Ethnic Background: Hispanic
Conference: California Nevada
Probationary Date: 06/12/2010
Full Membership Date: 06/13/2014
Number of Eligible Quadrenniums: 4
Doctor of Ministry, Prophetic Activism; from the Cross to Community, United Theological Seminary, Dayton, Ohio, Currently Enrolled
Fellow, Pastoral Leadership and Public Life, Austin Presbyterian Seminary, Austin, Texas, 2019
Master of Divinity, Perkins School of Theology, Southern Methodist University, Dallas, Texas, 2012
Bachelor of Science Business Management, Organizational Behavior, University of Phoenix, Dallas, Texas, 2004
Certifications: Stephens Minister, Hispanic Ministries, Multicultural Ministries
Concentrations: Leadership, Group Dynamics, Conflict Resolution, Inclusion Ministries
Third generation United Methodist
United Methodist Youth Fellowship
United Methodist Woman
Pastor, UMC Merced, California Nevada Conference, Merced, California
Pastor, Emmauel UMC, Rio Texas Conference, Austin, Texas
Pastor, Casa Emanu-El UMC, Rio Conference and Rio Texas Conference
Pastor, El Divino Salvador Iglesia Metodista Unida, Rio Grande Conference
Counselor, Youth Ministries
Board Member, Wesley Foundation
DISTRICT Central Valley
Presiding Elder, various churches
Chair/Facilitator, Paragraph 213 Processes, various churches
ANNUAL CONFERENCE California Nevada Conference
Member, Board of Ordained Ministry
Guide, Residency in Practical Ministry
Member, Hispanic Ministries (SEAS)
Worship Taskforce on Gathering of the Orders
Conference Board College Ministries
ANNUAL CONFERENCE Rio Texas
Chair of the Order of Elders
Secretary and Vice Chair, Board of Ordained Ministry
Vice chair, Trustees
Codirector, Residency in Ministry for Candidates of Ministry
Secretary, Transitional Team of Rio Grande and Southwest Texas Annual Conferences to become Rio Texas Conference
Member, Clergy Women
Instructor, Licensing School for Local Pastors
United Methodist Youth Camp
JURISDICTION South Central Jurisdiction
Trustees Delegate, Rio Texas Conference to General Commision on Church Finance and Administration
Instructor, United Methodist Women Mission University and School of Mission
Instructor, Course of Studies
Executive board member, National Plan for Hispanic Latino Ministries
Consultant, Hispanic Ministries, National Plan for Hispanic Latino Ministries
Certified Trainer, General Board of Higher Education and Ministry, Lay Missioner Pastor Mentor Training
Assistant director, Mexico Immersions, Seminario Baez Camargo-Perkins School of Theology
Consultant, General Board Higher education and Ministry – Seminario Universidad Biblica Latinoamericana, San Jose, Costa Rica
Bilingual, English Spanish charges
Solo Pastor with staff
OTHER MINISTRY SETTINGS
Director, Dallas County Youth Advocates, Inc, Dallas, Texas
Case Manager, Interfaith Housing Coalition, Homelessness prevention, rapid rehousing, transitional housing, Dallas, Texas
Assistant to the Director, Mexican American Program, Perkins School of Theology, Dallas, Texas
Chaplain, Boy Scout Troops 1988, Cub Scouts troop 127, Garland, Texas
Faith Consultant, Building Healthy Marriages, Dallas, Texas
University Student Association, Huston-Tillotson College, Austin, Texas
Community and Ecumenical Involvement:
Founder, Merced County Friends in Faith; ecumenical and interfaith group
Board Member, Alliance for Community Transformations
Board Member, Center of Vision enhancement
Spiritual Consultant, Merced City and County
Member, City of Merced Faith Leaders Organization,
Interfaith Housing Coalition, Dallas, Texas
Industrial Areas Foundations, Dallas and Austin, Texas
Dallas Area Interfaith, Dallas, Texas
East Dallas Cooperative Parish, Dallas, Texas
Merced County Health and Human Services, First Responder, Crisis Care, Certified Volunteer
Merced Chapter Soroptimist
League of Women Voters
Merced County Hispanic Chamber of Commerce
Faith Consutant, Ally, Merced Pride Center
Merced LGBTQ Youth Allies
Consultant, Merced Multicultural Arts Center
Member, City of Merced, Friends of the Library
Oversight, UMC Merced Neighborhood Food Pantry
UMC Merced Homeless Ministries
Collaborator, Gavin Newsome, Dignity Health and Valley Onward vaccination clinics
Partner, Duke University COVID Free You and Me home tests distribution
Partner Dignity Health Systems, Community Care
Other Relevant Experience:
Why are you being called to the episcopacy at this time? What is it that you especially bring to the role of bishop with the current challenges facing our denomination and the Western Jurisdiction right now?
As I stopped to consider the possibility of serving as an episcopal leader of The United Methodist Church, specifically in the Western Jurisdiction, in this point in time, the state of the denomination, our particular Jurisdictional reality, and the people of The United Methodist church, all came flooding to mind. It is true that general struggles of The United Methodist Church; finances, membership, need for qualified and accountable leadership, and the guides to navigate through the divisiveness will require much prayer, skill and work. And to be sure, I initially thought, “No. That is not what I want to do.”.
It was not until my 18-year-old son asked me if I had discerned through prayer, that I stopped to think, God may indeed be calling me. There is a lot of wisdom in asking God, first. And so, I did! And through much prayer, soul searching, reflective inquiry and consultation with God and others, I have leaned into the bidding of The Spirit, confident of my abilities and more confident of God’s leading.
My business acumen, understanding of group dynamics, care for the individual, desire to welcome the stranger, advocacy on behalf of the marginalized and desire for responsible stewardship, with concern for the greater Church and our global community will be helpful in addressing many areas of conflict in all aspects of The Church and our life together. Membership, finances, church growth and individual and collective faith formation as we build the kindom of God together are hoped for results. I trust God’s leading and provision, sustaining and guidance, should I be called to serve as bishop.
I believe I have the education, training and experience necessary to serve the UMC well. I also believe that my deepest desires of providing ministry that knits the church and community together in relationship, will also serve our structures well in knitting relationship into our connectionalism, fleshing out community and unity throughout the processes, polity, ministry and witness of The United Methodist Church.
For such a time as this, we need vision, prophetic action, the willingness to try something new and the desire to live into faithful discipleship in welcoming diversity, building community and living in unity.
I am willing and able to go where God leads, trusting God has an amazing plan for us.
Describe how the last two years have affected your ministry.
The last two years impacted ministry in all aspects. Most of it can fit in three learned concepts: we need God, we need The Church, we need each other. Pandemic made us see the need for strategy, rapid response, and willingness to learn or try something new. Flexibility was key to continue serving the faith community, making disciples, and reaching beyond membership.
We continued worship, provided ministry and maintained relationship. The word had to be preached, the disciples had to be gathered, the order of the church had to be sustained and the sacraments administered.
We learned to provide distanced worship through online services, recording, and multimedia I made a habit to provide transcripts of worship including announcements, song lyrics, written prayers, printed scripture and the message, preparing them weekly for hand delivery to each home of non-internet connected members.
Meetings, Bible studies and worship moved to online and zoom platforms. We found ways to creatively produce, procure and otherwise provide music and meaningful worship experiences. Holy Communion and the imposition of ashes were modified for home delivery, offered to all membership and any community member requesting it in our area.
Teams of persons checked in on membership, each time communicating: God and their United Methodist Church of Merced loves them, concern for how they are doing and if they have need, and the church is here for them. Keep them in relationship to the church. Give them options for worship.
Innovative technology, new modes of delivery, intensive and intentional relationship-building and ministry outreach grew. The food pantry, serving boxes of food to an average of 150 families monthly at Jan 2019, swelled to feeding an average of 60 pounds of groceries to 3700 families weekly for several months, acting as a food distribution hub throughout the Central Valley. UMCM’s food ministry has received recognition at city, county and state levels. More than 200,000 families were fed in 24 months.
UMCM collaborated for vaccination clinics, COVID testing and the distribution of over 110,000 home tests on site.
Now, United Methodist Church of Merced is reengaging the membership, providing hybrid online and onsite services, strategizing for a community-church based youth program, and teaching elderly how to use technology for worship, connecting to the church and each other, and attending zoom Bible studies and meetings. The results of the pandemic strategies indeed yielded continued worship, strengthened relationships and effective ministry outreach.
We lived into being The Church; loving God, loving neighbor and loving community.
Endorser: Carol Madruga
Relationship to Candidate: President, Jewish Congregation Etz Chaim, Merced, CA; Friend in Faith, Community Partner
Our relationship with Pastor Ella Luna-Garza began in 2018 when The Tree of
Life Synagogue in Pittsburgh Pennsylvania was attacked in the form of a mass
shooting, killing 11 and wounding 6 members of that synagogue. Pastor Ella
was so moved by this tragedy that she invited our congregation to a prayer vigil
with her church, United Methodist Church of Merced. Our congregation had
never been so warmly embraced by another church or congregation. Her
reaching out to us was such a significant demonstration of leadership and
commitment to God. Our congregations now join together regularly to share
friendship and spirituality.
Pastor Ella continuously demonstrates social justice in our community by
creating a church environment of love and acceptance to everyone. Her food
pantry is available for anyone hungry and she goes above and beyond to feed
our community. I know I have grown as an individual as a result of her example
of commitment to God, community faith, social justice and leadership. She has
joined many faith-based leaders together to create a community group called
Friends in Faith. We are planning community events to bring all individuals
together in the name of peace and unconditional love.
I feel Pastor Ella Luna-Garza would make an excellent Bishop because she
connects people together so well and she lives her life by helping others grow in
faith, following the mission of The United Methodist Church.
Endorser: Rev. James P. Amerson
Relationship to Candidate: Colleague; South Central Jurisdiction Vice Coordinator, Black Methodists for Church Renewal
I write this letter of recommendation for Rev. Ella Luna-Garza to be lifted as a candidate for the episcopal office of the United Methodist Church.
Ella is very accomplished and demonstrates gifts that make her an exceptional leader. She knows tragedy and tribulation while always being a ray of hope. Rev. Luna-Garza brings to ministry a keen sense of pastoral authority, administration, and process development.
She was influential in the newly established Rio Texas Conference where she served on the Bi-Conferential Transitioning Committee and later, as Secretary and Vice- Chairperson on the Board of Ordained Ministry. She led Residency in Ministry Cohort mentoring provisional clergy and was elected as chairperson for the Order of Elders. While giving leadership to the development of clergy, she served as a member of the Rio Texas Conference Board of Trustees.
Ella cares about equity and justice dutifully serving on the Executive Committee of the National Hispanic Plan. She engages in the community as the quintessential prophet/priest. She can lead worship while stepping from the pulpit and participating as a community advocate.
She encourages and motivates to make matters better. Rev. Luna-Garza is thoughtful and inquisitive with a capacity to probe deeply for details. She is a prepared leader who connects the church and community. She is currently working on a D.Min. at United Seminary.
I strongly recommend Ella Luna-Garza. Thank you for your attention and
Endorser: Joel N. Maartinez
Relationship to Candidate: Retired Bishop, My Family’s Lifelong Pastor
As pastor and DS in the Rio Grande Conference, I came to know Ella Luna-Garza since her youth at Emmanuel UMC in Austin, Texas. Later, as Bishop of the San Antonio Episcopal Area, I came to appreciate her single-minded devotion to Christ’s mission as a ministerial candidate and pastor.
She is gifted with a confident faith and a willingness to receive the wisdom and guidance of others in the community of the faithful.
Through experiences of loss, Ella responded with a resilience strengthening her in her ministry with others in the parish and community in their suffering. She has empathy with the pushed down and pushed around.
Articulating the faith in preaching, she is grounded in her sensitivity to the communal, multi-cultural, and multi-racial context she serves. Ella has proven skills in community organizing and ecumenical collaboration in engaging with public and private resources for positive social change.
She has served at Annual Conference levels on the Board of Ordained Ministry and chairing the Order of Elders. She serves on the National Committee of the Plan for Hispanic/Latino Ministry.
I believe her experience of racism, gender discrimination and cultural oppression as a Mexican American woman, will support her service as a bishop in these times in our nation and denomination where healing, hope, and bienvenida for all God’s children, including immigrants, refugees, all cultures and races, and LGBTQ persons is the most urgent calling for The United Methodist.