Large class completes Hispanic pilot course<br>Lay Missionary Planting Network
By Holly McCray
As 17 people received award certificates presented by Bishop Robert Hayes Jr. on May 25, Hispanic ministry transitioned into a new era in the Oklahoma Conference.
The large group graduated from the first Lay Missionary Planting Network (LMPN) course offered in the Conference. Taught in Spanish, the classes met over 10 months.
Participants, mostly young adults, were from Laverne, Heavener, Tulsa, and Oklahoma City. Presenters were from Christ Foundry UMC in Dallas, Saint Paul School of Theology at Oklahoma City University, and from New Mexico, Maryland, and Tennessee.
Carlos Ramirez described the formal May ceremony, in the OCU Chapel, as the moment Hispanic ministry became mainstream for the Church in Oklahoma.
Discard the term "Hispanic," Rev. Ramirez urged, and realize that ministry is to all people, including those who happen to be Hispanic.
Kingdom work with Hispanic populations for too long has been at the edge of UM awareness in the state, Ramirez believes. Generally, Oklahoma UMs "gave money to it and felt good, but somebody else did it," he said. There was "no intentional relationship to be in ministry together."
The LMPN course was a discernment step in a new approach, and laity who attended look forward to Step Two, Ramirez said.
That comes in early September. The Hispanic/Latino Lay Academy will launch with two courses: Church Planting, a General Board of Discipleship course, on Sept. 6-7; and Pastoral Care, using the book "Pastoral Care: Ministry With Immigrants," on Sept. 7.
Scheduled later are four more classes, on administration, preaching, Methodism, and Bible.
This academy, again on the OCU campus, will be similar to "Seminary Lite" offered by Saint Paul School of Theology at OCU. However, these classes will be attentive to Hispanic culture and taught in Spanish, Ramirez explained.
Certification will come through Saint Paul. A Moodle (an online-learning software program) and e-library, both in Spanish, will be accessible. Enrollment fee will be $15.
The first class of students realized "we were doing what we were saying," Ramirez said, "that the Conference was committed to these new things."
"They said they understood better the picture of The United Methodist Church and the Conference, that they like what Hispanic Ministry in the Conference is doing, and that they want to be part of the plan."
In 2012, Ramirez was named an associate director in the Office of Mission, to interpret and implement the priorities of the Hispanic/Latino Plan. He also is a General Board of Global Ministries missionary.
Grants for the LMPN course came from GBOD, General Board of Higher Education & Ministry, and the Woodworth Estate.
The Conference’s Hispanic Ministry Committee and Hispanic Ministry Society endorse the programming.