The Rev. M. Linda Jaramillo accepted her nomination to a third term as Executive Minister of Justice and Witness Ministries of the United Church of Christ with a passionate and timely address to visitors and delegates of General Synod 2013. In a week of both triumph and trial for justice advocates in the United States, Jaramillo declared her confidence that, "We have a long way to go, but at least we are moving forward" -- and that we never have to do the work alone.
Joking that a preacher really only has one sermon, so people were likely to hear things they'd heard from her before ("I hope!"), she called for three kinds of movement in society, "revolutionizing the Church:" from lamentation to liberation, from apathy to accountability, and from hostility to hospitality. The U.S. Supreme Court decision striking down key provisions of the Voting Rights Act this week elicited a good deal of lamentation among those passionate for equal rights, giving the impression that "we think we're over" racism. In such times, Jaramillo declared, it is time to renew and strengthen the alliances, creating "powerful movements that can indeed move mountains."
She struck at the apathy that so taints the American political system, arguing against the tendency to privatize public institutions such as schools, parks, and prisons. "We must reclaim our public institutions… and our democracy," she declared to applause. She exposed the strange contradictions of public policy around accountability when she asked, "Why can our cell phones be tapped but we can't do criminal background checks when we're buying a gun?"
Rev. M. Linda Jaramillo
Just a few days before, Jaramillo had joined in a unique communion service, celebrated with ecumenical partners on the the U.S.-Mexican border. Unlike most services, the worshipers literally could not touch each other, as they were separated by a great steel wall. “As a show of hospitality,” she asked, “are we willing to throw open our doors and become an immigrant friendly congregation?”
The Rev. Alice Harper-Jones, chair of the Justice and Witness Ministries Board, praised Jaramillo’s leadership over the previous eight years. “I appreciate the ways in which Linda combines both a prophetic passion for justice with a pastoral concern for every setting of the UCC and each individual with whom she ministers.”
Jaramillo, fluent in both English and Spanish, is the first Latina to serve as an officer of the United Church of Christ. She has been active in various UCC settings, including the UCC's former Commission for Racial Justice and former Coordinating Center for Women. She worked with the UCC's Central Pacific Conference, was a member of the denomination's Executive Council, and served as Assistant moderator at General Synod.
Jaramillo has more than 30 years of management experience working with state, county, and federally funded programs in Oregon, including Head Start, migrant services, child welfare, violence prevention, HIV/AIDS treatment and prevention, and adult community-based education. She received a bachelor's degree in business administration from Portland State University in 1990, and an M. Div. degree from UCC-related Pacific School of Religion in Berkeley, Calif. in 2005.
Synod delegates will vote on Jaramillo’s nomination, along with other nominees to the Collegium of Officers, on Monday morning.