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En las luchas y en las pruebas, la iglesia sigue caminando

10.19. 2015 Written By: Felipe Hinojosa 2,479 Times read

Felipe Hinojosa is assistant professor of history at Texas A&M University in College Station, Texas.

I was born in this church. In fact, compared to some of you Yoders and Millers, I play the Mennonite game better. I have no qualms about that. But let me be clear, I don’t call myself a Mennonite because I have some sort of belief system or theological perspective or because I’m anchored to the Confession of Faith.

I’m a Mennonite because that’s the church that taught me about community, and where I grew up going to church with the Solís, Hernández, and López families. It’s where I learned how to fight (literally, after church, my best friend David and I would fight with Elias and Ezekiel—a.k.a “Che-que”—Torres on the grass, under the cross that hung outside on the front wall of the church). Yeah that’s right, while my parents were saludando y platicando con los hermanos, we were thumping each other’s heads into the ground a few feet away.

While my parents never attended any of the Parent Teacher Organization (PTO) meetings or socialized much outside of the church family, they were involved en los asuntos de la iglesia. Y ¿sabes qué?, this did not include knocking on doors to “save” people or standing on street corners handing out tracts that read, “Jesus Saves.” Al contrario, el trabajo de la iglesia era estar con la gente, caminar con el pueblo, comidas, pláticas, coritos, prayers that sometimes went on for an eternity, and an eclectic worship style that switched from electric guitar and drums to a piano and an acoustic guitar. If you ever visited my church in the 1980’s or 1990’s, you would be hard pressed to tag us as Pentecostal, evangelical, or Mennonite because we were all of that. Eramos la iglesia que en las luchas y en las pruebas sigue caminando, como dice el corito.

Por eso se me quebranta el corazón cuando oigo que la mayoría de los lideres de Iglesia Menonita Hispana están considerando salirse de Mennonite Church USA. Latinas and Latinos have been struggling for a place in this denomination for more than 80 years. Y es una lucha que sigue as many current Latina/o leaders continue to be ignored, ridiculed and marginalized in the Mennonite church. The church, and society at large, views Latinos as a threat even as they laud our “work ethic.” White society praises our “family values” even as they call us “rapists and murderers.” We are viewed as “taking American jobs” even as we are blasted for having “anchor babies” that suck on the welfare system in this country.

I make these points to underscore that it’s possible that an underlying motivation to leave the denomination might also be wrapped up in years of a church that on the one hand “celebrates” our culture, wears our “ethnic” clothing, and speaks Spanish even as it ignores our political struggles (it’s not all about immigration), ridicules us, doesn’t take our theology seriously and refuses to honor our way of being the church. Do a quick scan of the literature on Anabaptist theology: how many books that presume to do comparative theological work actually engage Latina/o theology?

But that’s not the complete story. We, como comunidad Latina, have much work to do. Nosotros en la iglesia evangélica tenemos que empezar a enfrentar francamente el silencio y la ignorancia que existe sobre la comunidad gay. Hermanos y hermanas, líderes de la Iglesia Hispana, saliéndonos de MC USA no solucionará nada. Cuando se junten en noviembre, la esperanza mía es que consideren la historia de nuestra gente dentro de la Iglesia Menonita. Hemos luchado como un pueblo unido para ser parte de esta iglesia. Yo entiendo que ha sido difícil y yo sé que ustedes han sufrido mucho por esta iglesia. Es por eso que les suplico que sigan caminando con la denominación. Yo quiero que consideren la comunidad histórica que hemos fundado en esta iglesia, the covenant we have formed with each other and the church, y que estemos dispuestos a discutir temas difíciles, aprender nuevas perspectivas, y luchar por formar una iglesia que sirva las necesidades de toda la humanidad en el siglo XXI. That’s our challenge.

Leaving a church or even a denomination can be good and sometimes it is necessary. But not in this case. We can’t leave a church that is struggling to find its place and is—although quite clumsily—moving in a direction that is more reflective of God’s kin-dom.  Hermanos y hermanas, en las luchas y en las pruebas, la iglesia sigue caminando. Así dice el corito y yo lo creo. Van a ver pruebas, pero debemos seguir caminando juntos como hermanos y hermanas. Dejemos que el amor nos guíe, let’s let love guide us as we, como una comunidad de fe, seek to follow God more faithfully each and every day.  Que Dios los bendiga.

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7 Responses to “En las luchas y en las pruebas, la iglesia sigue caminando”

  1. Daagya S. Dick says:

    Gracias, hermano, por expresar una verdad compleja de manera tan elocuente y con tanta dignidad. Tiene razón – somos una iglesia en camino. Me queda todavía esperanza de que podamos encontrar el camino juntos. No dudo de que el proceso cansa, pero yo, mujer blanca casada con un hombre moreno e inmigrante, no puedo imaginar otro para nuestra familia y nuestra iglesia.

  2. Martin Navarro says:

    Herman Felipe, Gracias por articular las batallas y desafios de nuestra iglesia. Yo Como Hispano que se creio en una iglesia que es menonita de nombre, pero no tenia conecion con la denominacion, puedo entender el camino de identidad entre la historia de la Iglesia Menonita.
    La iglesia Menonita Hispana/o ha estado concentrado en entender su identidad en la denominacion entre el debate de LGBTQ. no creo que la posicion de estar en acuerdo o desacuerdo es applicable en esta situacion. Francamente como Menonita y Hispano somos generalizados.
    Cuando se pregunta si la conversacion de LGTBQ existe en la iglesia Menonita Hispana, siempre la misma respuesta se da, “que no hay una conversacion.” Es cierto no hay conversacion, porque las voces son silenciadas o calladas. No estoy diciendo que IMH debe de estar de acuerdo con las posiciones de la iglesia, pero lo que si digo es que aunque no haiga conversacion, la voces si existen. Tiene que ver conversacion mutual de entender la voces marganilazadas.

  3. Wanda Gonzalez Coleman says:

    I am a member of a Spanish Mennonite church and I am absolutely and totally in agreement with Felipe Hinjosa. I am saddened that I am being made to decide between staying with a church that I love and has taught me about community, peacemaking and tolerance. Or staying with my home church while they decide to separate. Why can’t we all love each other and learn to be tolerant and understanding of people who think differently. Yo amo a mi iglesia y mi corazon estate tan triste porque no me estan dando salida.

  4. Juan coy says:

    Estimado, Felipe: Me gustó mucho tu reflexión. Me educó acerca de tu realidad. Hablar con la verdad es crucial en todo momento. Hablar desde la perspectiva de quienes somos es necesario. Antes de empezar a leer tu artículo, me preparé, mentalmente, para leerlo estrictamente en inglés puesto que es el idioma oficial. Sin embargo, me llenó de emoción y de esperanza encontrarme con un texto que comunica una historia y una realidad que todos debemos intentar entender.

  5. Merv Horst says:

    Gibt es irgendwie einen Weg diese Posts auch auf Englisch zu uebersetzten? Ich verstand den Hauptartikel auch nur teilweise. Ich lebe in New York und verstehe Subwayspranisch, aber leider nicht viel mehr.

    • Dave Hockman-Wert says:

      Google Translate, my friend. That’s how I understood what you were asking. Um, more or less…

      “Is there anyway a way these posts to translated also in English? I understood the main items even partially . I live in New York and understand Subwayspranisch , but not much more .”

  6. M. South says:

    One of the things I found most troubling was what, to me, seemed the tone-deaf reaction to what should have been the veto to the Phoenix conference location because of the Hispanic Church’s universal opposition to it.

    There is a sense in which the older ethnic community has an ownership of the church that takes precedent over those who weren’t born into it. Outsiders can participate, but it is easier to not only dispense with their concerns if not held by the ethnic owners of the church, but also to see them leave when there is conflict.

    Ironically for anabaptists, whose forefathers rejected automatic universal membership in a church through birth in state churches, membership in the Mennonite church has become a hereditary entitlement. This also peculiarly accounts for the inability to resolve the LGBT controversy. In any society, there will be varying commitment to faith and belief. If the community is predicated on common faith, that is easier to resolve than in a case where the church membership pre-exists a commitment to a common faith, and one belongs primarily through ethnic identity, which ethnicity is hardly identical to a common faith. Just as in the larger society it mirrors, there will be a multiplicity of beliefs, some of them contrary.

    This is true among those raised in a Latino heritage too. However, it so happens that in that church, the LGBT heresy has not penetrated as far as it has in the mainstream American church, where the secular Anglo culture is more fully mirrored, a development that is rooted in the sexual revolution. The shallow theology owes more to the self-indulgence of the sixties’ Summer of Love than it does to a scriptural understanding of what God’s love for us means.

    There is a sadness in leaving any relationship; the grief when it is because of faith differences has a unique dimension. When the faith differences are between what amount to ethnic and family relations, other than faith considerations add to the reluctance and emotional cost, sometimes tempting us to push the faith considerations to the background in favor of family compromise.

    It’s easier, therefore, for the anabaptist Hispanic church to separate itself from a communion it was only provisionally accepted in.

    The the real question is one of loyalty to God, rather than to the human temptation to discriminate, either for one’s own family, or against another. Our unity should be in Christ first.

    It’s idolatry to place faithfulness to family above faith in God: Jesus, asked to give first place to his mother and brothers, rebuked this temptation: “Who is my mother and who are my brothers? Those who hear the Word of God and obey.”