Latino Convergence

By David Ramos

            This weekend I was the guest speaker at a Leadership Summit in Lakewood, New Jersey.  While my topic was “Engaging Models of Leadership for This Generation,” my focus was upon the Emergent Dialogue.  The crowd was mixed with young and older Latino/a Pentecostals and other evangelicals.  At certain points of my presentation I saw the crowd’s blank stares as they were trying to figure me out.  I wasn’t quite saying anything heretical, but for many, I knew that this was the first time they heard about any “emergent church dialogue,” much less would they imagine the strides made regarding this discussion.  I’m realizing just how utterly new this is for many in our circles.  While this does not surprise me, I also wonder about how many are willing to suspend for a moment their theological categories long enough to discern if the Spirit is blowing in a new direction.  Please understand, while I not quite baptizing all things “emergent” I am, as I have mentioned many times, extremely encouraged at the honesty, the integrity, and deliberate efforts of the emergent dialogue.  As Latinos, particularly those in leadership, we should thoughtfully engage the dialogue with our sisters and brothers weaving our own contributions into this emergent tapestry.



As the emergent village seeks to be deliberate about asking the questions about diversity, we once again are forced to look deep inside ourselves to ask the difficult questions about identity, moving beyond superficial demarcations and pushing towards more profound and perhaps more intimate matters of ontological, linguistic, contextual and spiritual essence.  Perhaps we should be speaking about the “convergence?”  How do identities converge?  What makes us Latino/a?  Can one be absent of all the accouterments of “Hispanicity” yet have a Latin soul and perhaps a greater heart intimacy with things Latino?  How do we navigate multiple identities within multiple cultures (i.e., ethnic, cultural, religious, contextual and professional)?  Moreover, how do we negotiate various theological traditions of Catholic, Pentecostal, mainline etc, into our already rich mofongo? 

Having worked many years with urban youth and witnessing how so many display the epochal realities of post-modernity while never having even heard the term, I am in likewise witnessing communities of faith demonstrate—through pain and groaning—elements of “emergence.”  Within many Hispanic Pentecostal churches there is this palpable exhaustion and weariness of church as usual and a longing for authentic community and spirituality.  What a wonderful combination of re-evaluating our humanity as well as our notions of what is spiritual.  While religious constructs may impede authentic dialogue in many Pentecostal circles I am beginning to witness the cracks and fissures as religious cultural “systems” begin to collapse upon its own weight.   I am witnessing a departure of some to other circles.  (We cannot blame this exodus solely upon geographic and/or socioeconomic reasons; many are searching with agony for meaning)! 

For many reasons, I think the time has come to define the contours of a broader emergent/Latino dialogue.  This must be done with sensitivity as many of us have learned, quite adeptly to own multiple identities within multiple contexts.  I am not speaking about a schizophrenic people with fractured identities, on the contrary, I am speaking about a strong, proud, holistic community who will not let go of their rich culture, language and identity and who realize that their culture is not only an important hermeneutical threshing ground by which to “theologize” but the “sala” where they live out their spirituality.  Hermanos y hermanas, what would the contours of this discussion look like for you?


  1. Brother David:
    I understand the angst and empathize with you about the tension which develops as we seek to reflect theologically where we once were, where we are and where are we going. This I suppose is like being caught up in God’s majestic tapestry wanting and desiring to see how all the threads and colors are interwoven. I am not surprised at the blank stares when the topic of the emergent church came up, many of our people are unfamiliar with these categories.
    You make a keen observation of the exodus which is taking place in our churches as those who out of sheer exhaution and weariness are leaving in search of authentic community. The church I presently attend has a large number of latino/as who have left mainly pentecostal churches to be part of an Anglo run multicultural seeker sensitive church. As I have gotten to know the people at Bethel I have found out that these people mainly left because they were just tired of business as usual.
    I guess one of the questions we should be asking is, “After the experience – what?” People seem to be looking for something much deeper than experience and emotion. People are seeking a genuine intimate relationship with the Godhead – Father, Son and Holy Spirit, and a genuine sense of authentic community. They want something that is palpable and yet not the usual fluff that they have been accustomed to. I believe that the Gospel of prosperity (an anti-gospel I suppose) is leading people rediscover a theology of suffering where the crucified God shouts loudly to all who will hear. What I am saying is that prosperity ain’t getting it!
    What the emergent discussion is doing is allowing us to embrace and talk about Kingdom values and ethics.
    God bless you bro’ and keep on rocking for the Lord.

  2. David,
    Thank you for your thoughtful comments. I appreciate your trinitarian emphasis, something that many of us have in a rather unbalanced way. I also gather from your comments a liberation perspective, a theological paradigm that has informed many of us. To “piggy-back” on what you are saying, what I find particularly healthy and unique about the emergent dialogue is its permeable, reflexive allowance of various theological traditions and contributions as we attempt to celebrate the best of each while attempting to mitigate what is injurious. This dialogue will require great maturity and sustained vigilance; it is a lot of work but it is well worth the effort!
    As always, thank you for your contributions and support.

  3. Brother David, I agree that many of our gente have left to “Anglo” churches. I experienced that exodus myself for a brief moment in my journey. What I have found is that the seeker sensitive model leaves something out and truth is (at least for me) its backwards, we are asking the world to tell us how we should minister. My pentecostal roots show when I say that I believe personal transformation comes from the power of God and the work of the Godhead in three persons. Period. Today’s society including our Latina/o’s do want more like the authentic community you mention but I think they also want to see ‘action as sacrament’ as opposed to our traditional raja tabla communities where the burden of proof is on the disciple to show their committment to God via attendance, a million ministry roles, etc. What I find encouraging is that we, the people, are not only talking in the cocina or even the sala anymore, we’re “coming out” (imagine the Diana Ross song here please) and we want the world to know, we have an emerging opinion as well and it’s a sancocho. In addition, yes, people are tired of the prosperity banner, the bless me God (even though I do believe He does bless) and are interested in seeking a God who is present in our suffering and we are more open to get to understand His…That is why our church is called Wounded Healer (wink). Great discussion.

  4. Hola David and Dave,
    Dave you said, “For many reasons, I think the time has come to define the contours of a broader emergent/Latino dialogue.”
    I believe this discussion will be Latino led and cross-cultural. Our “Latinidad” in this country, I believe, will ironically be defined as it encounters/engages “otherness”. To the extent we accept the richness of our heritage, and wrestle with the very things that tell us to dispose of our “different flavors”, I think there can be a rich incarnation which many of us struggle with in being mestizo/mulato.
    Mas digo que si se puede.

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