History of the
One vision with a united voice
The formation of the Coalition of Episcopal Latinos is the fruit of a long gestation period; something normal in the Spanish-speaking world. Individualism triumphs at the time of launching common enterprises. It is not unusual, then, that Hispanic Episcopalians have suffered from this malady that is often so characteristic.
According to Butch Gamarra, Latinos in the Episcopal Church have previously often found themselves in a disadvantaged situation by not being able to rely on an institution that would provide power and unity to and for Hispanic ministry.
Early in the 1980s, an organization called the “Consulta” (The Consultation) was formed to advocate in matters of peace and justice. It was a coalition of progressive organizations in the Episcopal Church such as UBE (Union of Black Episcopalians), Integrity, EUC (Episcopal Urban Caucus), Episcopal Women´s Caucus, etc. The idea was that “unity creates strength”. The Consultation debuted at General Convention in
The Consultation continues as strong as ever, and is an organization that carries weight and exerts influence within the Church. It has a website worth visiting, at: http://theconsultation.org .. There you will find the members of the Consultation listed. The Platform of The Consultation is also available there in both English and Spanish.
In meetings and conferences of The Consultation, those groups in the church listed above were represented, but there was no official representation of Hispanics, until Butch decided to intervene, and was from that time on invited as representative of the Hispanic community. He would represent the interests of the Latino community and its previous efforts to start an organization of Latino Episcopalians.
In the end, a group of twelve constituents calling themselves the Coalition of Hispanic Episcopalians (CHE) was formed. In time, it became one of the organizations that contributed to the further development of The Consultation. The name was not well liked by other Latinos who criticized it on the basis of political implications. However, they continued to be the only Hispanic presence in The Consultation. Butch was instrumental in introducing people who have since become influential in their own specific ethnic area, such as: Robert Two Bulls on behalf of the indigenous group in Province VIII; Anthony Guillén; Warren Wong and Hisako Beasley of the Asian group, etc. When Presiding Bishop Edmund Browning was elected in 1985, he asked that CHE be included as an equal organization to the other members of The Consultation. But, CHE, in the end, ceased to exist.
The National Office of Hispanic Ministries convened the First Congress of Hispanic Episcopalians, “with the purpose of celebrating the growing Hispanic presence in society and in the Episcopal Church in the
The objectives of the meeting consisted of reviewing the successes, failures and opportunities of Hispanic ministry; studying the existing models of such ministries and embarking on new focuses; and to elaborate on a new national vision that would encourage and revitalize the whole church in this field; ultimately they wanted to establish a national organization of Hispanic Episcopalians that would move forward with that mission in the United States.
In the plenary session on the 31st of October, one group of congress delegates expressed concern because the organizing commission had gone ahead and started developing the By Laws that would govern the future new organization. They objected that the organizers had presented the By Laws as finished and asked that the nature of the association be accepted by the whole assembly per the newly written By Laws by a commission formed by the congress.
That being the situation, the congress decided to elect an ad hoc committee of 22 members, representing the 22 dioceses that were represented at the congress. At the end of the day, the committee presented a slate of new By Laws that differed little from the first ones. In that way, a momentary crisis that impacted the resolve of some was averted. A vision of the Church in the context of Hispanic ministry was approved, in these words:
“A Church that celebrates Christ as its Lord and savior, dedicated to unfolding models of autochthonous ministry, united, multilingual, that includes people from all races and cultures, that responds to the cultural diversity of the Hispanic population, a growing Church that educates, celebrates and serves, and in the end, a prophetic Church that proclaims the Good News through its words and deeds in the midst of the people”.
The vision also affirmed “the creation of representative ministries inclusive of all levels of ecclesiastic government, the functioning of an active program of effective stewardship and evangelism, and the empowerment of leaders of both sexes for the different ministries in the Church in the 21st century”.
On All Saints Day, in the morning during breakfast, the committee presented the last redaction of the By Laws: “The National Hispanic Organization of Episcopalians (ONHE) had been created!”, it was said. The Primate of the Church, Edmund L. Browning, lifted up those present in the Eucharist, commending the gifts that Hispanic people were bringing to the Episcopal Church.
This congress germinated during the General Convention in Phoenix, Arizona when the need for having an organization that functioned independently of the National Commission of Hispanic Ministries and the National Office for Hispanic Ministry was seen; it was convened by Canon Herbert Arrunátegui and the following planning committee: clergy members James Hagen, Leopoldo Alard, Miguel Vilar, José Carlo, Luís Quiroga, Anselmo Carral, and lay members Manuel Mesa, Francisco Laurier, and Carlos Zervigón.
It was here that the birth and flowering of Hispanic ministry were to be found in those years. However, these great hopes were demolished, and little came to pass despite all the efforts. The illusion of being able to count on an organization of Hispanic Episcopalians was tossed to the wind. Just a few weeks after getting the news about the new organization, some had already sought membership and sent in their applications, but many did not receive any notice giving them signs of life. A great opportunity lost! There is no doubt that the time was not yet right.
In 2002, from the 13th to the 16th of May, more than 200 Latino Episcopal clergy and lay persons gathered in
In his opening speech, Bishop Leo Frade asked for: “An efficient and independent organization that represents all Hispanics, all Latinos in the Church, which permits us to double our efforts to revitalize the evangelizing mission and fight for the social rights of our Latin American brothers and sisters”.
On the last day, the final discourse was under the leadership of Bishop Wilfrido Ramos-Orench, who encouraged those present to return to their respective dioceses with the idea of remaining united. “The unity of Hispanic/Latino Episcopalians – he affirmed – is not an option: it is an urgent necessity”.
This was one of the key points of New Awakening: the creation of an organization of Hispanic Episcopalians, similar to UBE. The participants did not want to lose this vision as the occasion from which the first step toward its realization could be taken. But it was not to be. Another excellent opportunity was lost.
It is evident that the result was something amorphous. If there is no leader, or group of leaders, to give it direction, all ends up being words and good wishes.
In an Immigration Summit gathering, that took place at the
The Reverend Canon Carmen Guerrero began to reflect on the decisive help that an association of Latino Episcopalians could lend in this sense: an Episcopal coalition without being part of the organizational structure of the Episcopal Church. Such an organization would collaborate with and for the Church, but would have an independent identity. Carmen and The Rev. Silvestre Romero decided to gather a group of people who could take the first steps in this regard. More than fifteen were invited. All liked the idea, but not all could attend the first meeting.
Meanwhile, Carmen took on the task of speaking with some of the leaders of the UBE, and she began to review UBE’s By Laws in an effort to began to form some By Laws that could be used for the Latino/Hispanic Episcopal community by using their By Laws as a guide. She wrote this document in Spanish and then sent the results to The Rev. Isaías Rodriguez for his review and corrections. After much considerable work, the first draft was completed.
The name of this new organization was to be as follows: A Syndicate of Latino Episcopalians, with the acronym SEL. It was decided to have the first meeting at the
Carmen Guerrero was the host and facilitator of the meeting, which began with a prayer led by Butch Gamarra. Then they participated in a short exercise called “the conversation” (La Platica) that helped the participants reflect on the enterprise upon which they were about to embark.
One of the first decisions was to change the name of the organization, given that for some the word “syndicate” had negative connotations. The new name would be Coalición de Episcopales Latinos (CEL), [Coalition of Episcopal Latinos].
Those present all participated in discussing the draft of the By Laws draft that was presented, and over the course of the discussion, the text was edited in content and form. A final revision on which all could agree was brought about.
The next steps to be taken, with respect to the By Laws, were to bring to fruition all the corrections to complete an official text. Carmen Guerrero took the responsibility for translating it and proceeding with the incorporation of the organization.
During the meeting, Mrs. Judy Conley, ex-president of UBE, offered substantial information about the history of that organization. She also responded favorably to all the questions of those who asked.
To give weight and seriousness to the event, Silvestre suggested that those present should be the first by example with a monetary commitment. Butch suggested $100.00 per person, and all were in accord.
One of the requirements to incorporate an organization was to establish a Board of Directors and a physical address where the corporation would initially reside. No one in the group wanted to accept that responsibility, but in the end, seeing the urgency, a temporary Board of Directors was formed as follows: president, Carmen Guerrero; vice-president Isaías Rodriguez; treasurer, Enrique Cadena; secretaries, Anna Lange-Soto and Silvestre Romero; and the rest having voice in the organization.
In closing, each person assumed specific responsibilities in preparation for the next meeting, which would take place at the beginning of March 2010 to prepare for the first annual gathering to be held in September of 2010, at which Board of Directors could become permanent for designated terms, and the other necessary committees would be formed.