Southwestern Seminary equips Hispanic leaders, highlights new degree offerings

Clara Molina
| Jan 19, 2022

More than 100 students from 10 nations and 18 states participated in a week of intensive courses in Spanish for the Master of Theological Studies (Maestría de Estudios Teológicos - MET) program at Southwestern Baptist Theological Seminary, Jan. 14-18, culminating with a dinner highlighting the seminary’s various degree programs and student testimonies.

“Hispanics are part of the Great Commission global vision and heritage of Southwestern Baptist Theological Seminary,” David S. Dockery, interim provost and vice president for academic affairs, told current and prospective students at the Southwestern Seminary dinner. The students included pastors and their wives, Bible translators, missionaries and lay leaders pursuing theological education in Spanish.

Attendees heard alumni and student testimonies focused on the impact of the MET program’s classes in their own ministries.

Originally from Cuba, Misael Rodriguez, pastor of Hillcrest en Español in Cedar Hill, Texas, is a Southwestern Seminary MET graduate and adjunct professor at Louisiana Baptist University. Rodriguez shared that “graduating from SWBTS’ Spanish-language program helped me understand how to minister cross-culturally since there is a very diverse Hispanic community to serve in the United States.” He said he was also “inspired by the academic standards, pedagogical ability, flexibility, and Christian character of the professors teaching the courses,” particularly Terry Coy, Bruno Molina, and William “Bill” Goff.

Yorley Aleiro Parra Rúa, a Southwestern Seminary student pastoring Iglesia Bautista el Buen Pastor in Bucaramanga, Colombia, said that he is being equipped to mobilize church planters in the regional Baptist association in Santanderes, Colombia. He enrolled at Southwestern Seminary because he wanted to be better trained for the work of ministry by professors who have experience working in the mission field and are “very well-prepared.”

In her student testimony, Celia Ortiz expressed appreciation for the expertise of the faculty and will pursue a Doctor of Ministry at Southwestern Seminary. Ortiz said she and her husband, Noé, are preparing at Southwestern Seminary to serve with the International Mission Board (IMB) to work with the Chigmecatitlán unreached people group in Puebla, México.

Mark McClellan, director of Hispanic Programs at Southwestern Seminary and professor of missions in the Roy J. Fish School of Evangelism and Missions, organized the week of classes on missiology, preaching, pastoral ministry, and globalization and missions strategies taught in Spanish by Hispanic professors from Spanish-speaking countries. The classes were taught by McClellan; Juan Sanchez, pastor of High Pointe Baptist Church in Austin, Texas, who is also scheduled to give the convention sermon at 2022 Southern Baptist Convention annual meeting in Anaheim, California, the first Latino to do so; Ramon Medina, lead pastor of Champion Forest Baptist Church en Español in Houston, Texas, current second vice president of the Southern Baptist Convention, and chairman of the SBC Hispanic Council; and Amanda Dimperio, who serves with the International Mission Board’s Globalization Team and is a former missionary to Mexico, Bolivia, and Colombia.

McClellan shared the new certificates and degrees Southwestern Seminary is offering through the Hispanic Programs, including one specifically for Hispanic women taught by Hispanic women professors, and an associate degree that will begin this year. Additionally, the Spanish master’s degree programs at Southwestern Seminary have expanded to include a Master of Divinity with two concentrations and the MET will now also include a concentration in missions. In the fall of 2022, the seminary will offer a Doctor of Ministry through the Hispanic Programs and are working to establish a Doctor of Philosophy with two concentrations by 2024.

The IMB and the North American Mission Board (NAMB) also hosted two banquets during the week to share with Dallas-Fort Worth area Hispanic pastors and leaders how they might be involved in international missions and church planting.

During the Jan. 11 IMB dinner, John D. Massey, dean of the Fish School at Southwestern Seminary and former IMB missionary, told attendees the Hispanic community is “part of the current, present, and future of the Southwestern family.” He encouraged participants to “be faithful to the calling God gave you with the help of Southwestern Seminary.”

Born in Venezuela, Oscar Tortolero, Hispanic Church Mobilization Strategist of the IMB, challenged pastors and leaders to unite and send Hispanic missionaries all over the world because, “Hispanics are able to go to places where other cultures cannot go and, we need to send our own missionaries to reach the nations.”

Philip Levant, former chairman of the Southwestern Seminary Board of Trustees, seminary alumnus, and pastor at Iglesia Bautista La Vid in Hurst, Texas, shared at the Jan. 13 NAMB dinner, that when he was a church planter, the ministry of NAMB representatives left him with an enduring sense of gratitude to the Southern Baptist mission board, the Cooperative Program, and Southwestern Seminary. Levant said it was living “under the net of grace with acts of grace.”

Julio Crespo, catalyst for NAMB’s SEND Oklahoma shared that “there are 62.3 million Hispanics in the U.S., this number will increase to 111.2 in 2026, and it is urgent for Hispanic Christians to get equipped and to plant churches to reach them with the Gospel.” Crespo said, “NAMB does not plant churches, churches plant churches, and SWBTS Hispanic students need to get prepared to plant those church planting churches, and send missionaries to the field keeping in mind that God is opening opportunities for the Hispanic community and it is time for us to make an impact in North America and the world.”

More information about the Hispanic Program at Southwestern Seminary can be found here.