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Hispanic Protestants from 27 denominations are saying AMEN to a ministry that unifies them.
The National Alliance of Evangelical Ministries, or AMEN, promotes unity among diverse Latino subcultures and develops leaders, director Jesse Miranda told Religion Today. The denominations and about 70 parachurch groups belong to the six-year-old California-based group, called Alianza de Ministerios Evangelicos Nacionales in Spanish.
Hispanics are the fastest-growing ethnic population in the United States - increasing almost four times as fast as the rest of the population. They comprise people whose ancestries range from pure Spanish to mixtures that include Native American, African, German, Italian, and other European cultures, U.S. News and World Report said. Most speak Spanish, but many speak only English. There is no all-encompassing Hispanic subculture, but rather a mixture of some 17 dominant subcultures, the report said.
Most people think of Hispanics as Catholic, but a growing number are Protestant, said Miranda, a professor at Azusa Pacific University. Of the more than 27 million Hispanics in the United States, 6.2 million are Protestant, surveys show.
AMEN's ultimate goal is to unify the church as a whole, Miranda said. "We envision the unity of the Spirit among all believers, and to do that we must see unity among ourselves first," he said.
More leaders are needed to evangelize Hispanic communities, Miranda said. The ministry holds regional seminars and national convocations that have trained thousands of Hispanics in the United States, Canada, Puerto Rico, and northern Mexico to identify and meet the needs of their communities, he said.
Hispanics need better teaching materials and opportunities for higher education. "Hispanic churchgoers don't have the same opportunities and materials that Anglos have" because they are poor and may not read English well, Miranda said. Few publishing companies produce study materials in Spanish and none are as good as English materials, he said. Sunday school teachers are not well trained and only about 2% of seminary students are Hispanic.
Hispanic evangelicals "feel they are on the outside looking in," Miranda said, "because the mainstream church does not embrace Hispanic immigrants." Because of their darker skin, Hispanics don't assimilate as easily as earlier European immigrants, he said. They have maintained a separate language and culture, making it more difficult for mainstream churches to minister in their neighborhoods and include Hispanics in services, he said.
Increased Hispanic immigration could be a sovereign move of God to bring revival to the United States, Miranda said. Churches that reach out to Hispanics are blessed by their lively worship style and an infectious enthusiasm that enlivens the "stale and over-religious services in the average church," he said. Because many live in poverty they have a greater need of God than others and "may be closer to Him."
Hispanics want more than just a token participation in churches. An integrated church will reflect Spanish culture in its services and include Hispanic leaders, Miranda said. "It's more than just cosmetic changes and all being under one roof." Such churches are likely to attract young Hispanic professionals who are looking for a deeper spirituality and are leaving other churches, he said.
AMEN is studying successful evangelistic outreaches in U.S. cities in order to replicate them, Miranda said. The ministry will conduct national surveys to assess the impact of the Hispanic church on individuals and public life, and understand what Hispanics think about social and political issues. Other surveys will poll Latino elected officials, clergy, and lay leaders.
The group is the brainchild of Hispanic evangelical leaders, Miranda said. It was formed in 1994 during a convocation in Long Beach, Calif., of 500 Hispanic leaders from the United States, Puerto Rico, northern Mexico, and Canada.