Bishop Joel Martinez
South Central Jurisdiction
Joel is the grandson of sharecropper farmers who came to the U. S. at the turn of the century. He was born in Seguin, TX, to Guadalupe and Dora Martinez. He graduated from the University of Texas at El Paso with a B.A. in history. While in El Paso, he met Raquel Mora, a Methodist pastor's daughter. They married on June 9, 1961, and Joel enrolled in Perkins School of Theology in the fall of 1961.
Ordained deacon and elder by Bishop Paul E. Martin, Joel held membership in the Rio Grande Conference until his election to the episcopacy in 1992. Pastoral appointments were in Dallas, San Antonio and El Paso. He served as Director of Planning and Development at Newark Houchen Center in El Paso and later, Executive Secretary, Office of Ethnic and Language Ministries, National Division, GBGM. Joel served as district superintendent in the Rio Grande Conference and as President of the Greater Dallas Community of Churches. He was a delegate to the Seventh Assembly of the World Council of Churches in Canberra, Australia, 1991.
From early exposure to the plight of farm workers, and in student ministry to migrant workers, Joel learned to appreciate the urgent need for poor people to organize in order to participate more equitably in society. He worked with Cesar Chavez during the 1970's, worked to establish the first federally funded health clinic for the poor in El Paso, was a founding member of the National Hispanic Caucus in the UMC in 1970, and supported the organizing of poor fishermen on the island of Vieques, Puerto Rico in the late 1970's. Joel worked on the initial proposals to the 1976 General Conference for a Missional Priority on the Ethnic Minority Local Church. He chaired the National Missional Priority Coordinating Committee in 1984-88. He chaired the National Plan for Hispanic Ministries National Committee (1992-2000).
From 1992-2000 Joel was assigned to the Nebraska Episcopal Area. In 2000 he was re-assigned to the San Antonio Area where he served until his retirement in 2008.. He served as President of the General Board of Global Ministries for 2000-2008, and as the Interim General Secretary in 2009-2010.
Joel is interested in fostering closer relationships between the UMC and the churches in Latin America and the Caribbean. He reads and writes church history with an emphasis on the contributions of Hispanics to the ecumenical church. He enjoys reading, playing golf, and spectator sports - especially track, baseball and football. In 1995 Joel was honored with the Perkins Distinguished Alumni Award.
Raquel and Joel have three children: Patty, John and spouse Carol, and Rebecca.