(Photo: AP Images / Tina Fineberg)
With the Hispanic population booming in the U.S., one prominent evangelical believes Hispanics will be the “lifeguards for Christianity in America in the 21st century.”
The Rev. Samuel Rodriguez made the comment to The Christian Post on Tuesday in response to the latest U.S. Census Bureau report, released last week, which revealed that the Hispanic population has grown to 50.5 million, or roughly 1 in 6 Americans.
That marks a 43 percent growth over the last 10 years. The Hispanic population growth accounted for over half of the 27.3 million increase in the total U.S. population.
Reflecting on the massive increase, Rodriguez, president of America's largest Hispanic Christian organization, The National Hispanic Christian Leadership Conference, talked about the impact from a church perspective.
It has “two powerful impacts” on the church, he said.
Firstly, “it forces the Anglo-Saxon American churches to expand their outreach in their communities.”
He explained, “Previously, the Anglo-Saxon church was able to survive by reaching out exclusively to its own people, but now it can no longer do so.”
Secondly, the Hispanic church is experiencing the fastest growth in history in such a way that the largest denominations such as the Southern Baptist Convention, Assemblies of God, Churches of God, and The United Methodist Church, among others, have confirmed that their growth comes largely through Hispanic churches.
“In other words, without the Hispanic population the evangelical church in the U.S. would decline,” he observed.
According to the U.S. Census report, the non-Hispanic population grew only about 5 percent over the decade. And within the non-Hispanic population, the number of people who reported their race as White alone grew by just 1 percent. When measured against the total population, the non-Hispanic White alone population declined from 69 percent to 64 percent.
Additionally, while the majority of Hispanics in the U.S. are Catholic, the percentage of those who affiliate with evangelical Christianity is growing, with many converting from the Catholic tradition, according to The Pew Forum on Religion & Public Life.
With excitement, Rodriguez predicted that Hispanics will help revive the evangelical Christian movement in the United States.
“Hispanics will rise as the lifeguards for Christianity in America in the 21st century,” Rodriguez stressed. “They will be the spokesmen for the movement of sanctity and justice.”
In a separate statement, the Rev. Mauricio Elizondo, senior pastor of Walnut Park Assembly of God in Garland, Texas, boasted of the Hispanic community’s unity on values.
"The message of the Hispanic community is about becoming 'one' and crying out, bringing America back to its core values that this great country was founded on,” he said Tuesday. “We are going to be the reconciling voices for the people who have been impoverished, the voices for the unborn, and the voices for people who have been marginalized. It is our time to rise up and shine – 50 million voices shouting together for the sake of our Lord, for the sake of humanity and for the sake of America, bringing our country back to revival."
Still, the fast-growing population doesn’t come without challenges for churches, namely in regards to education, finance and immigration.
Currently, a big part of the Hispanic population doesn’t have adequate education to be able to lead both in the church and outside it, Rodriguez noted.
In response, the Alliance for Hispanic Christian Education was launched by universities, denominations and churches to help raise the education level of Hispanic youths. Churches are also beginning to educate congregants and local communities about how to manage money.
On the issue of immigration reform and the 12 million current undocumented residents in the country, Rodriguez has one proposal: integration. That would include a path for earned citizenship and immigrants in turn adhering to the values of the U.S. Constitution by embracing English and assimilating, among other things.
“A Just Integration Solution reconciles Romans 13, adherence to the rule of law, with Leviticus 19, treating the stranger amongst us as one of our own,” he said in an earlier commentary featured in undocumented.tv.
The proposal, which includes increasing border protection, has already been presented to members of Congress.
“We are currently negotiating with Congress to push an immigration reform of integration to incorporate the 12 million people in a very suitable way for our country.”