Latinos are the fastest-growing ethnic group in the United States, but only 5 percent of all Hispanics attend a mainline Protestant church. The vast majority are Roman Catholic.
For the Episcopal Church, those numbers are an opportunity.
The denomination is seeing fast-growing pockets of new Latino congregants. Episcopal churches in Nevada and Washington, D.C., are seeing considerably higher attendance from Latinos. In Oregon, there were only 150 Latino Episcopalians 20 years ago. Now, there are more than 800.
The Rev. Roberto Arciniega, head of Latino ministries for the Episcopal Diocese of Oregon, says the denomination must reach out to Latinos to stay relevant in a multicultural society.
A denominationwide 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, whom the church calls “gatekeepers.”
Roberto Arciniega, head of Latino ministries for the Episcopal Diocese of Oregon, says the outreach is about staying vital and relevant in a multicultural society, and it signals a shift in how his church views Latinos. Arciniega says Latino outreach is about inviting people to stay and be a part of the congregation.
“We need to have that intentionality,” Arciniega says. “We have the tendency to stereotype. 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 handout, let’s give them something.’ ”