Here in Oregon, Hispanics now make up about six percent of the Episcopal Church. A denomination-wide outreach plan notes that Hispanics represent a huge growth potential. The plan outlines strategies to reach Latinos, including focusing efforts on first and second generation women, who the church calls “gatekeepers.”
“We need to have that intentionality,” says Roberto Arciniega, head of Latino ministries for the Episcopal Diocese of Oregon.
He says the outreach is about staying vital and relevant in a multicultural society. And it’s a shift in how his church views Latinos.
“We have the tendency to stereotype,” Arciniega says. “Many times we said, ‘oh poor Latinos, they are coming here because they don’t have anything to eat in their country. So let’s give them a hand-out, let’s give them something.'”
Arciniega says now, Latino outreach is about inviting people to stay and be a part of the congregation.
In Oregon, the efforts are paying off. Ten years ago, there were just 150 Latino Episcopalians. Now, there are more than 800. But nationally, according to the Pew Research Center, just five percent of all Hispanics attend a mainline Protestant church. The vast majority are Roman Catholic.