In a Journey of Accompaniment & Service to Emerging Leaders

Why is our denomination where it is today? How can it change?

Written byManuel Padilla

The makeup of the Hispanic and Latino community today is very different from the images of it carried in the minds of United Methodist laity and clergy. Too often, an uninformed understanding of this community leads to inaction by local churches, their members and their leaders. The four graphics below should give you enough information to reflect upon the current state and future vision of United Methodist ministry with this rapidly growing U.S. Hispanic and Latino population.


While the number of U.S. foreign-born Hispanics and Latinos has flattened out over the past 10 years, due in part to increased U.S. border enforcement and removal processes, the number of U.S. born Hispanics continues to rise sharply. Those born and raised here are automatically U.S. citizens, their first language is English and they are cultural products of the U.S. educational system. They are also part of the standard U.S. workforce. They are bicultural Americans.


These are the percentages of Hispanic and Latino adults in the language categories. 44% (16 million) speak mostly or only English. 56% of the adults (20.3 million) speak only or mostly Spanish. Over the next 2 years, 2.7 million English-speaking Hispanic teenagers will become adults. Five years later another 4.8 million will become adults. Given that the U.S. is now experiencing a net loss of Hispanic and Latino foreign born, within 7 years there should be over 4 million more English-speaking U.S. Hispanic and Latino adults than Spanish-speaking ones. We are turning a big corner on language.


17% of people in the U.S. are Hispanic or Latino. One-tenth of one percent (0.1%) are Hispanic or Latino United Methodists. And yet, language and citizenship are no longer overriding factors in most cases, and many United Methodist churches in the U.S. now find themselves in neighborhoods that are now or are becoming multicultural.


This graph shows the 7 categories of people appointed to serve United Methodist churches, including the Hispanic ones. Most of our current pastors are Spanish speakers, because boards of ordained ministry and seminaries are not recruiting new Hispanic candidates in numbers commensurate with the U.S. demographic reality described above.

An invitation to reflect further

How are so many businesses able to effectively recruit bilingual and English-speaking Hispanic workers? What can the church and its clergy community learn from them?

With 2 out of every 3 Hispanic and Latino people in the U.S. being U.S. citizens, what will local churches need to overcome in order to reach out and include them?

What will it take to get to a point where 25 to 30% of United Methodist laity are Hispanic and Latino?



Hispanic Nativity Shift: Pew Research
Language Usage: Arizona Hispanic Chamber of Commerce
Hispanics within the UMC: GBHEM
Clergy Demographics: GBHEM


2 Replies
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Aquiles Martinez

2015-02-18 22:23:23
I appreciate the information provided as a way of starting the dialogue :-). I'd like to simply respond to the three questions asked above with a few observations: 1) To frame this question with the presupposition that "businesses" and "churches" are comparable and that, consequently, we must look for "lessons" in the business world that will help us recruit bi-lingual Latinos/as, is not only WRONG but also A SIGN OF HOW DEEP OUR IDENTITY CRISIS IS and HOW DIFFICULT IT WILL BE FOR US TO ADDRESS IT. In our churches and even in grass-roots organization EVERYTHING is motivated, oriented and executed in terms of the neo-liberal, Capitalist model that SHAPES OF ALL US. The sad part of this is that very few people dare to dismantle this situation in order to explore better ways of being "God's people" or that perhaps could move us closer to what our churches are or should be. Despite the almighty nature of Business values driving our lives, it is about time we confront this subtle ideology that goes "unnoticed" that forces us to play by the rules of "the Dow Jones" and that people as "merchandise." Now, if you believe that the UMC is "a business" and you are happy with it (which, in fact, that is what the UMC is), then this question is "valid" and you should give the business suggestions they are looking for. 2) On the issue of the churches "reaching out," I sadly confess that "the church" cannot reach out to anybody because THE CHURCH NEEDS TO REACH OUT TO ITSELF FIRST. This is basic Psychology! A healthy sense of self is the basis of any healthy relationship with others. But we have moved away from this elemental principle. Theologically, as you might remember, in "the Parable of the Good Samaritan," the real issue if NOT defining who my neighbor is and who is not, but WHETHER I AM ACTING NEIGHBORLY OR NOT. You see, everything BEGINS AND ENDS with our "egos" but in always in relational terms. Jesus, Luke or both HAD IT RIGHT!!!! 3) Approaching reality from the standpoint of NUMBERS (and our society is obsessed with statistics) and giving us a PERCENTAGE to shut for as we share suggestions to achieve this goal, not only turn Latinos/Hispanics into CUANTITATIVE ABSTRACTIONS, but it also OBJECTIFIES our people, men and women with whom I must walk in solidarity because I want for them to walk with ME in the same way. It is the Golden Rule in its most rudimentary expression. Solidarity does produce results :-)
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Stacy Guinto-Salinas

2015-02-05 00:42:28
As a United Methodist, it is very depressing for me to see the small inclusion of Hispanic/Latinxs in leadership roles within the United Methodist church, both laity and clergy. Hispanic/Latinxs are the fastest growing racial group in the country, yet their presence is not increasing in our churches. If we claim to be a Church that is seeking to be multicultural/multiethnic, our leadership needs to reflect this. The statistics above demonstrate the Church's failure to extend its ministry to the Hispanic/Latinx population and other minority groups in the country. Local churches need to start a dialogue that is inclusive for all of those in their community. Churches must overcome the "fear" of those who look and speak differently from them and be willing to genuinely share Christ's love with their neighbors-- all neighbors, not just the white neighbors. I honestly believe that change needs to start in the ground level of the local church, not necessarily in big church agencies and boards.