In this episode, we tackle the intersections of race, faith and the elections in a fluid bilingual manner. We will be speaking with one of our bishops from the United Methodist Church, a Dreamer, and a second-generation leader in her community and church. We’re also joined by the Rev. Gustavo Vasquez, director of UMNews for the Hispanic/Latino audience.
Prologue by Paul: Buenas familia, you’re listening to Our Conexión, the podcast where we talk about the realities of our ethnic communities and what that means for the church's response. I’m your co-host, Paul, and you’re listening to our third episode, where we tackle the intersections of race, faith and the elections in a fluid bilingual manner. We will be speaking with one of our bishops from the United Methodist Church, a Dreamer, and a second-generation leader in her community and church. We’re also joined by the Rev. Gustavo Vasquez, director of UMNews for the Hispanic/Latino audience. Take it away, Aileen!
Aileen: Thank you, Paul. Hello, everyone. This is Aileen Jimenez and I am eager to get started on this conversation. So let’s just go ahead and jump right in. Can each one of you introduce yourself and just let us know what you do?
Alma: Of course. Thank you, thank you so much for the invitation. It's a privilege to be with all of you this afternoon. My name is Alma Torres. I'm a laity member of the Wisconsin conference. I have recently graduated, my undergrad in psychology and sociology, and I am pursuing my master's degree at this moment in social work with a concentration in clinical mental health. My ultimate goal is to be able to help out my community. Especially the Latino community. I'm also currently serving as the president of the North central jurisdiction, Hispanic caucus. I started that this year, so it has been a challenge. And in the midst of this whole pandemic, we were able to survive and we're trying to do what's best for our leadership. I'm serving next to my father, Ricardo Torres, in our church in Green Bay, and we work hand in hand. We have a beautiful ministry with a lot of youth, a lot of children, a lot of life and just making the work of God come true in this world.
Bishop Sally Dyck: Hi, I'm Sally Dick and I'm the resident Bishop of the Northern Illinois annual conference until the end of December. And I'm also now starting 1st of September, the ecumenical officer for the United Methodist church. And because we didn't have general conference or jurisdictional conference, I continued to provide leadership as the president of the General Board of Church and Society and also the National Hispanic Latinx Ministry Plan. And it's that latter one that, I think brings me to this table and I'm very honored to be among you and to hear what you have to say. And certainly we face an election that is very important to all of us and to our country and its democracy. So thank you for your time.
Michelle: Hi, everyone. Pleasure to meet all of you. My name is Michelle Razo. I'm currently studying at Delaware State University, my last semester here, undergrad, my major is political science and the horizon for me, hopefully law school sometime soon. I'm currently taking an LSAT prep course for that. Outside of school, here in Delaware, it's a little more complicated now with the pandemic, I got involved with the Methodist church through Carlos and we've been speaking to local communities. We've gone to places like Georgia. We did a little tour there to talk about DACA and DACAmented students here in Delaware, but also across the country. And we've been really trying to just talk to different types of churches. We spoke to some that are predominantly Hispanic, but we also spoke to some that were, predominately white and didn't even know exactly what DACA was. So, um, our main goal is just to sort of inform and then get some support for our cause.
Gustavo: Well, my name is Gustavo Vasquez. I'm the director for United Methodist news service in Spanish and Portuguese for the Hispanic, Latino audience and coworker with Paul and Aileen at United Methodist Communications. And I'm part of the team that is working with the National Plan that will not, will not be national anymore from the next General Conference will be a plan for Hispanic/Latino ministry in the global church, in the United Methodist Church and I'm part of the panel today. And I will be with Aileen, conducting this podcast. We will address these three aspects which are part of our reality today. One of them is related to the state of the democratic system in the United States, the other is related to the changes that are taking place in the justice system, especially in the Supreme Court, and the third is the position of the Methodist church within its internal situation and within its historical characteristics in the political life of the country. What I am saying in Spanish will obviously be translated into English so that the dynamics of the two languages can be seen. The first question I have for you is about the democratic system. The democratic system in the US is experiencing accelerated deterioration, the transparency of the electoral system is being questioned, the balance of judicial power is being broken, there is obstruction to voter registration and remote voting in several states, and there is a weakening of the bi-partisan system as it does not represent the ideological diversity of the country. What do you think will be some consequences of this reality?
Alma: I can begin. I believe that one of the greatest consequences that we are experiencing in our country – and that continues to unravel – is that we already see the consequences is division. There is a tremendous division and that’s because it starts from leadership. And that division has been infiltrating our communities, our families and unfortunately they have even infiltrated our churches. On top of that, there is a lack of trust. Why would people trust a political party or a nation or a government that is corrupt? A government that is not transparent, a government that sees for its own benefits instead of the benefit of the people? So, I would say that two big consequences are the division within our people, within our communities but on top of that, the lack of trust that comes from a lack of unity. Why can't we get over this pandemic? Because the people are not united. The people are not on the same page. And it is because no one in government wants to unite, no one wants to put their differences aside and work together, so that creates division and it creates confusion and it therefore leads us to not be united and to be the strong nation, that we are.
Michelle: I can go next and give a little bit of my insight on it. Personally, I'm a non-voter. I'm not eligible to vote, my perspective from the outside looking in, 2016, when we had the election, I saw a lot of disillusioned voters. So, they saw the two candidates that we ended up with and they just, weren't very ecstatic. They weren't motivated to work, to go and vote. So a lot of them stayed home and I know that applies a lot to young voters as well. This time around, I'm haven't been looking really closely at the numbers, but I wouldn't be surprised if a lot of young voters also stay home. And along with young voters, a lot of ethnic voters, a lot of minorities, they look at the two and some people do see one as a better option or one as not the better option. But in the end, I think so many people are just so disappointed with the system that we have in place currently that they'd rather just not even participate. And I see that will go through as many, many small groups. Some who support, let's say Bernie and were very disappointed when he didn't get the nomination to be the democratic candidate and then others who are Republicans, and they're not happy with who their choice is. So, instead of voting for the other opponent, they would just rather just stay out of it. So I think one that is the biggest consequence that I've seen is just people who don't even want to participate in our political system anymore. Cause I think a lot of people also see it as just the general election, just the presidential election. And when people don't vote in the general election, they also don't participate in local politics. They're so disillusioned and they see just politicians as something to get rid of, or they don't even care to support anymore because they don't feel heard personally that they don't even know, look at their state representatives or state senators who are also up for reelection or for election. And that in turn just has very detrimental effects. I think for sure, we need to work on that transparency and having the voices of everyone heard. And I think that a lot of people just don't see that happening with our current two party system or with the electoral college. It's just not reflective of, our modern wants and needs.
Bishop Sally Dyck: Well, I can certainly understand how people become discouraged, especially younger people. People of color, particularly immigrants become discouraged about our democratic process or, it's big cracks in it. I think that for persons like myself, who've been raised in this country and have benefited from its privilege, I think too many of us have taken for granted that democratic process. And right now it's very scary because everyone needs to vote in order to provide for the things that we believe in. One of our problems is that we tend to be, and we all do this. We do this in the church too. Purists, if you will. So, you know, if you're for Bernie, “I can't go for this guy.” And the result is just disastrous. Actually I think it's the people that a leader surrounds him or herself with that makes the difference in being able to address the issues of the day. And of course, DACA and the wall and even refugee resettlement, these are really non-American concepts. I mean, even in some of our worst times, it's to be able to open our doors and to figure it out and to find a process. And so I really hope that people who are eligible to vote will do so. And it is the way to be counted and to make sure that your community is counted – through your vote. I just, I get it. I get why people may not, but I really hope people will vote.
Gustavo: I would like to ask the bishop a question… Bishop you sign a document two days ago with another group of Bishops from the United Methodist Church. And that was interesting to see the parallel connections that you made on the history of the Methodist movement development and the development of this nation but I want to know and share this information with others if in the discussion, there were some kind of analysis about how actual, or how relevant is the system? The electoral system that we have right now that is a dying existence. It's not a universal vote. And how this kind of a second grade election system, not encourage people to go to vote. So how this system affect the disposition of people to go and vote, especially for new generations?
Bishop Sally Dyck: I think I understand what you're asking. And one of the main concerns of the bishops in the United States is the concerns around making sure people vote but also this whole issue of the suppression of voting and that is such a problem. And there's some states because states can determine many things, not everything, but many things about how voting happens. There are some states who have in fact passed laws that make it more difficult for people to vote. They'll just take people off the rolls if they haven't voted in a couple of years. And then of course, I think one of the most egregious ones that, well, not the most egregious, but certainly one that just gives you pauses for a very large County in Texas. Where there's only one polling station and the whole issues of people's work hours and transportation and childcare and the money to just get there in essence suppresses the vote and that can only be the reason why something like that is done. And so, this letter that we signed onto, certainly calling people to vote but also calling out some of these ways of suppressing votes. Which I think, as soon as this election is over, we need to make sure that these kinds of voter suppression practices, not even laws, but practices are brought into question because I think that's going to impact many of our communities that won't be able to vote. And then of course, it's just so hard to fathom. But it is a concern about what will happen after the election. Because of all of these voter suppression tactics and the rhetoric about, mail in ballots being fraudulent. When are they counted? Also the electoral college issues that we saw last time where you can get the population, the majority of the population, but not the electoral college, all of that will come into play. And so in the past you go the day after the election, you go, “well, I may or may not like the outcome, but phew. at least it's over.” And so now we're not just concerned about that being figured out – and hopefully not in courts – but what will be the response to it? What will be the response of people? What will be the response of the sitting president? And it's actually a little scary. And I think as United Methodist and people of faith everywhere we need to be United in a peaceful, passing on of the power. If in fact that should happen and that we have ways to address if it is a matter of the sitting president going forward, how will we respond to that when it's such a big stake in our communities?
Aileen: Thank you, Bishop. So let's talk about the impact of the partialization of justice on minorities. Many people would argue that the ethical framework of an ideological balance within the Supreme Court has been fractured and this would indicate that decisions would no longer be impartial. So it would be heavily influenced by a certain ideology. Considering that the justice system provides the greatest guarantee of rights for all people, but especially minorities. How do you think the rights and wellbeing of these minorities will be impacted? And or violated in the near future?
Michelle: Specifically speaking on current events and, with Trump's new, don't know yet soon to be appointment or not, but of Amy Coney Barrett, I think we've seen current president Trump. He has already criticized the Supreme Court heavily for just their decisions. With the latest DACA decision back in June, he criticized Chief Justice John Roberts for siding with DACA and choosing not to vote in his favor. The complexity here is that with DACA, what they did there was, they didn't say that DACA whether it's lawful or not. What they decided against was that the Trump administration did not go through the procedures to make it unlawful or to rescind it, or to remove it in the right way. These are open in the future for DACA to be presented, if they procedurally go through it correctly. With this new appointment, I think that ties us back into our democracy being shaken a bit. It's only about a month until the next election. In the last presidency with Barack Obama, it was about 10 months out until the election and the Senate refused to even have a hearing in regards to his appointment. That was something that Republicans even said, “you know, hold us to this. If it happens again, we'll do the same.” And here we are a month out and we're having these hearings. And, with the senate majority being Republican, it's more than likely that Amy Barrett will have her hearing, she'll will be appointed to be a Supreme Court Justice. I saw an article earlier about how in certain states now, where there is early voting, voters are going out of their way to go and vote. And a lot of people think it's because of, this situation going on that people don't think it's right. It's not democratic. The next president who is elected should be the one to appoint that seat. And especially when that seat was occupied by Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg, someone who has been known to be a very liberal judge, supporting of many policies that have affected, not just minorities, but just are populists in a positive way and replacing her with someone who is on the complete other end of the spectrum. And very obviously flipping the majority is something just so important that I think many people are scared of that. Moving from that, I don't know exactly what that means for DACA. It's a very tricky subject. In regards to the Supreme court, they have some say, but if our current president gets four more years, then it's almost a shoe in that DACA will be rescinded because they will go through the procedure again. It will be heard against in front of the Supreme Court and more than likely it'll be rescinded and removed. If he is not reelected and Joe Biden were to win the presidential election, then more than likely DACA will stay for a bit. Joe Biden did say that during his first few days in office, he plans to give DACAmented people some sort of pathway to citizenship. I'm not sure what the specifics are on that, but, It's really a 50/50 as to whether or not the Supreme court will even have a say in regards to DACA. And that really fully depends on who wins this next presidential election.
Alma: I can say from my, from my end as a person of minority, as a Latina, as a woman, many other questions that I asked myself, who is our country serving, or who do they really care for? Aside from me being part of the minority community, I work with two nonprofit organizations. One is the boys and girls club that serves children and youth that are in our margins. And I've also started a new job in a nonprofit for domestic violence. And we get a lot of women who go through domestic violence. And we see so many oppressions and we see so many injustices and so many limits. Recently, I just got a call that I could not help a woman connect her to any resources in my community because of the lack of citizenship, because of the lack of a number. It's so sad to see the barriers that we ourselves are putting on our community, who are we building our communities on top of. At the cost of what? And seeing this unethical – because it is not ethical, doesn't matter the party – the way that they are going about the appointment of this judge is just not the right way. It is not how we are supposed to do it. And just seeing how they want to race through it. They just want to put a spot in there. It really makes us rethink who are we serving? Who is our government serving? What about all of those people in their margins? What about all of those immigrants? What about all of those undocumented immigrants? What about all of those women suffering by the oppression of men? There's so many things that are online now and many of our minorities at this moment are being affected and I just can't even imagine how further on they will be affected if this continues to happen and it continues to go this way. Our Supreme Court is not balanced, unfortunately it is not balanced. And it's sad to say that we think of the Supreme Court as the one who offers justice and equity and just that balance in our country. But we can't even say that anymore. Unfortunately, in the situation that our country is in at this moment.
Bishop Sally Dyck: I would just add that the vulnerability of the Affordable Care Act is also something that impacts our communities of color as well as, well, not just the people who are impoverished, but many families. And if something happens with that, I think it will be very, very difficult for people financially, as well as health wise. And unfortunately what we saw was the total privilege of what healthcare is for one person who then in a very cavalier way says, “look, you can beat this. It's all good.” And, it's often our Hispanic persons in our communities who are essential workers who are exposed the most to COVID and there's a little of a safety net for their medical care and help. And I just, feel like that too is at risk and it will be to the detriment of our country – not to mention our diversity as a country if we go into another four years with this president.
Aileen: Michelle, you talked a little bit about the uncertainty of DACA and the future of dreamers. An unsympathetic decision regarding dreamers under DACA could mean the criminalization of this important group of young people. Young people who are educated, young people who have leadership skills, professional skills, and a deep sociopolitical awareness of the power system in the United States. So, this is a valuable group that can benefit our immediate and long-term needs as a country, if given the full opportunity to do so. What do you think, any of you, would be the effect of criminalization towards the dreamers in regards to the overall development and role of the Hispanic/Latino community in the United States?
Michelle: So, to start off with, I mean, I've, haven't always been DACAmented. I came to this country when I was three. So I did live through a few years of being just completely undocumented, where I was here criminally illegally, completely. Just like my parents or my grandparents, aunts and uncles. I've lived through that. And I remember that, and I know that returning to that would be terrifying. Not just for me, but for almost every other DACAmented dreamer out here. And the reason being is that now, the government, they have our addresses say and have her full names, they have our fingerprints, they have all of our information. So we would be a little bit more targeted, a little bit more paranoid, a little more worried about even just going out and driving when we don't have licenses. Even if we're working under the table jobs, you know, it's that constant, “what if, what if?” The 800 hundred thousand plus DACAmented, or dreamers, we know that we're asset economically. A lot of us are young. A lot of us contribute to our local economies. We're going to school or working and pay taxes. I feel like by now it's a well known fact. But I think that that just as well as citizenship places a number on us. And I think that humans, our moral obligations and our moral compass, I hope will lead us to believe and know that dreamers are people. We're not just robots who work for our economy. You know, and yes we contribute as well as every other citizen. But we're here. We've been here since we were very young. We contribute in ways that enrich our cultures surrounding in our communities. I think that if all of a sudden, all 800,000 plus dreamers or all millions of undocumented people in the country were to just leave or disappear one day, there'll be a lot of drawbacks definitely. A lot of consequences to that. Not just, you know, lack of workers, like there's millions of farm workers, where will our food and fresh produce come from? But also it doesn't look at communities. We have neighbors who are undocumented and people may not even know that. They have like construction workers who stay here and work and build all these buildings and parking lots and I personally, over the summer, worked in construction. And just so many wonderful people and not even all undocumented, but you know, we have every race working together to build this one project. And I just thought about how representative that is of America. And with what it could be is everyone works together on the same field, regardless of what you look like and you all contribute. Sadly in our current dilemma we have issues regarding exploitation. We have issues regarding racism or ethnocentrism. And I think that if it continues to be this way, I see a lot of people, just how people are disillusioned with voting. A lot of dreamers are disillusioned with what's going on, cause not enough has been done. And it's not a Republican or democratic issue. It's a bipartisan issue and it's been an issue that's been going on. The Dream Act has been in place since the two thousands early two thousands. In 2010, there was a chance for the dream act to be passed, but due to some lack of votes on the democratic side, it wasn't passed. And then a few years back, I remember lobbying in Washington trying to get the Dream Act passed again. Once DACA was rescinded and again, there wasn't much support for that. There wasn't even a set vote because of, Mitch McConnell. And presently, you know there's not really anywhere for us to look at or to go. It’s a big hope on who wins the election. And, you know, at this point, that's not a hundred percent known who's going to win. You know, we'll have to find out. And either way, I know that my community and as well as many other communities will persevere, we'll push through and we'll make things work. We'll make things happen. But, it would really help with a little bit more support from our government to recognize that we are valuable yes, to the economy, but also to our culture, to what America is.
Gustavo: Aileen, I just want to comment on what Michelle is saying and the importance of understanding these court decisions. As it could be a possible strategy to alter the growth and strengthening of the Hispanic community's presence in the U.S. Because we are criminalizing a section of a community that has very skilled people who are brilliant in many ways and who are also involved in the social reality of the country. We have youth. We have people born here at very high numbers. But very few people from our community have the social and political involvement, and the social and political knowledge that the Dreamers have on behalf of the Hispanic community in the United States.
Alma: Going in line with what Michelle was saying. When whole situation with DACA, the whole unsettlement started arising, it reminded me a lot of the story of the people of Israel. Once they were growing, and once they were multiplying, once they were becoming strong, the Pharaoh and the Egyptians wanted to get rid of them. Why? Because they were a powerful community. Our Dreamers are a powerful community. They are a big asset. And I think what we are seeing in our country is fear of change in our government. Fear of change in our politics. Fear of change in our society and having this group of dreamers, as you said, that have turned their limits into possibilities that have turned their disillusions into hopes that have turned their stones into stepping stones. Whatever they have encountered in their way, they have utilized that to overcome what our community and our society, our government has. Put in front of them, they have changed it to make it possibility. They have turned their anger into passion. We are seeing a group of individuals, older individuals, unfortunately, maybe very anglo individuals or many individuals that do not want to change their minds, scared of what can happen in the future. And they are scared that this group can come and do a whole switch in our society. And I believe and affirm in God with faith, that we will see that change soon and that we will see that change coming from that group of dreamers coming from that passionate, anger, good anger, turning that anger into passion, but seeing some changes. All of these switches and shifts and “let's criminalize them,” and “let's take this away from them,” “Let's rip their wings, let's try to make even things more impossible for them.” And as Michelle said, our community knows how to adjust and yes, it's tough. It's difficult but we get through it. So no matter the situation, I do believe that the dreamers will overcome and that dreamers will be changing the way that our society is built.
Bishop Sally Dyck: I agree that there are many people who are afraid of the changing face of America. Let's put it that way. Where Anglos are no longer the majority, but the minorities are the majority. I really believe that. But I think what we have to do a better job of is just showing how impossible it is to criminalize and deport all the people that as you've been talking are great leaders who contribute in a variety ways. Who if, many of us, most of us, even all of us were left without the persons that are being threatened to be deported, we wouldn't be able to eat. We wouldn't be able to take care of ourselves. We wouldn't be able to, as you said before, even the construction companies, to build and to provide for the economy. What we have to do a better job of is just showing if you took these people out – since they don't have imagination, do you have to show them – if you took these people out, where do you think you would be? And where do you think you get the local community resources on any kind of sustained? ICE can pick somebody up. Okay. I get that but to arrest and deport the sizable population? We don't have the resources to do that. I just believe many people need to have somebody help them with their imaginations and to see what would happen there if people weren't there. When I was the Bishop in Minnesota in particular, I would talk about the changing face of Minnesota a lot, because it really does have a large immigrant population, contrary to what people usually think. And I would go into these rural areas and I would expect to just get creamed, you know. Even in the United Methodist Church, you know. You'd get this older farmer who would give witness to the fact that if it wasn't for the workers who come through and contribute Hispanic, Sometimes African other immigrants, if it wasn't for them, they wouldn't have a farm. And, that's somebody who knows, but those stories don't always get told. And I'm sure that there's many ways in which that gets abused. I have no doubt about that, but people just don't get it.
Gustavo: The founding of the Methodist movement and the United States have many historical parallels and connections. So, we could affirm that a good part of the social system that we have today (with its virtues and aberrations) has also been part of the development of Methodism in the USA. Currently, the UMC is a church where minorities are marginalized even more than in society itself. We cannot forget that almost 95% or 93% of the denomination in the United States is racially and ethnically Caucasian, while all minorities do not reach 5%. This occurs through a complex system of democratic participation at different levels, while continuing to preserve the “power” and decision-making among white people. How can the recent events in society and within the church lead to a more democratic, diverse and relevant church in this time?
Alma: I can go ahead and jump on that one. When I was reading this outline and I read that minorities are marginalized even more than in society itself, I really identified with it. My dad has been appointed at our church for 15 years now. Around 10 years ago, his immigration status changed. And unfortunately at the same time, the Arizona law came about. Our conference was very scared and decided to back out and not protect them anymore. They literally left us in the air. We were supporting ourselves from the conference and they just let us go like that. They cut us off. “We can't do it.” Our church, our congregation fought for us and they said “we will continue to support them as a family.” But obviously our church was turning five years. The church just had, so it wasn't much that they could support. We said, “We are not here for the money. We're not here for the salary. We know how to work God has given us hands. And we are going to go to work.” And with that, so many wonderful stories came about. But we started working in the fields. We started working in different areas in order to support our family and continue on with the ministry and the calling that God had made us, and God had made to our family and to my father in specific. But something so interesting was that in Annual Conference, in any meeting he had, he was not recognized, not even as a lay person. He did not even have a vote in Annual Conferences, not even as a lay person. He had no say no vote, no action. He was just someone in addition, a visitor, and that changed our mentality on how we saw the church. And God has turned stuff, probably the nasty into beautiful arts pieces, but that made us realize the oppression that we may even see within our denomination. The fear of not knowing what to do and oppressing our own people within our congregation. The glory be to God. My parents now, we were able to speed the process. I turned 21 last year. So it was my goal. It was my birthday present to get them legalized and get them, you know, all set up and through the midst of this pandemic, they received their number and it's a total different aspect that they're able to see the world now. But seeing that from our own church made us understand that if this is our situation with us, how many other more situations are like that in the church? Where, you know, the majority may be seen or the outside, may be seeing: Yes, Diversity. Yes. equality for all. Yes. We embrace everyone's culture. But when it comes to actually doing it, it is very hard for our denomination to put it into practice. And unfortunately we're seeing it now in our elections. People who are voting for just a one case. For only one single case for reals. Like let's go to scripture. What did Jesus tell us about the poor? What did Jesus tell us about the widow? What did Jesus came to do? He was a reformer and here we are trying to defend our faith just by one case. So I think it's time for a church to open their eyes and see the harm that we are doing to our community. I think it's time to actually receive the grace of God and walk together in this way of mercy that he has for us and learn about our mistakes and learn about our past and try to fix that and try to make amends because I think it's possible. I do see hope for the church. But not if our mentality is not changed, not if the leaders mentality does not change not if the way we see things continues to be with the same lens, with the same dirty lens that we may have. Our lens needs to be wiped and even so, our lens needs to be changed.
Bishop Sally Dyck: I appreciate your story and feel privileged to be able to hear it. One of the things that has been a real struggle for me as a Bishop is that since the end of May, so much focus has been on the anti-black racism and not enough focus and conversation has occurred of the racism towards various peoples within our annual conference. Cause in the Chicago land area, we have all kinds of folks. Asians and Hispanics suffer the same way but the conversation hasn't really turned in that direction. I feel like in this time of COVID, it's really important for people to be learning and learning the history of our church. I used to teach confirmation. I'd say, “okay, here's all this stuff, but you know, we get some sad stories too. Just like your family may have some sad stories.” And that people understand our history better. And the ways in which we have not always reflected what we believe, as you said, Jesus would want us to be. You know, there's a story Jesus was out and about and it wasn't, his territory, really. He was outside of his comfort territory and a woman came and wanted her daughter to be healed by him. And he said to her, “I didn't come for you.” And she kind of bantered with him because she seems to have been a pretty strong person until finally he relented. And he said, “your daughter is made well.” And l ways believe, and have recently talked about the story because, I think that's a story that was written to show people, particularly early Jewish Christians, “is this the kind of Jesus you thought you were following? Aren't you shocked and appalled that he would say that?” And it was really a way of putting a mirror up to the early church and saying, “This isn’t the Jesus that we knew.” But it shows that in a sense he changed and that we need to challenge ourselves. People who look like me and each other to be able to open our hearts and minds to others. And I believe that is a critical role of the church these days. Even as we know, not everybody in the United Methodist Church would agree, we need to work towards a church that welcomes our neighbor welcomes each other and welcomes whoever is in our midst.
Michelle: I think I am going to speak from a different perspective because I personally didn't grow up in the Methodist church. I grew up Catholic. I was Catholic up until about age 12 and then I sort of moved away from the church a bit, or religion in general, and I didn't really come back to sort of form a connection with God or church until I came to college 2017. I've had some experience within the Methodist church, but it's been a bit different. I've gone to church regularly on Sundays, before the pandemic happened. But it wasn't for a very long time. Again, I've only been here for about three and a half years. The time that I have been involved with Methodist church has been more so going on what we have called speaking tours, um, sharing our stories as DACAmented people, and just sharing our personal experiences and hoping to gather support. Luckily, most churches that we visited, we did get overwhelming support. And we had just really nice conversations about opinions and what we wish to see in the future. But there have been some events in some instances where we have visited churches and we have people who don't want to listen, they'll walk out or they'll make comments saying, “you know, well, regardless of what I've heard here today, about your personal experiences. I still don't agree with you being here in our country. And I don't think you should stay.” Or just, you know, flat out saying, “I agree with what our current president is saying, and I don't think you guys are one of us.” And I don't know exactly how reflective that is of the Methodist church. Just as much as when I go to DC and I talked to certain senators representatives, two out of the maybe 20 meetings that we'll have, we'll have either they themselves or someone from their office say, “well, quite honestly, Senator blank, just doesn't support you guys. We're not interested in speaking with you” or, they'll just say, “honestly, we aren't educated on it. We can't make a comment.” I think that, in that question saying, you know, like that the Methodist church is just a smaller version of the United States, I think that it can apply to many other religions or other churches. And I know that last year I attended a conference, it was an ethnic conference, late summer last year. And that was my first instance being somewhere where it wasn't just regarding DACA. It was, you know, with many other ethnic groups and it was an amazing experience. And I think some issues that would relate to me as someone who's sort of more of an outsider, but was still I'm a part of it was that there's lack of representation. And the representation that there is, I think is a lot older and maybe not representative or accepting of a lot of a younger audience, which may be your reason why the numbers are struggling in regards to getting young people, to join the church or young people, to be involved with the church and have leadership positions. Another big issue was, which I know, is also current and it has been postponed, is like the issue of LGBTQ rights and sort of that perspective and whether or not the church stay as one or not given that conflict. I think all in all, every minority group, whether it be, race, gender, or, sex and preferences, I think that, will affect the church. Just as it affects the United States. But hopefully with compromise, while also keeping honest and true to ourselves and with our need for justice and peace, we'll provide a space where we can all serve one God, in the right way.
Aileen: You talked about different issues that you think contribute to the church, not being vibrant. And so I think maybe because you gave them as examples, you probably mean if the church cared more about this then maybe they can be relevant. Is that true? Or do you think there's something else that the church can do?
Michelle: So I think for sure, at least with a lot of young people, what I've seen is that they don't see the church, not just the Methodist church, but in general church, religion as a method or a mode to reach justice, to especially social justice. The Methodist church is famous for reaching for justice in many ways. Not just with women's rights or reproductive rights, but also minorities and I know that they have a platform that will tell us that. But I do think that if they were a bit more open, a bit more supportive then the outreach would really make a difference, it would make more of an impact. Young people might be more motivated to join because they would see the Methodist church or church in general as a method to a means, not just as something that, is outdated. And I think that might be something that a lot of young people think. You know, young people more than ever now are less and less involved with church and religion. And I think that our spheres can be connected. We just have to find out the right way to do so. But with that internal conflict going on, it drives a lot of people away, not just, potential members, but maybe even members that are already here, but are just disillusioned by the conflict or lack of support.
Gustavo: I just want to add a comment about this year have this particularly challenge for the Methodist people. Because it's not just the pandemic situation. It's not just a very particular electoral campaign that has been putting a lot of people in stress, but also the big issue about the future of the denomination. One year ago the whole Methodist people were just thinking and centered on the future of the denomination. And now, one year after there's not any specific decision that is not clear about what will happen with the church. So it is very important to take this time, to make our reflections about what God is telling to the denomination. So we still in this process to discern what will be the future. And that's so important and very interesting and very particular for this denomination. Other denominations are not living the same situation that methodists are living right now. How this time, it will be important to make the best decisions and to try to see and understand the future of the church in a different way. For the next year, we'll probably, we will have the general conference and take some transcendence of the historical decision for a future of the denomination.
Bishop Sally Dyck: You know, I was thinking about what Alma said earlier in terms of what happened to her father. And I could kind of follow, the line of rules that disallowed him from being able to even have a voice or vote I could see the whole line of rules. And I think one of the things I hope we have learned from this year, and not just in the church, but definitely in the United Methodist Church is we have become so rule based that we don't have, we don't have rules for what's happened this year. We don't have rules about what happens when you can't get together for general conference. We don't have rules what happens when you don't have a budget that you pass? We don't have rules to do all of these things that we just take for granted. We don't have rules. And guess what? In some respects I have seen so many people just rise to the occasion and for all my 40 some years of ministry trying to help people change. Well, let me tell ya. COVID has changed more people and churches than I think anything else ever, you know. Suddenly everything was just kind of thrown up in the air and it's been really, really hard. But the thing that we can't land on are rules, because we don't have any rules for this. If you say this rule applies, then this one over here is against it. It goes encounter because there are no rules. And so, I hope that's one of the things that we've learned as a United Methodist church: to provide more context of ministry. In a situation like Almas father, her family, and what happened to her. You know, this conflict between the compassion for you, but we can't do it. This is the rule. That's not going to carry us into a new future. And that's what binds in bishops sometimes. It binds in local churches and we need to be set free all of us so that we could be the church, as I believe Jesus would want us to be. He had a rule. Like I was talking about the, the healing of the Syrophoenician daughter, you know, he had a rule that said, no, you can't do this. And then he's like, Oh yeah, that doesn't work. He changed his mind. He changed his heart. I don't know something changed. And he healed her and that's the kind of church we need going forward.
Gustavo: Thank you so much, Bishop for this final reflection because it's really deep in terms of how we can see our future and how this situation have teach us a lot of different things that we definitely need to learn for the immediate future of the church. And not just for a church, but, you know, church is a big part of the discussions and a big issue among the United Methodist people. So thanks for that. Thanks for the privilege to be with you today and to participate in this wonderful conversation.
Bishop Sally Dyck: It's certainly been my privilege. I appreciate each one of you and hearing your stories, particularly Alma and Michelle. Thank you. Even if you're disillusioned, please vote and get everyone you know, who's eligible to vote, to vote. And then let's work for justice after that.
Michelle: Completely agree. I can't vote. Please vote for, but for me. I were to add anything, it would just be that I'm like, yes, I am dacamented, but I wasn't born dacamented. I was born as a citizen of this world. Um, you know, there are so many things that are issues, you know, I'm also a woman, my reproductive rights are at stake. Climate or climate, you know, we only have one world and the current nominee to be Supreme Court Justice won't even acknowledge her views or her opinions cause she doesn't think that they will affect her, her work as a judge. So just, just in regards to everything, I mean, we're all so multifaceted and we have so many things that affect us, and I hope that I'm not just, you know, this country, but the church as well, we'll go in direction that will benefit as many people as possible and we strive towards justice in a way that harms the least amount of people.
Alma: And I think just in general, who we are, we are the church. Um, we're supposed to be the light. We're supposed to be the salt that gives it the taste. We're not supposed to be the darkness. Or the bitterness. So, um, let's remember who we are because we tend to become religious puppets and it's just a tradition and tradition and tradition, but many of the times that relationship, that mercy, that compassion really lacks in our lives. So let's remember who we are and let's be the church.
Bishop Sally Dyck: Amen
Aileen: Amen. Awesome. Well, thank you all for everything.
Michelle: Thank you everyone for allowing the space.
Gustavo: Thank you. Alma, thanks for sharing your testimony.
Alma: Of course! Thanks for the invitation.
Epilogue by Aileen: This concludes the third episode of Our Conexión. To learn more about us or to view a transcript of this podcast in either English or Spanish, head on over to OurConexion.org. Our Conexión is produced by United Methodist Communications and the National Plan for Hispanic and Latino Ministry. Music is provided by William Baxter Noon, and the world changing comes from you. Thank you. Hasta luego!
Disponible en español.
This conversation took place on the 15th of October, 2020.
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