It seems that immigration is the topic du jour in almost any conversation to be had today about current events. After a tumultuous election in which immigration was a hot button, the subject is intensifying as we move into the execution of President Trump’s direction in the years ahead. Wherever you stand on this topic, there can be no denying the inevitable growth of the Hispanic population in the United States. Indeed, it is a rising tide. And for the most part, although change can be difficult for some, it should be a welcome phenomenon.
There is a wonderful series of articles from The Economist that describes various aspects and impacts of Hispanic immigration. Read them here. Embedded in this long series of articles is a very good discussion of the religious trends and implications. Click here to read the article.
After reading Deacon Bill’s great series on ‘How Religion is Changing in America’, I came across these articles and they provided a bit of an epiphany for me. My assumption was that the vast majority of Hispanics are Catholic and changing that bedrock reality is not something that would waver. I was unaware of the rising trend of Hispanics to turn to the evangelical church. If it’s true that as many as 600,000 Hispanics (1 in 6 Hispanics in America) defect from the Catholic Church every year and that most turn to Evangelical church, it is an unprecedented cultural shift. In terms of explanation, the idea that most come to America seeking a better life, I guess one could see the uplifting message that the Evangelicals bring as a reasonable explanation.
Beyond the politics of the issue, the general hypothesis is that the Evangelical church offers a simple, intense, welcoming atmosphere in which people can worship God in an uplifting manner. Conversely, the Catholic Church offers a place that is a ‘link to home’. A place where the devotees can return at least for a short time to their homeland. The interesting thing is that they are not really competitors. Because the competitor is Secularism. The competitor is, as Deacon Bill says, the easy route of being ‘spiritual but not religious’ is growing in the Hispanic community like everywhere else.
But what about the Episcopalian church, and specifically St. Bart's? Ours is a church that welcomes all, we have a beautiful and uplifting liturgy, our outreach programs are strong and growing, and ‘we have open hearts and open minds’. How can we reach this growing segment of our population and bring them to the table?
As stated, the issue of immigration is a hot topic, but by just looking at the statistics and trends, it is obviously an issue that Americans must come to terms with. So far, politics has gotten in the way of comprehensive immigration reform, but the imperative for change is growing steadily. Those of us who live in close proximity to the border and perhaps understand and empathize more with the plight of Hispanic immigrants, should be in the vanguard for helping to develop policies that will stay true to our centuries old tradition of welcoming and assimilating new people and cultures to our country.
Mike is a long time parishioner at St Bart’s who has served in many ministries and is currently on Vestry. He has been married to Patty for 45 years and is the proud father of two and grandfather of six. Mike is a retired Naval Aviator and is also a retired aerospace executive. He enjoys spending time with his family, traveling the world, a bit of golf, and is currently the President-elect of the Rotary Club of Rancho Bernardo.