Evangelicalism appeals to many
Berta Delgado – Dallas Morning News
Via Atlanta Journal-Constitution, Saturday, August 3, 2002
But it is here, at an evangelical church in which 95 percent of the 2,000 people are former Catholics, where he says he belongs.
A survey released in 2001 by the Barna Research Group noted that 53 percent of Hispanic adults in the United States said the church they attended most frequently was Catholic — down from 68 percent in 1990. The majority of churches they are turning to are Protestant churches that are not mainline, says George Barna, who directed the study. He expects that many Hispanics will leave the Catholic Church for a Protestant church in the next few years.
Some reports say that as many as 600,000 Latinos leave the Catholic Church every year. But experts say that number is hard to pin down because so many Hispanics are immigrants. A study by the Instituto Fe y Vida, or Institute for Faith and Life, found that about 74 percent of foreign-born Hispanics are Catholic.
There are no official statistics, said Michael Foley, an associate professor of politics at Catholic University in Washington. It’s difficult to compile those because many immigrants are hard to find, are not accustomed to registering at the parishes they attend and do not respond to English surveys. Foley said that for many, Catholicism is a folk religion that is home-based with not much attachment to the church.
“There is also a phenomenon where people who attend Protestant churches also attend Catholic churches and don’t think of themselves as having left the Catholic Church,” he said.
Protestant denominations have stepped up their work to train more Latinos in the ministry. In San Antonio, the Hispanic Baptist Theological School just recorded the second-highest enrollment in its 55-year history with nearly 350 students. Most of those come from a Catholic background, officials say.
Ruben Hernandez, an evangelist who travels to Latin America, was recently hired by the Southern Baptists of Texas Convention to help start Hispanic churches in the state.