"After this I looked, and there was a great multitude that no one could count, from every nation, from all tribes and peoples and languages, standing before the throne and before the Lamb, robed in white, with palm branches in their hands." — Revelation 7:9-17
According to the seer of Patmos, the Church is a mestizo assembly gathered from every nation in praise of the God of Abraham, Isaac and Jacob, the Father of our Lord Jesus Christ. The Spanish word mestizo comes from the Latin misceo and refers literally to a mixture. The term was first used to describe the children of the violent encounter between European fathers and Amerindian mothers. Neither European nor Indian, these children belonged to a new people, a people of mixed heritage. But this mixed heritage is not simply a historical or ethnic marker; it is also the goal of Christian existence. In the words of Mexican-American theologian Virgil Elizondo, “the future is mestizo,” not because of ethnic mixing, but because the new humanity in Christ is a mestizo humanity of Jews and Gentiles.
In North Carolina, there are thriving Methodist congregations that have intentionally included Hispanics and Latinos into their common life. In this way they have claimed and proleptically made manifest God’s promised future. The Duke Endowment recognizes the profound impact these congregations and their pastors have within communities facing the challenges and opportunities of our increasingly growing Hispanic/Latino population. Through their support of the Hispanic House of Studies, The Duke Endowment contributes to the vitality and viability of these ministries.
To reach Hispanics and Latinos in the twenty-first century, the church needs leaders who have eyes to see that all ethnic ministries are provisional because the future is mestizo. For Methodists, this future needs to be anticipated and looked for in an intentionally Wesleyan way.
Edgardo Colón-Emeric is assistant professor of Christian theology and senior strategist of the Hispanic House of Studies at Duke Divinity School. He is an ordained minister in the North Carolina Annual Conference of the United Methodist Church, where he has served as pastor for Hispanic ministries. Colón-Emeric’s research and teaching bring Wesleyan and Thomistic theology into conversation with questions emerging from the Hispanic context. His book Wesley, Aquinas and Christian Perfection received the 2008 Aquinas Dissertation Prize from Ave Maria University, and his current project explores the significance of the theology of Bartolomé de las Casas for contemporary Christian social engagement.
Colón-Emeric is board member and former chair of Latino Community Credit Union, an organization devoted to economic development among recent immigrants; he serves as the director for the Course of Study Program in El Salvador (2010-present), and he is regularly involved in ecumenical dialogues on behalf of the United Methodist Church and the World Methodist Council. Colón-Emeric is a native of Puerto Rico; he is married to Cathleen and is the father of Nate and Ben.
Ismael A. Ruiz-Millan is originally from Sonora, Mexico. He is an ordained Elder in the United Methodist Church, and his first pastorate was in 2004 at “Unidos por Cristo” in Grimesland, N.C. In 2010, he was appointed to serve the Brookland-Brooksdale United Methodist churches in Roxboro, N.C. Since 2011, Ismael has served as the Director of the Hispanic House of Studies at Duke Divinity School.
In his role at the Hispanic House of Studies, Ismael has developed and taught courses on pastoral care to pastors and laypersons from Nicaragua, Honduras, El Salvador, and Guatemala. He also directs different programs within Duke Divinity School that target students and non-Hispanic clergy and laity who are passionate and want to serve the Hispanic and Latino (H/L) population in the U.S. He has developed seminars, workshops, and learning opportunities for current H/L pastors serving the United Methodist Church in North Carolina. Ismael has been actively involved in increasing awareness among clergy and laity around the needs of farm workers and immigrants in North Carolina. Rev. Ruiz-Millan regularly visits labor camps and the Mexico-U.S. border, and he enjoys spending time with his wife and son, Alma and Alec.