Walking Together: A Call to Partner with the Latino Anglican Church
The Rev. Daniel Lizzaraga serves as Canon for Latino Ministry in the Diocese of the Western Gulf Coast, and is also rector of Cristo Nuestro Rey in New Braunfels, Texas. We caught up with him before the Caminemos Juntos Conference (Aug. 2-4 in Houston), to hear about his development efforts in the Latino Anglican church, as well as how churches can connect with their Latino brothers and sisters during a difficult political time.
Q. As Canon for Latino Ministry, what is the primary work you are doing?
Daniel Lizarraga: Right now, it’s fostering opportunities for connecting with the growing Latino community in the diocese. We are having initial conversations and identifying opportunities, working with rectors from the Louisiana coast down to Brownsville, which is a very diverse and massive area to cover. We are trying to survey the needs in terms of demographics in local communities and what resources and efforts are needed. Some rectors and churches are intentional about wanting to do this. We are working with those who do want to do it and for whom resources would be helpful. Of course, Caminemos Juntos is certainly a piece of what we’re wanting to do.
Q. What is Caminemos Juntos?
DL. In Spanish it means “Let’s Walk Together.” It is an Anglican Latino church planting movement begun in 2010, a partnership between the Greenhouse Movement and the Anglican Church in North America, the Diocese of Brazil and the Anglican Church in Chile.
The goal of Caminemos Juntos is to unify, mobilize and multiply Latino Anglican churches throughout the 35 countries in the Americas. They have annual conferences that take place in North America, Mexico and all of the Americas. The North American conference is coming up August 2-4 in Houston, Texas. I serve as the liaison between Caminemos Juntos and the Anglican Multiethnic Network.
Q. What will happen at the Caminemos Juntos Conference?
DL. It’s a great opportunity for Latino leaders in the area to come together for the first time and get a strong sense of what the Anglican church looks like in the Latino community—not just here in the United States but in connection with other countries. It gives leaders a strong sense of belonging, being part of something bigger that spans beyond our local realities. It enables people to say, “We are part of this!”
The whole point is to foster church planting within the Latino community. It’s not just about ministry to the Latino community but seeing how to collaborate with them. We’re all coworkers in the vineyard of the Lord. Latinos have many things to offer—like true love, the focus on family and accompaniment, the values that lend themselves to witnessing and enhancing the faith of others. That is the hope and prayer of the Caminemos Juntos Conference, to provide wonderful, dynamic worship so that people will feel invigorated and leave committed and excited, with the confidence that they can do it.
I encourage non-Latinos to attend the conference, to get that taste of what the Latino Anglican Church looks like. I pray that the experience would not be merely observing but fully connecting with Latino Anglicans. Because it’s in Houston within the Diocese of the Western Gulf Coast, I hope that our people will take advantage of that and come. The conference is being hosted by Missio Dei Church in Houston, and their rector, Mark Ball, is with Greenhouse. He’s going over and beyond to enable people to come.
Q. How are churches in your diocese reaching out to the Latino community?
DL. The Latino church is still a small but incrementally growing part of the church. The Anglican Church in North America has been very supportive of our various efforts and very encouraging to the Caminemos Juntos movement, especially former Archbishop Duncan. The desire is there, but the resources are limited. The recent political situation hasn’t helped. A lot of Anglicans are conflicted in some ways, torn between the message that we’re to love everyone and the legal dimension to people’s presence here.
Q. In your area of Texas, how are Latinos responding to Anglicanism?
DL. Many have a background in Roman Catholicism. However, there are a number who have left their Catholic roots for more evangelical kinds of church, and in some instances, they are trying to figure out, What is this thing we call Anglicanism?
In my parish, Cristo Nuestro Rey, which is a part of Christ the King Anglican Church in New Braunfels, no one is Anglican yet. When I came on, I didn’t want to do too much at once. Now the people are asking, “Who are we, and what does it mean?” They know they are part of a parish that is distinctly Anglican. Now that we’re getting to a point of discipleship, we are working out the identity thing. When I have the opportunity to clarify and show similarities with Roman Catholicism and more evangelical expressions, people appreciate that.
In our context, there is definitely a reemergence of an appreciation for the sacramental, but it still takes time. If Latinos have been in evangelical churches, they have rejected most of Catholicism. They are saying to me, “Wait, we were told that the Bible said this.” It takes time to reconcile that. But there is an attraction to the community life of our parish.
It can also be a little confusing since the term Anglicanism comes from the term Anglo. Some Latinos think, I’m not Anglo, and I can’t become Anglo. What does this mean? For recent immigrants, there is increased tension with that too: Do they hate us?
Q. Can you say more about how we can respond to the situation on the border?
DL. It’s a crisis. It touches on everyone’s eyes—citizens of the United States and across the globe. People are seeing a difficult and painful situation, with a split focus on the legality and the humanity.
Perhaps it’s a Kairos moment, an opportunity to demonstrate what true love is, the love that the Lord gives us to be witnesses to the gospel. It’s not obvious at this point that we’re doing that, but I think we can do it, and I think we can do it well. My prayer is that we can step up and respond to the call to love, first and foremost. We are United States citizens, but we are Christians first.
I also urge Christians to be aware of the social tensions and perceptions that can be racist, not only toward immigrants but people like myself, an educated person of Mexican-American descent. I don’t experience racism within the Anglican church, but there is an exposure to those ideas and influences. We need to be able to see our current political challenges as an opportunity, a way we can come together under the gospel and be united, whoever we are, wherever we come from. We are brothers and sisters. That focus needs to be reinforced time and time again in our conversations, our educational opportunities and our worship.
Q. In your parish, are you doing combined Latino and Caucasian services?
DL. We don’t have regular combined services, but we did on Pentecost. That service was a wonderful celebration of not only Latino culture, but the diversity and richness of all cultures. We had readings in Spanish and English, and I tried to demonstrate that Latino culture has an appreciation for other cultures, not demanding recognition for ourselves. Valuing one culture over the other is not what it’s about. It’s recognizing the beauty and richness of the many faces in God’s house.
Cristo Nuestro Rey was going to be a plant separate from Christ the King, but the people determined they wanted to be part of this together. In San Antonio, we are more accustomed to having communities coming together—it’s part of the local culture to have that connectedness. For me personally, bringing cultures together reflects a great value and beauty.
Q. Tell us about your work in the Anglican Immigrant Initiative.
DL. I am on the advisory task force of the Anglican Immigrant Initiative. Our goal is to encourage and invite local Anglican congregations to reach out to the immigrant population and assist with welcoming them and helping them obtain legal documentation and status. We provide a start-up tool guide for churches to learn how to help those eligible for citizenship. We also help churches complete the trainings required by the United States government and obtain the necessary certification. We currently have two clinics open—one in South Bend, Indiana and one in Washington, D.C.
Q. What is the first step for a parish that wants to connect with Latinos in their community?
DL. Most likely, there are a lot of opportunities already happening in your community. I encourage parishes to connect with those organizations and not assume they need to start another program. Find parish members who can connect, tutor and mentor within the Latino community. It’s OK if they don’t know Spanish. The majority of Latino kids and young people don’t know Spanish either. And Latino parents and families are understanding and always appreciate people who are willing to connect with them, despite language barriers. Barriers are only what you make them to be.
A lot of our Anglican Church in North America parishes are small, so if you want to partner, I suggest sending at least two people from your congregation to volunteer in teaching English as a Second Language or citizenship classes or partnering with other organizations. This will slowly start building relationships. Then, pray that the Holy Spirit would work, using your small efforts for His glory.
The Reverend Canon Daniel Lizárraga, M.P.Aff, M.T.S., is a priest of the Diocese of the Western Gulf Coast and serves on the advisory task force of the Anglican Immigrant Initiative. He also serves as the Director and Chaplain of FaithAbility, a ministry with and for the local special needs community. In addition, he is the Canon for Latino Ministry in the diocese. Fr. Daniel’s professional career includes working for faith-based organizations in advocacy, community development and international humanitarian aid. He resides in San Antonio, Texas with his wife, Joy and their four lovely daughters.