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UMCOR Salutes Hispanic/Latino Group

*by Linda Unger

El Paso, August 13, 2011—The head of the United Methodist Committee on Relief (UMCOR), Rev. Cynthia Fierro Harvey, today greeted members of a United Methodist association of Hispanics and Latinos on the occasion of the group’s fortieth anniversary of founding.

Harvey, who is Mexican-American, offered the organization, Metodistas Asociados Representando la Causa de los Hispano-Americanos (MARCHA), apologies for arriving late to the meeting. She had just returned to the United States from South Africa and Uganda, on UMCOR business.

“From the World Methodist Conference in Durban, South Africa,” she said, “I headed to Kampala, Uganda, for a roundtable meeting on our work with the new nation of South Sudan. God is at work in South Sudan, and I can’t wait to see what God will bring about there,” she said in Spanish.

Harvey was one of seven executives of the General Board of Global Ministries (GBGM) who attended the meeting, including Rev. Jorge Domingues, Rev. Edgar Avitia, Dionisio Salazar and Nora Martinez, executives of the Mission and Evangelism program of the General Board of Global Ministries (GBGM).

Some 150 MARCHA members participated in the event, which was both a celebration of founding and the group’s annual meeting. It was held at the Lydia Patterson Institute, a cross-border school for students in grades 6 – 12, where the first MARCHA meeting was held in 1971.

In her remarks, Harvey thanked those present for their support of UMCOR’s work around the world. “From Tuscaloosa to Mogadishu,” she said, “thanks to you, UMCOR has responded. Thank you for your support; thank you for being the church.”

The theme of the encounter, which also served as MARCHA’s annual membership meeting, was “Renewing Our Commitment”—the organization did not only celebrate the past but, also, looked to the challenges that will define its future—and that of The United Methodist Church, speakers said.

About 92 percent of members of The United Methodist Church are identified as white non-Hispanics, according to a recent internal survey.

In contrast, in the United States, Hispanics and Latinos represent 16 percent of the total population, and between 2000 and 2010, the Census Bureau said, “the majority of the growth in the total population came from increases in those who reported their ethnicity as Hispanic or Latino.”

Participants in the event included founding members, among them Bishop Joel Martinez, past interim general secretary of the General Board of Global Ministries, and Bishop Elias Galvan, current executive director of the organization.

Also included was a new generation of Hispanic leaders, among them Harvey; Rev. Jorge Domingues, of GBGM; and Giovanni Arroyo, of the United Methodist General Commission on Religion and Race.

Bishop Minerva Carcano of the Desert Southwest Annual Conference offered challenging remarks to the gathering.  She urged MARCHA members and The United Methodist Church in general to continue to battle “the evil of racism,” which persists, she assured them, in both church and society.

A key component of the meeting was dedicated to MARCHA’s preparations for The United Methodist Church’s General Conference, to be held in 2012 in Tampa, Florida.