Around 750 people turned out Aug. 9 for an Assemblies of God Office of Hispanic Relations reception honoring Pentecostal pioneer Jesse Miranda Jr.
Miranda, along with Southeast Area Executive Presbyter Dan C. Betzer, has been the longest-serving current EP, first elected in 1995 as the West Spanish Language Area executive presbyter — the first Hispanic nonresident EP. He also is the founder and director of the Jesse Miranda Center for Hispanic Leadership at Vanguard University in Costa Mesa, California.
“He has served us in the most excellent of ways,” said Office of Hispanic Relations Director Dennis J. Rivera. “There are not enough words for us to express our thanks to Jesse Miranda. You have opened doors for us. You have poured into the next generation.”
But Miranda isn’t merely an iconic figure in the Assemblies of God. Christianity Today dubbed him “the granddaddy of U.S. Latino Protestantism.” With his irenic spirit, Miranda, 80, is widely regarded as the driving force behind uniting disparate U.S. Hispanic evangelicals on issues such as theological education, social ethics, and racial reconciliation.
Miranda, who started preaching at 19, served as the founding president of the multidenominational Alianza de Ministerios Evangelicos Nacionales (AMEN) and as executive director of the National Hispanic Christian Leadership Conference, the nation’s largest Christian Hispanic organization. He received his bachelor’s degree from Vanguard, master’s degrees from Biola and Fullerton universities, and a doctorate from Fuller Theological Seminary.
He is the author of The Christian Church in Ministry, which has been translated into 10 languages, and Liderazgo y Amistad (Leadership and Friendship). Miranda served as superintendent of the AG’s Southern Pacific Latin American District from 1984 to 1992, as well as an instructor at Latin American Bible Institute from 1959 to 1978. In all, he served as an AG general presbyter for 41 years.
Miranda grew up in Albuquerque, New Mexico, the son of a Mexican lumber mill worker and Spanish-descent mother with a third-grade education. He has been a bridge builder among various ethnic, generational, denominational, and political entities.
“I’m leery when the feelings of Christians come from a nationalistic, political, and legal slant rather than from the Bible,” Miranda told the Pentecostal Evangel in 2008.
Samuel Rodriguez, president of the National Hispanic Christian Leadership Conference, the nation’s largest Hispanic evangelical organization, called Miranda his “spiritual father” at the reception. Rodriguez noted that Miranda became the first to serve as a Pentecostal and educated role model to him
“You have left a tremendous legacy for us to follow,” said Wilfredo “Choco” De Jesús, one of three Hispanics on the reconfigured Executive Presbytery, joined by newly elected Daniel De Leon and Melissa J. Alfaro.
At the reception, Miranda congratulated Alfaro for breaking a barrier as the first female Latino executive presbyter. Miranda encouraged the overwhelmingly Hispanic audience not to settle for second-class status, and to be not just followers, but leaders for the glory of God. The AG constituency now is 22 percent Hispanic.
Miranda credited his wife of 60 years, Susan, and his children, Jack, Michael, and Cindy, for their support during his busy life of ministry.
“I am what I am because of family,” Miranda said.
The General Council voted Aug. 9 to name Miranda an honorary general presbyter based on a resolution sponsored by the Southern Pacific District Council.