Vice President Mike Pence gave a closed-door address and received a standing ovation last Thursday before a gathering of the largest Hispanic evangelical coalition in the United States.
Over 300 faith leaders gathered for the National Hispanic Christian Leadership Conference’s annual Justice Summit hosted at the Museum of the Bible in Washington, D.C. Capping off the event were remarks by the 59-year-old vice president.
According to a press release, Pence received a prolonged standing ovation. In his remarks, Pence reportedly declared that once the southern border is secure, the Trump Administration is going to fix “this broken immigration system.”
NHCLC has over 40,000 member congregations and is headed by California megachurch pastor Samuel Rodriguez, an evangelical born to Puerto Rican parents.
Rodriguez was one of a few religious leaders who prayed at Trump’s inauguration in January 2017. He has also attended dinners hosted by the Trump White House, including last year’s state-like dinner for evangelical leaders and their wives.
Rodriguez, however, has also voiced concern on different occasions with some of the administration's immigration policies, including the historically low limit placed on refugee resettlement into the United States.
“We are very grateful to Vice President Pence for joining us and honoring all Hispanic Americans and Americans of faith by doing so,” Rodriguez said in a statement.
Pence’s speech comes as the Trump administration has been called “the most anti-Latino administration in US history” by critics. However, others have argued that Hispanics in the United States have benefited from Trump’s policies.
The summit also saw the unveiling of the NHCLC’s new “Life Manifesto.”
The document is essentially a declaration on how to apply “biblical justice” to issues of immigration reform, racial reconciliation, education equality and sanctity of life.
“Regardless of ethnicity or background, when you gather that many men and women of God all in one space, you should expect God to move, and that’s exactly what happened,” Rodriguez, an Assemblies of God pastor, said. “We devoted ourselves and our ministries to addressing, seriously, issues of life, racial reconciliation and immigration reform.”
Rodriguez added that those social issues are ones that the Hispanic-American pastors present at the conference are “uniquely positioned to bind up the wounds of this country.”
The manifesto reads:
“1. We believe and affirm that God created men and women in his image and that every human being, without exception, bears the imprint of God, the imago Dei. (Genesis 1: 26-28)
2. We believe in the sanctity and dignity of every human life from conception to natural death.
3. We commit to speaking up for those who can’t speak for themselves (Proverbs 31:8), including unborn children, their mothers, and all vulnerable people whose lives are at risk from violence, preventable disease and anti-life public policy such as abortion and euthanasia.
4. We stand in support of women facing unexpected pregnancies with word and deed at the local and national levels, through our churches and in our public policy. We affirm the bipartisan efforts to provide paid family leave so that pregnant mothers can choose life for their babies and so that parents and children will have the time necessary for family flourishing as family is the foundation of society.
5. We affirm that as to all these things, through the love of the Father, in the name of the Son, Jesus Christ, and in the power of the Holy Spirit, we will not grow weary in well doing (Galatians 6:9)”
Other speakers at the summit included Steve Strang, the founder of Charisma Media; Rod Parsley, the senior pastor of World Harvest Church in Canal Winchester Ohio, Kelly Rosati, the CEO of KMR Consulting on Child Advocacy and Adoption; Maryland Bishop Harry Jackson, the Presiding Bishop of the International Communion of Evangelical Churches; and Alfonso Aguilar, who directs the Latino Partnership for Conservative Principles at the Alliance Defending Freedom.
The event also included Daniel Garza, a former George W. Bush administration official who launched Libre Initiative, an organization that tries to convince the Hispanic community in the U.S. to support principles of limited government and rule of law.
NHCLC Executive Vice President Rev. Tony Suarez, who emceed the event, said he believes the manifesto could be an inflection point for the church.
“When leaders like Bishop Harry Jackson admonishes the church to lead the way in racial reconciliation, you can’t help but be galvanized and inspired by his unique authority on the topic,” Suarez said in a statement.
“When Kelly Rosati tells you that if just one-third of American churches adopted a child, there would be no more orphans, you realize all over again how we are the solution the country needs. That’s what the Justice Summit and the manifesto is all about. It’s better than social justice. It’s biblical justice.”