancher as much as the drug trafficker. Illegal drugs are killing people in the desert.”
- The Rev. Mark Adams spoke of being asked, “Do you support illegal immigration?” Calling it “a divine moment when the spirit speaks something beyond what you are saying,” he replied, “I don’t want to support illegal immigration, but I support illegal immigration every day: anytime I buy oranges, or eat in a restaurant, or when I travel and stay a hotel, if I play golf, or go into a building that has been built in the last 10 years, I am supporting illegal immigration,” naming this situation “the complexities of our lives and how they are intertwined.” He also said that words are part of the demonization: illegal aliens, vigilantes.
- The Rev. Canon Carmen Guerroro addressed Popular Religiosity, specifically Latin American Popular Religiosity, and offered an understanding on “why we do certain things in our church as Episcopalians and as Hispanics/Latinos.” She provided the history and importance of many cultural customs and holidays. She impressed upon the bishops the need for the church to value and find ways to preserve and honor such traditions, Dia de los Reyes (Day of the Kings) on Epiphany; Dia de los Muertos on the Feast of the Faithful Departed, and Our Lady of Guadalupe on December 12, to name a few.
- The Rev. Enrique Cadena, Vicar of San Pablo in Phoenix, AZ shared cultural experiences in the Hispanic/Latino community, with a focus on pastoral ministry and leadership development.
- Facilitated by Bishop Leo Frade, Diocese of Southeast Florida, an eight-member panel discussed three key points: what are the unique challenges of ministry in the Hispanic context; what do bishops need to know about Latino/Hispanic population; what is needed to understand for Latino/Hispanic ministry. Among their points: they announced the formation of Coalition of Episcopal Latinos; in the 2010 census there were 35 million Latino/Hispanics, with an estimate of 80 million by 2050; family is the most important value in Latino/Hispanic culture, and ministry to one group includes ministry to all family members. Among the panel members were: Miguel Carmona, lay youth ministry of the Diocese of Arizona; Dulce Carmona, lay children’s minister; Bishop Francisco Duque of Colombia; Canon Guerrero; Cathedral Dean Nicholas Knisely of Arizona; Manuel Meza, Diocese of Southeast Florida; the Rev. Isaias Rodriguez, Diocese of Atlanta; Enrique Ruiz, lay leader of Arizona.