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Ethnic Minorities Continue to Strengthen

Gathering shows increasing importance of nonwhite constituency in U.S. Assemblies of God.

ORLANDO, Florida — Representatives of the ever-expanding ethnic minorities contingent of the Assemblies of God gathered for a General Presbyters luncheon Aug. 2 at the Rosen Center in Orlando, kicking off a weeklong series of events associated with General Council 2021. The Fellowship recognizes two dozen official ethnic minority or language fellowship groups. Overall, 44% of the adherents of the AG in the U.S. are ethnic minorities.

Ethnic Fellowship Executive Presbyter John E. Maracle, who also served as the longtime president of the AG’s Native American Fellowship, hosted the event.

In addition to Maracle, other executive presbyters in attendance included Daniel “Danny” de León, West Spanish language area representative and pastor of Templo Calvario in Santa Ana, California. De León urged ethnic minority pastors to plant churches in geographic locations where there aren’t AG congregations. He also said every ethnic fellowship group faces the challenge of retaining third- and fourth-generation attendees — many of whom only speak English instead of their native tongue.

Manuel "Manny" A. Alvarez, superintendent of the Spanish Eastern District, said there is no limit to what God can accomplish in the AG. He predicted the ethnic diversity will continue to grow in the denomination.

Greg Mundis, executive director of AG World Missions since 2011, said the missions-sending agency is trying to catch up to the demographic changes occurring in the U.S.

“The world needs your children,” said Mundis, who urged language groups to send missionaries back to their country of origin.

Wayne Huffman, director of Intercultural Ministries, echoed that sentiment. He said U.S. Missions hopes to see young people move into geographic areas where ethnic minorities are dominant so they can be evangelized and discipled.

Dennis J. Rivera, director of both the AG Office of Ethnic Relations and the Office of Hispanic Relations, noted that multiple Hispanic AG congregations in 14 districts are now sending missionaries around the world. He envisions that happening with other ethnic minority groups as they continue to grow.

L. Alton Garrison spoke about opportunities available for Acts 2 Journey training designed to revitalize congregations. He noted that churches that had gone through the Acts 2 Journey had a closure rate of only 1.3% last year, compared to more than 18 percent for congregations that had not. Garrison also noted that his wife, Johanna, immigrated to the U.S. when she was 10 years old. Johanna’s Dutch father survived Nazi atrocities during World War II and her 91-year-old mother is Chinese.

Various AG leaders of higher institutions also attended the luncheon.

Jonathan D. Gannon, recently inaugurated president of American Indian College in Phoenix, expressed gratitude for the partnership the school has with Southwestern Assemblies of God University. Nevertheless, he said AIC faces multiple challenges in the wake of COVID-19.

J. David Arnett, president of Northpoint Bible College & Graduate School in Haverhill, Massachusetts, noted that the school will begin offering three Spanish-language courses in the fall.

Joseph L. Castleberry, president of Northwest University in Kirkland, Washington, said the school has a strong multiethnic component, including 10 percent of the student body hailing from foreign nations. Castleberry said within a couple of years, graduate students will outnumber undergraduates on campus.

Executive Presbyter and New York Ministry Network Superintendent Duane Durst, who serves on the boards of Northpoint, the University of Valley Forge, and Global University — the AG’s distance education school offering courses in 130 languages — told attendees not to forget about the option of district schools of ministry. He said such institutions have a combined enrollment of 3,500 students, who typically meet one Saturday a month. Many of those schools also offer courses in Spanish.

Photo: Executive Presbyter Danny de León speaks at the luncheon.

John W. Kennedy

John W. Kennedy served as news editor of AG News from its inception in 2014 until retiring in 2023. He previously spent 15 years as news editor of the Pentecostal Evangel and seven years as news editor at Christianity Today.