excerpts from Sunday, February 19, 1995 Boston Globe
They are an emerging cadre of Latino Pentecostal
leaders, whose church blends the exuberance of the Spirit with
passionate concern for the poor and the oppressed. In the words of the
prophet Jeremiah, they "seek the pace of the city."
One such leader is Rev. Luis Aponte, a
former gang leader and drug dealer. He is the visionary pastor of a
thriving Latino Pentecostal church in Dorchester. Iglesia Pentecostal
Cristo El Ray. ... This Latino church, like many other Latino churches
in Boston, is home to a growing Latino population - according to the
census there are 128, 883 Latinos in the Boston area.
What distinguishes Rev. Luis Aponte, along with the majority of
the Latino Protestant churches of Boston, is that they are part of the growing Pentecostal movement worldwide.
The statistics are amazing. According to some estimates it is growing at
the rate of 20 million new members a year, with worldwide membership of
more than 410 million. In Latin America the growth has been so
outstanding that David Stoll entitled his book, "Is Latin
America Turning Protestant?" ...
Pentecostalism is the branch of the Protestant faith that is
defined by a radical experience of the Holy Spirit. This experience of
God in Pentecostal churches is manifested in a witness and worship
service that includes healing, speaking in tongues and a deeply
emotional and exuberant liturgy. ...
Many reasons are given for the growth of Pentecostalism. Around
the world it is often among the few religious institutions whose life
and mission is for the urban poor and marginalized. Their churches
provide the community a ''space," amid crime, violence, racism,
injustice and death, where self- worth, human dignity and a family can
be found. It's a church where the Gospel is preached and spiritual and
clear moral directions are given. ...
The questions of political involvement of the Pentecostal
churches is an important one. The response is predicated on one's
definition of political. To many Pentecostals, as well as many social
scientists, their presence and ministry in our inner-city constitute a
powerful social force with significant political implications.
Pentecostal churches are beginning to find their community and political
As founding director (1976-1990) of the Center for Urban
Ministerial Education, I have been deeply concerned with urban
leadership development. It has been my special calling to challenge the
church, particularly the Latino church, to become more involved with the
socio-cultural issues of our day. Recently, as a board member of the
Organizing and Leadership Training Center, I have encouraged Latino Pentecostals and other
Protestant churches to participate with other churches and synagogues in
broad-based community organizing. These groups can deal effectively with
jobs, schools and crime issues that affect members of their churches and
others in the community.
In Boston an emerging Pentecostal leadership is leading a quiet
Latino revolution. They are the authentic grass-root leaders who are
often overlooked and may not represent the Latino political elite, but
who must be embraced by all who would serve our community.
The Rev. Dr. Eldin Villafaņe is Professor of Christian Social Ethics at
Gordon-Conwell Theological Seminary and founder of its Center for Urban
Ministerial Education. He also is a leader in the Assemblies of God and
a longtime friend of CSCO.