I’m glad and grateful that the National Plan for Hispanic/Latino Ministry has taken the initiative to organize this third consultation on Hispanic/Latino Ministry. However, I come to this consultation with a healthy and constructive dose of suspicion. If the past is the best predictor of future behavior, then events of this sort typically don’t result in anything substantial. However, I believe that some good things can happen if several elements align themselves as coincidence or, better yet, if we use our intentionality to help make them happen.
Since I ‘m a firm believer that true debate can’t take place unless we first deal with tough questions and address critical issues with total openness and well-grounded insights, I’d like to use this opportunity to spice up our conversation by means of a series of interconnected rhetorical questions.
How can we talk about developing strong leaders and implementing relevant ministries when…
1.- we don’t really know who we are, where we came from or where we are; we have no real message to share, much less to model; we don’t know where we’re going; and, worst of all, no one is following us? What, then, are we going to talk about?
2.- we still hold onto a dualistic, arrogant, selfish religious ideology that preaches that the church is God’s chosen instrument, called and sent to save the world? In fact, the church has never been or done that. It can’t even save itself; and, as a result, it needs instead to be redeemed by the world.
3.- we only have a very narrow-minded understanding of what it means to be the church; (literally, ”assembly”) and, at the end of the day, we’re not really open to other forms of being in community and acting as community?
4.- we’re still in love with and worship a God who seems more like an idolatrous, alienating abstraction, an ethereal illusion removed from this world of suffering, hope, and possibility?
5.- in the eyes of the world, we have nothing to offer, since we can’t offer what we don’t have?
6.- our notion of leadership is always a replica some business model, focused on external skills and techniques to be implemented; and ignoring context, circumstance, and the idea that the exercise of power is always an extension of our own emotional and psychological issues, whether good or bad?
7.- the older generation (with its insecurity, need to control and be validated, and its constant appeal to its own experience as the real source of wisdom and the priesthood of all believers) doesn’t let the younger generation take over, unless it does so on the older generation’s terms and repeats its older forms of ministry that are alienating?
8.- the younger generation complains and criticizes the church’s current leadership for not thinking of them, instead of being more proactive and not letting the older generation patronize them? And, when the new generations are given the chance to play a significant role, why do they always choose to reproduce the same irrelevant models of the past?
9.- we’re happy and grateful to be treated as “that church of the basement;” and no one has the guts to denounce this because, at the end of the day, we’re not here to protect our people and defend their dignity, but to keep our jobs?
10.- the Hispanic community’s models for theological education and curriculum continue to be self-imposed, shameful translations or replicas of non-Hispanic/Latino models and curricula?
11.- we continue to be obsessed with demographic “studies” that turn the realities of our churches and communities into simplistic utilitarian objectifications, preceded and followed by very superficial thought-processes?
12.- many of our leaders confuse the vocation (calling) to service with a career; and then, because of what they’ve become and what they’ve been trained to do, are really in the wrong place and should be doing something else with their lives?
As we engage the issues that questions like these raise, I hope we can learn more about the condition of our church and its leaders (and whether there really is hope or not), only based on the comments that these kinds of questions and the consultation itself can generate.