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Posted June 7, 2006

Ecumenism for America’s Hispanic Christians

Father Rausch, SJ
Origins. June 1. Vol. 36. No.3

An Excerpt from the Introduction:

While “the ecumenical climate has changed forever” since Vatican Council II, “hostilities are still strong” between Hispanic Catholics and Hispanic evangelicals and Pentecostals, Jesuit Father Thomas Rausch, T. Marie Chilton Professor of Theology at Loyola Marymount University in Los Angeles, said in a May 9 speech to the meeting of the National Association of Diocesan Ecumenical Officers in San Jose, Calif.

But Rausch also said “the growing Hispanic presence [in America] might just lead to a revitalization of Christian life in the United States.” If the tensions are obvious between these two communities, he said, they “also share a number of values and concerns.” For example, “Hispanic Catholics and evangelical Christians share a similar worldview,” and research suggests that “Latino Catholics and Pentecostals have much more in common politically than is generally recognized.”

It has been suggested that massive level of Hispanic immigration may lead not to a secularization of American religion and culture but to a ‘re-Christianization of American society.”

He cited losses of Catholics to evangelical and Pentecostal communities, but said that despite this — due to high birth rates and immigration – the “actual raw numbers” of Hispanic Catholics have increased.

“The very energy of the growing Latino community, both Catholic and evangelical/Pentecostal, and the values they share suggest that it would make far more sense for them to work together.” But steps by individuals on both sides are needed “to overcome the inertia resulting from years of estrangement.”

Excerpts from the talk:

“If some find their personal lives transformed, these changes of ecclesial allegiance introduce painful divisions into Hispanic families.”

“There is also some evidence emerging that many Latino Catholics who convert to Pentecostalism later leave and end up not practicing any religion at all.”

“There are many social issues shared by Catholics and evangelical Hispanic Christians that offer opportunities for joint witness. If bishops and church leaders were to join their voices, they could offer an example of evangelical and Roman Catholic leaders working on behalf of their congregations in a united ministry. Unfortunately, this rarely happens.”