U.S. Hispanics leaving Catholic Church for Evangelical churches

USA - A National Public Radio (NPR) report says U.S. Hispanics are leaving the Catholic Church in increasing numbers. The report says most Hispanics leaving the Catholic Church for Evangelical churches are second and third generation Hispanics.

Barbara Bradley Hagerty of National Public Radio , commenting on the pattern of conversion of U.S. Hispanics to Pentecostal Christianity says,

“You can see evidence of that in the Assemblies of God, once a historically white, suburban Pentecostal denomination...When you walk into the denomination’s largest church, it’s sensory overload: The auditorium is jam-packed with hundreds of Latino worshipers singing in Spanish, swaying and dancing.”

Reverend Wilfredo de Jesus of Chicago's New Life Covenant Church says Hispanic converts to Pentecostal churches are helping to shore up American Christianity. According Reverend de Jesus:

"No doubt, every denomination would have decreased in membership if it had not been for Hispanic growth, including our fellowship, the Assemblies of God.”

Hispanics who join the American Pentecostal churches are mostly second and third generation Hispanics. This is because religious cultural restrictions prevent first generation Catholics from taking a decision to change religion.

The pattern of the trend in which Hispanics, especially second and third generation, are leaving the Catholic Church for Pentecostal churches had been noted since the early 2000s. Christianity Today reporting on the growing number of Pentecostal Hispanics in the U.S., in 2003, noted that first generation Hispanics were, however, helping to keep the total number of Catholic Hispanics constant. First generation Hispanic immigrants tend to remain in the Catholic Church. It is the second and third generation Hispanic Americans who tend to change their religion.

Christian Post, in 2009, reported a survey by George Barna which showed a 25 percent fall in number of Hispanic Catholics, with an increase of 17 percent in number of Hispanics claiming to be "born-again" Christians.

George Barna commented on the results of the survey:

“You cannot help but notice the changing relationship between Hispanics and the Catholic Church...While many Hispanic immigrants come to the United States with ties to Catholicism, the research shows that many of them eventually connect with a Protestant church.”

NPR reports that a poll by Pew Research Center showed less than 60 percent of second-generation Hispanics are Catholic.

The pew research study, according to NPR report, asked — why are second-generation generation Hispanics leaving the Catholic Church?

Pew research concluded from its survey that most Catholics leave the church because of desire for a less formal and regimented form of worship. They find the Catholic system of worship formal and authoritarian in contrast to the practice in Pentecostal and Evangelical churches.

Isaac Vega, speaking to NPR, says he left the Catholic Church because he desired a form of worship which gives him personal relationship with God. He said:

”I felt like my personal relationship with God — I was seeking more, and I needed more. And there was kind of like a glass ceiling. I was hitting something that wasn’t allowing me to grow, and I wasn’t quite sure what it was.”

Betty Ochoa, Hispanic member of Reverend de Jesus' New Life Covenant Church, says that back home in Mexico, people do not have the opportunity to make a choice because families simply do not allow members take the decision to switch church. But in the U.S. things are different, young people are free to decide to change religion. Betty Ochoa says:

"It's more open. We can go to different churches, and visit different churches — or, what do they call it, church-shopping?"

Ochoa, like many former Catholic Hispanics, enthuses on the free and spontaneous manner of worship in Pentecostal churches:

"Oh my goodness. I was so overwhelmed...I didn't know that you could sing like this — and people raising their hands, and calling out, shouting...I'm like, 'This doesn't happen in Catholic church. Like, people just don't do that.' "