Article by Pam Brokaw | Video by Rev. David Valera
May 13, 2016 | PORTLAND, Ore.
United Methodists were encouraged by Los Angeles Area Bishop Minerva G. Carcaño to reach out to immigrants in their communities when they return home from the 2016 General Conference. “We walk with Jesus who was himself an immigrant,” Bishop Carcaño said Friday speaking passionately to several hundred people attending an afternoon Immigration Vigil. “If you want to see God, if you want to see the kingdom of God, welcome your brothers and sisters.”
Bishop Carcaño was joined by other bishops lending their support to the march and vigil across the street from the Oregon Convention Center which is hosting the United Methodist General Conference. The event was sponsored by Voz Hispana Cambio Comunitario, Metodistas Asociados Representando la Causa Hispano Americana, and the Love Your Neighbor Coalition.
A vigil coordinator, Francisco Lopez of the Oregon/Idaho Conference, urged attendees as they prepared to march to tell the Obama Administration to stop deportations of mothers and children and families. “This is not a Republican issue. This is not a Democratic issue. This is a human rights issue,” Lopez shouted to the crowd as he spoke against a recent federal government decision to increase deportation of families seeking asylum.
People in the crowd wearing name tags from the General Conference carried signs that said “Keep Families Together!” “Stop! Raids! and “Stop Deportations!” The atmosphere was one of solidarity and support for immigrant families. Attendees waved signs and shouted their support for action in God’s name.
Rosanna Panizo, an extension minister from the North Carolina Conference, invited the crowd to recognize Jesus in the immigrants in their midst. “Christ himself is calling us in his hidden presence…” she said. “To love our neighbor is not an option. To love our neighbor is a commandment.” Panizo is an extension minister in Peru. She directed attention to the hundreds of people who come north to the United States every day seeking freedom and safety. “We want asylum, not deportation,” she said as the crowd chanted “Stop deportations!”
Bishop Carcaño echoed the urgency of Panizo’s words as she talked about her frustration with the United States Congress. At a recent Congressional hearing she witnessed demoralized representatives who seem to have given up on formulating a responsible response to immigration issues. On a broad political spectrum, one political party seeks to deport and the other wants to build a wall, the Bishop said. She described a presidential candidate’s suggestion to take money sent home to families in Mexico to build a wall between Mexico and the United States. “This is so hateful,” she added.
When asked recently by members of Congress who is “doing it right” regarding immigration, Bishop Carcaño pointed to the United Methodist Church in Germany. “Our Congress seems to be oblivious to what needs to be done,” she said. She encouraged United Methodist churches to welcome immigrants and provide sanctuary and support.
Retired Bishop Elias G. Galvan supported the words of fellow Bishop Carcaño in comments after the rally. When asked how churches and United Methodists can connect with immigrants, he suggested seeking people where they congregate at markets, churches and where they work. Many immigrants can be found in their work as landscapers, painters and day laborers. “It is important for us to reach out and talk with people,” he said. Building on-going relationships is critical to outreach.
Bishop Galvan said that while immigrants often do not speak English their children can interpret for them. He encouraged United Methodists to invite immigrants to their homes and to break bread together and to build trust. “if we do that,” he said, “I am sure they will come to our churches.”
Pam Brokaw serves as pastor at the Castle Rock and Winlock United Methodist Churches in Washington. She is a member of the PNW Media team serving at General Conference 2016.