UNA VERGÜENZA Y UNA BURLA

Después de casi 25 años, llevando a cabo un ministerio enfocado mayormente en servir a la comunidad inmigrante de la ciudad de Oakland California y aún más allá,  dentro de las instalaciones de la Iglesia Presbiteriana High Street,  una Comisión Administrativa del Presbiterio de San Francisco, después de más de un años de haber recibido los cargos, literalmente recomienda  al Presbiterio que se debe permitir que la Iglesia High Street siga usando todas las instalaciones a su propia discreción y que el Presbiterio invierta y apoye de todas las formas posibles para que la Primera Iglesia Presbiteriana busque una nueva propiedad y que deje lo que ha sido su casa y donde ha desarrollado una identidad recíproca de servicio con la comunidad y diferentes organizaciones comunitarias.  El contenido del informe presentado por la CA a la reunión del Presbiterio del 8 de Septiembre del 2015 es indignante en su mayoría y se puede considerar desde nuestro punto de vida una vergüenza para nuestra denominación y una burla para nuestra comunidad Hispana. Uno de los artículos (en Inglés) del informe de la CA dice: We acknowledge that High Street Presbyterian Church is “...free to deal with, own, and use its property as it wishes in the furtherance of its charge by the Constitution...within the constraints of the Constitution.”(SFP AC 8 de Septiembre del 2015). Además se ignora o se pretende ignorar totalmente la historia de los últimos 15 años en los que la PIPH tuvo bajo su responsabilidad y cuidado como dueños, por un mutuo acuerdo Presbiterio, HSPC y PIPH, de Noviembre de 1999, las instalaciones del santuario Mayor y el edificio de educación.


El informe pretende hacer creer que la HS en un momento decidió compartir sus propiedades e ingresos con la PIPH (We affirm that High Street chose to share with Primera Iglesia its facilities and income from rental.) Esta información carece totalmente de base, ya que el ministerio Hispano en toda su existencia dentro de esta propiedad siempre pagó alquiler en los primeros años y luego asumió el papel del dueño a partir del año 2000, haciéndose cargo de todos los gastos. El cambio de ser inquilinos a dueños se llevó a cabo esencialmente porque la congregación Anglosajona estaba decreciendo en todos los aspectos y no tenía la capacidad económica para mantener un edificio que literalmente estaba colapsando. El informe no menciona que hubo un servicio conjunto el primero domingo de Enero del 200o donde los líderes llevaron a cabo una ceremonia de lavado de manos y HS de forma simbólica entregó las llaves indicando que los edificios arriba mencionados pasaban bajo la responsabilidad de PIPH como dueños. Esta iglesia con la ayuda de otras congregaciones amigas  invirtió miles de dólares en reparaciones del sistema eléctrico, cambio de pisos, sistema de sonido, pintura y otros para que el edificio volviera a estar en buenas condiciones hasta esta fecha. Además, con las reparaciones y mantenimiento de los edificios los mismos han ganado en plusvalía.

 

El legalismo parece sobreponerse siempre a la justicia. La PIPH mantuvo un contrato de alquiler con una escuela semiprivada por casi 15 años dentro de sus propiedades. Desde el inicio de la relación con la escuela hubo un acuerdo conjunto entre la Iglesia HS, el Presbiterio y PIPH para que el ingreso fuese recibido por la congregación Hispana y usado en el mantenimiento de la propiedad, pago de facturas y financiar  el ministerio Hispano. En el 2014, la Iglesia HS sin consultar al Presbiterio y a la Iglesia Hispana, le presentaron a la escuela un nuevo contrato, diciendo que eran los dueños legítimos y la escuela lo firmó. Con esta acción se violó y traicionóla buena fe tanto del Presbiterio como de la Iglesia Hispana.  Ante esa situación, las presiones de pastores/as y líderes pro-justicia y que reconocen el ministerio de la PIPH en la ciudad, empezaron a dejarse sentir para que el Presbiterio ejerciera su autoridad e hiciera justicia. En Junio del 2014 se formó una Comisión Administrativa. La conclusión de la CA es que constitucionalmente no se puede hacer nada ni eclesiástica ni civilmente.

11.            Because High Street, without informing or consulting Presbytery or Primera Iglesia, signed a lease with the school occupying space at High Street it created a sense of betrayal and mistrust on the part of Primera Iglesia and Presbytery.

12.           It is our conclusion that ecclesiastical or judicial process regarding #11 is not a constitutionally viable option and would not resolve any negative feelings engendered by the above (SFP AC 8 de Septiembre del 2015).

 

Mientras que pueda ser verdad que el Presbiterio desde el punto de vista legal no encuentre base para hacer justicia,  ¿no dice algo la Biblia o nuestras Confesiones al respecto de la injusticia y como tratar a los extranjeros y sin poder, que dijo e hizo Jesús acerca de quienes usaban el templo de Jerusalén para sus propios negocios, y que desplazaban a los Gentiles en vez de darles la bienvenida hacia una relación plena con Dios, que de nuestro muy mencionado principio de inclusividad? Es obvio y queda claro que en este caso nuestra constitución fue diseñada por inmigrantes pero no para inmigrantes. Me pregunto si la conclusión fuese la misma si se tratase de otra congregación de diferente trasfondo cultural. Puede ser verdad que la CA no haya encontrado en la ley secular como llevar a cabo una resolución justa, sin embargo es erróneo establecer que no hay una opción constitucional viable bajo la ley eclesiástica de la PCUSA. De acuerdo al Libro de Orden la iglesia existe solo porque las congregaciones están unidas en comunión y una relación de  responsabilidad mutua (G-1.0101) Jesús acusó a los líderes religiosos de su tiempo por tratar de aplicar la letra muerta de la Ley y no interpretar el espíritu de la misma.

 

La indignidad de ser una congregación inmigrante. Lo he dicho y lo sostengo: Si la PCUSA tiene futuro en los Estados Unidos de América, el futuro está en las congregaciones raciales étnicas y de manera específica en la población de mayor crecimiento, la Hispana. Es inaceptable y vergonzoso que siendo una denominación que promueve la igualdad y participación completa para todos/as no se aprecie y se respete en lo más mínimo la dignidad de una iglesia que he demostrado con hechos concretos que su llamado es claramente servir a la comunidad inmigrante en sus diferentes necesidades. Diferentes organizaciones de servicio a la comunidad y la ciudad misma reconocen el rol de la PIPH en la abogacía por los derechos de los inmigrantes así como su servicio a este sector de la comunidad. La relevancia del servicio de la PIPH está documentada públicamente en periódicos, radio y televisión local y nacional. Es por ello que aún y cuando estábamos conscientes de nuestras limitaciones en todos los aspectos, en Octubre del 2014 nos re-declaramos junto a otras tres Iglesias Presbiterianas Anglosajonas del Presbiterio como Iglesias santuario para dar apoyo y acompañamiento a niños/as y a sus familias que estaban llegando al área.

 

El racismo institucionalizado es un mal que denigra la  dignidad de los seres humanos creados a la imagen de Dios de acuerdo a la teología Cristiana. El racismo es un vehículo que daña la hermandad y armonía entre seres humanos. Es por ello que las iglesias raciales étnicas y en particular las Hispanas dentro de nuestra denominación, siguen en su mayoría ocupando un lugar de segunda o tercera categoría y parecen no tener el derecho, en muchos casos aunque sean iglesias organizadas, a por lo menos compartir propiedades en igualdad de condiciones. Es obvio que la PIPH se ha ganado ese lugar con trabajo y servicio obedeciendo al llamado de Dios. Como congregación demostró que económicamente pudo sobrevivir y no dejar de servir a la comunidad, aun cuando el Presbiterio por la recesión económica del país tuvo que hacer un corte total de fondos en el 2008. ¿Cómo es posible que no se haya valorado todo el trabajo histórico de la PIPH y alguien haya tenido la malvada idea de orquestar un plan para desplazar a esta congregación de su derecho moral y eclesiástico de permanecer en su lugar de adoración y ministerio?

 

Si no hay justicia no hay cambio.Si el Presbiterio de San Francisco acepta el contenido del informe de la CA como válido, tanto la Comisión como el mismo Presbiterio tendrán que confesar que como cristianos/presbiterianos han fallado en reflejar la unidad de la iglesia tal y como la Biblia y nuestra  misma Constitución la declaran.   El atropello que nuestras comunidades vienen sufriendo por más 500 años, después de la conquista sigue haciendo mella aún dentro de nuestra denominación que se jacta de ser democrática en inclusiva en todas sus expresiones. Necesitamos urgentemente más que un cambio de lenguaje en Constitución Presbiteriana; es esencial una reconversión de raíz que termine con todas las prácticas anticristianas que tomando las reglas eclesiásticas como pretexto deciden quienes tienen el derecho de disfrutar de los privilegios de la denominación y quienes están condenados a seguir inmigrando dentro de sus mismas comunidades en busca de piedad y compasión. No debe haber lugar para el desplazamiento dentro de la Iglesia Presbiteriana. Los valores humanos, culturales, de comunidad y cristianos de la PIPH están siendo afectados de una manera profunda y dolorosa. El mensaje hacia la comunidad circundante es negativo y ofensivo.

 

Se necesita un azote de cuerdas de inmediato. La PIPH se ha ganado el derecho de ser una congregación escuchada, respetada y visible. Ambos testamentos en las Escrituras reflejan el deseo divino de convertir el templo en casa de oración para todos los pueblos o naciones (Isaías 56:7; Jeremías 8:11). Jesucristo mismo muestra su enojo total al apreciar que los dirigentes del templo en su tiempo habían convertido su casa en “cueva de ladrones.” (Marcos 11:7; Mateo 21:13) Los líderes religiosos que se creían los dueños y con el derecho exclusivo de decidir por los asuntos religiosos, intencionalmente ocuparon el lugar dedicado para los gentiles para sus propios negocios. ¿Quiénes tomarán la iniciativa para hacer un azote de cuerdas y poner las cosas en su justo sitio dentro de nuestra denominación? ¿Quiénes levantarán la voz en oración y acción para reclamar restitución por las heridas espirituales y psicológicas causadas por las injusticias y opresión de quienes sin vivir en nuestras comunidades siguen queriendo tener el control de las propiedades? Por ahora, tendremos que hacerlo las mismas comunidades Hispanas afectadas. Es tiempo de poner en práctica el eslogan “pueblo unido jamás será vencido” En nombre de Jesucristo, de la PIPH y de la comunidad a la que servimos, declaro que no perderemos el enfoque de servicio y  que la justicia de Dios prevalecerá sobre toda clase de injusticia humana, y que no habrá ninguna fuerza terrenal que nos detenga hasta que se reconozca públicamente que esta congregación Hispana tiene derecho a quedarse en su casa y en su vecindario. En el Señor haremos proezas.

 

Rev. PP Morataya

25 de Agosto del 2015


A Shame and A Mockery

 

Primera Iglesia Presbiteriana Hispana, [First Presbyterian Hispanic Church of Oakland] an intentional Spanish-speaking PC (USA) church is planted at a crucial crossroads in the life of its ministry.  After nearly 25 years of carrying out a ministry focused largely on serving the immigrant community in the city of Oakland California and beyond, from the premises of the historic Presbyterian Church High Street (at 1941-1945 High Street, 94601), is faced with an unwanted and forced relocation.  An Administrative Commission of Presbytery of San Francisco, appointed more than a year ago with the charge to bring a resolution to this crucial decision about the ownership and use of the premises of the historic High Street Presbyterian Church, has finally acted.  Their recommendation back to the Presbytery is to allow the High Street Church to continue to use all the facilities at their own discretion as the sole owners.  The report also recommends that the Presbytery invest and support in all possible ways empowering Primera Iglesia Presbiteriana Hispana to seek a new property.  This recommendation means that PIPH would leave their established and recognized home: the place and space from where their congregational identity has developed through a collaborative and reciprocal ministry to the Oakland community alongside various community organizations. For the most part, the contents of the report submitted by the Administrative Commission to the Presbytery meeting of September 8, 2015 are outrageous.  We see them as both a disgrace to our Presbyterian denomination, and a mockery of our Hispanic community.  One of the articles (in English) the report of the CA states:

"We acknowledge That High Street Presbyterian Church is" ... free to Deal With, own, and use its property as it wishes in the furtherance of its charge by the Constitution [of the Presbyterian Church]... Within the constraints of the Constitution. (SFP AC September 8, 2015).

In addition to these errors, the report ignores or feigns ignorance of the history of the past 15 years (beginning in November 1999) during which the PIPH was solely responsible and took care of, as owners, by mutual agreement between the Presbytery, HSPC and PIPH, the facilities of the main sanctuary and education building (the overall premises at 1941 High Street, 94601).

 

This AC report would have us believe that the High Street Presbyterian Church at a time in the past decided to share their property and income with Primera Iglesia Presbiteriana Hispana. (We do affirm the historic fact that HSPC chose to share with PIPH its facilities and income derived from rental of the premises, but this was neither their idea nor their choice.  The action was forced upon them by the reality of their dying situation and the advice of the Presbytery of San Francisco.) This information is entirely without foundation.  The giving over of proprietorship was established and permenant.  The Hispanic ministry paid rent in the first year of the agreement (1999), after which PIPH then took on the role of sole owner, taking charge of all expenses. The change from being renters to owners took place essentially because the Anglo congregation at HPSC was decreasing in every aspect.  HSPC did not have, or anticipate having in the future, the financial capacity to maintain a building that was quite literally collapsing. The report fails to mention that there was a joint worship service on Sunday, January 2, 2000 in which the leaders of both churches held HPSC symbolically washed their hands of the charge of caring for the premises and building upkeep, handing the keys (indicating full ownership and responsibility) to the PIPH community. This latter church, with the help of other congregational partners, invested thousands of dollars in the repair of the electrical system, damaged floors, a functional the acquisition of a new sound system, painting, among other essential upkeep tasks, in order to return the building to a usable condition. In addition, these repairs and ongoing building maintenance, have directly contributed to the appreciated value of the property over the past 15 years.

 

Legalism always seems to overcome justice. Primera Iglesia Presbiteriana Hisapan held a long-term lease with a charter school for almost 15 years on the premises at 1941-1945 High Street, 94605). Since the beginning of the rental relationship with the charter school there was a joint agreement and mutual understanding between the High Street Presbyterian Church, the Presbytery of San Francisco and PIPH that the income derived from this rental relationship was to be paid in whole to PIPH to use in three ways:  funding the maintenance of the property, the paying of bills and as a way finance the growing Hispanic ministry of PIPH. (PIPH is a congregation comprised primarily of immigrants, who lack the financial means to fund a church organization.  This rental income would serve as a sort of grant to empower the existence of the work of PIPH.) In 2014, HSPC without consulting either the Presbytery of San Francisco or PIPH, they introduced and unilaterally signed a to a new rental contract with the charter school.  This new contract reversed the historic understanding, asserting suddenly that HPSC was the rightful owner.  Somehow the charter school signed this new agreement without any conversation, dialogue or clarification with either the Presbytery of SF or PIPH. This unilateral action undertaken by HPSC violated past agreements, and betrayed the good faith of both the Presbytery and PIPH. In response, Presbyterian and other Christian pastors, as well as non-profit organizational leaders in and around Oakland began to advocate for a just solution to this problem and the recognition of the importance of the ministry of PIPH in the live of the city of Oakland.  This wide coalition of allies began to actively pressure and act to encourage the Presbytery of SF to exercise its ecclesiastical and spiritual authority to bring a just solution for both parties involved. In June 2014, at a meeting of the Presbyterian of SF, an Administrative Committee was formed to seek a solution. The conclusion of the AC, contained in the report of September 8, 2015) is that constitutionally there is nothing that can be done to redress this unilaterally unjust renegotiation of a lease according to either ecclesiastical or civil law.

 

11.            Because High Street, without informing or consulting Presbytery or Primera Iglesia, signed a lease with the school occupying space at High Street it created a sense of betrayal and mistrust on the part of Primera Iglesia and Presbytery.

12.           It is our conclusion that ecclesiastical or judicial process regarding #11 is not a constitutionally viable option and would not resolve any negative feelings engendered by the above (AC Report of September 8, 2015).

 

And what about our Biblical faith, that gives breath to our lives and purpose to our work?  While it may be true that the Presbytery can find no basis for a mutually just solution regarding ownership and uses of the premises at 1941-1945 High Street, 94605) from a legal point of view, don’t both the Bible and the Confessions of the Church say something about God’s justice and priority for the widow, the orphan and the foreigner? Didn’t our Lord Jesus condemn the Temple of Jerusalem as a den of thieves, having turned what was to be a house of prayer for all peoples (powerful and powerless) into a business for personal gain?  Didn’t Jesus condemn this action for the way in which it removed and regulated the presence of the Gentiles, “foreigners” what we might call immigrants today, so that they were unable to have a full relationship with God according to the laws of the time?  Didn’t Jesus advocate for the full inclusivity of the orphan, widow and foreigner (those regulated to the margins of society)?  Is it not obvious and clear that Presbyterian Constitution (Book of Order) was designed by immigrants but not for the good of immigrants? Written by Scottish and Anglo immigrants to the historic Colonies, it fails to address any of the concerns of current immigrants to our contemporary United States.   Would the Administrative Commission make the same conclusion wholly in favor of HPSC if PIPH was a non-immigrant congregation from a primarily Anglo-American cultural background? While it may be true that the AC could not find in the secular law of our state of California a fair resolution to this question of property ownership, however it is erroneous to state that there is no viable constitutional option under the church law of the PC (USA). According to the Book of Order,

 

The mission of God in Christ gives shape and substance to the life and work of the Church. In Christ, the Church participates in God’s mission for the transformation of creation and humanity by proclaiming to all people the good news of God’s love, offering to all people the grace of God at font and table, and calling all people to discipleship in Christ. Human beings have no higher goal in life than to glorify and enjoy God now and forever, living in covenant fellowship with God and participating in God’s mission.            (BOO, G-1.0101)

Jesus accused the religious leaders of his time trying to apply the dead letter of the law without interpret the spirit thereof.  Are we not committing sin by prioritizing legalism over God’s justice and mission for creation?

There is an unrecognized indignity inherent in being an immigrant congregation. I have formerly said, and I stand by my belief, that if the Presbyterian Church of the United States of America is to have a future in the United States, the future lies in racial ethnic congregations, specifically in the fastest growing population, the Hispanic community.  As a denomination that proudly promotes equality and full participation for all, it is unacceptable and shameful that we as the PC (USA)do not seem to appreciate, with a minimum of dignity, a church that is clearly fulfilling their vocation: serving the immigrant community, respecting their diverse needs – spiritual, emotional, financial, vocational, and educational. Different organizations serving the community and the city of Oakland, have themselves recognized the vital role of PIPH as an outspoken advocate for the rights of immigrants and their service to this sector of the community. The significance of service PIPH is documented publicly in newspapers, radio programs, as well as both local and national television. That is why, even aware of our financial and legal limitations, PIPH re-declared, along with three other Anglo-Saxon Presbyterian Churches, in October 2014  our identity as sanctuary churches, committed to giving support and assistance to any and all children and their families that may come to the area in search of safety and security.

 

Institutionalized racism is an evil that denigrates the dignity of human beings, all of whom according to Christian Theology are created in the image of God.  Racism is a vehicle that damages the brotherhood and harmony between human beings. It’s the reason why racial ethnic churches and particularly Hispanic ones within our denomination, generally occupying second or third a place in a category of importance, manifest in many cases by the unequal equity-sharing and building use of historic PC(USA) properties. PIPH has earned the use of the premises at 1941-1945 Hight Street, 94601, as a base of ecclesiastical ministry.  This is testified to by the faithful service of PIPH and their confirmed obedience to God's call in Oakland.  Such worthiness and importance is obvious to all.   Even when the Presbytery in 2008, because of the economic recession, had to cut total funding to PIPH (and other churches); PIPH not only survived financially despite the odds, but expanded its service to the local Oakland community. How then is it possible that all of this undeniable worth testified to through the historic work of PIPH has not been taken into account?  How has this history been forgotten and overlooked in the short-sighted orchestration of a plan to relocate PIPH?  How can the Church deny the congregation of PIPH its ecclesiastical moral right to remain in their already established and vital place of worship and ministry?

 

Without justice there can be no change. If the Presbytery of San Francisco accepts the contents of the report of the Administrative Commission as valid, both the members of the AC and those of the Presbytery must confess that as Presbyterian Christians they have failed to uphold the mission of God, through the work and life of the Church as set down by both the Bible and our Book of Order. For more than 500 years, since the Spanish Conquest of the Western Hemisphere, our Hispanic community has suffered.  Where is the outrage in our own Presbyterian family when we see that this suffering continues within our denomination which claims to be democratic and inclusive in all its expressions?  We urgently need more than a mere change of language in our Presbyterian Constitution.  It’s essential that we redeem our essential roots and tenants in order to put an end to the anti-Christian practices that are obviously evident in the question of ownership of the premises at 1941-1945 High Street, 94605.  We must no longer take ecclesiastical rules as a pretext to decide who has the right to enjoy the constitutional privileges of our denomination.  We must no longer use them as a pretext to doom and limit immigrant, or racial-ethnic communities to look on their own for piety and compassion from outside our Presbyterian family. There should be room for movement in the Presbyterian Church. The human, cultural, and community values ​​of the Christians of Primera Iglesia Presbiteriana are being affected in a profound and painful way. This unjust situation of ownership communicates a message to the surrounding community that is both negative and offensive.

 

As Jesus used in the Temple in John 2, to return the Temple made into a den of thieves, to its intended house of prayer, we need a whip of cords today in our church.  The community of Primera Iglesia Presbteriana Hispana has earned the right to be heard, respected and seen. Both Testaments in Scripture reflect the divine desire to turn the temple into a house of prayer for all peoples and nations (Isaiah 56: 7; Jeremiah 8:11).  Jesus himself shows his full indignation in condemning the leaders of the church in his time as thieves who had made God’s home their den (Mark 11: 7; Matthew 21:13).  Those religious leaders believed themselves to be the owners of the Temple, with the exclusive right to decide all religious affairs.  In their avarice, they intentionally took the place dedicated to the spiritual welfare of the Gentiles (foreigners) for their own personal financial gain. Who will take the initiative to make a whip of cords, speak the truth and put things right within our Presbyterian denomination? Who will raise the voice in prayer and action to seek restitution for spiritual and psychological wounds caused by the injustices and oppression of those who have abandoned, and do not want to live in our communities, but still want to have control of the properties? In such a time as this, we must do the right, the righteous, the Godly thing on behalf of our disenfranchised and affected Hispanic communities.  A Latino expression asserts that "the people united will never be defeated." (Pueblo unido jamás será vencido) In the name of Jesus Christ, and on behalf of Primera Iglesia Presbiteriana Hispana and the community we serve, I declare that we will not lose focus of ministry.  The justice of God will prevail over all human injustice.  No earthly force will stop us until our adversaries publicly acknowledge that this Hispanic congregation has the right to stay in their home and neighborhood.

 

With God’s help we shall do mighty things, (Psalm 60:12)

 

Rev. PP Morataya

August 25, 2015