Home Voices The Legacy of Scripture in the Latino(a) Protestant Church in America

The Legacy of Scripture in the Latino(a) Protestant Church in America

“If we don’t tell our stories, then who will?”

Latino(a) Protestant Church

When we don’t know the past, we tend to make assumptions that don’t historically line up with the facts. I’ve been guilty of this kind of thinking as it pertains to my heritage—the story of the Latino(a) Protestant church in the United States.

Who Will Tell Our Stories?

A couple years ago my friend, Dr. Charlie Dates, asked me to be a guest lecturer for the Latino(a) history segment of a course he was teaching on the History of the Black and Latino(a) Church in America at Trinity Evangelical Divinity School (Deerfield, IL). I was initially reluctant, feeling ill equipped for the task and racked my brain thinking of others who could help him. I’ll never forget what he told me.

He said, “Eric, if we don’t tell our stories, then who will?” Those words struck a chord in my soul, causing me to immediately accept the invitation. In the ensuing months, I read, researched, and processed with excitement like a tourist admiring the architectural structures in a foreign city. This short post is an effort to popularize some of what I’ve uncovered and spark the interest of others for further study.

Photo Albums Tell Stories

Historian Justo Gonzalez likens the history of the Hispanic Protestant church in America to a photo album. As every photo album has varieties of snapshots, perspectives, relationships, and seasons represented, so too does the history of Latino(a) Protestantism.[i] The three snapshots I will focus on will demonstrate how the Bible has been an anchor among Hispanic Protestants in North America for nearly 200 years through which the power and promises of God in the gospel have radically changed lives.

Snapshot 1: Ambrosio González and the Power of the Scriptures

In 1853, a Mexican man by the name of Ambrosio González became the first recorded person to convert to the Protestant faith from Catholicism in land formerly held by Mexico (before the Mexican American War).

What I find remarkable is that González attributed his conversion to a Bible that was given to him by the Methodist missionary, Enoch Nicholson, in 1852.[ii] He then grew in his understanding of Scripture and began to minister with the Albuquerque Baptist Church. Rev. Thomas Harwood, a Methodist missionary, gives a first person account when he says this of González,

He had been preaching as a local preacher [in 1871] for about fifteen years, but without license. I reorganized the work at Peralta (the place where Ambrosio studied and preached) and he was licensed to preach and was made preacher in charge at that place.[iii]

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Dr. Eric Rivera is Lead Pastor at The Brook Church.