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M.Div. taught in Spanish slated at Southern Seminary

LOUISVILLE, Ky. (BP)–This summer Southern Baptist Theological Seminary will offer a master of divinity program taught entirely in Spanish — a first for an accredited Protestant seminary in the continental United States, according to the Association of Theological Schools.

The program, coordinated through Southern’s Billy Graham School of Missions, Evangelism and Church Growth, will include theological instruction and practical training for ministry in Hispanic communities.

“We are very excited about offering training to ministers in the fastest-growing demographic segment in America,” said Thom Rainer, dean of the Graham School. “This M.Div. is a part of our continuing effort to make adaptations to our delivery of curriculum without compromising our commitment to theological and academic excellence.”

According to the program’s coordinators, David Sills and Twyla Fagan, the M.Div. in Spanish will help address the growing phenomenon of Hispanic churches that lack adequately trained leadership.

“The sad fact is that there are very few trained Spanish-speaking pastors and many Hispanic pulpits are empty,” said Sills, who serves as associate professor of missions and cultural anthropology at Southern. “Currently, there are no SBC seminaries with an M.Div. in Spanish … although Hispanics are the largest minority group in the USA. It is my firm belief that this program will provide the kind of Baptist leadership that is culturally appropriate in Hispanic churches.”

In addition to offering Spanish-language theological training, the program will help prepare students for the unique cultural challenges associated with ministering in Hispanic communities, Sills said.

“Ministry to Hispanics must not be approached as if they were Anglos who happen to speak Spanish,” he said. “We tend to think that the primary, or only, difference is the language. But churches need to understand that language is just one hue of the cultural prism. There are many other cultural aspects that will impact effectiveness when ministering across cultural lines.”

Challenges that Spanish-speaking pastors must be prepared to face include the heavy influence of Roman Catholic doctrine and practices among the Hispanic population, understanding the unique system of nonverbal communication in Hispanic communities and ministering to people who have recently immigrated to North America, Sills said.

“Hispanics have a different worldview,” he said. “As a rule, most of them come from churches saturated by Latin American Catholicism … and have been heavily influenced by Catholic doctrine and practices. Another factor affecting many Hispanic communities today is the immigration dynamic. … Many Hispanics are flooding into the U.S. looking for jobs.”

The new degree program will begin in June when Southern will offer two courses taught in Spanish: “Introduction to Missiology” and “Introduction to Evangelism and Church Growth.”

For several semesters, students enrolled in the Spanish-language master of divinity program will attend intensive courses taught during January and the summer months. As the program expands, Graham School officials hope to offer classes during the fall and spring semesters as well.

Sills, Fagan and Daniel Hatfield, vice president for student services at Southern, will teach many of the core courses in the program, while visiting professors will instruct students in various specialized courses.

The high volume of calls and e-mails Southern has received concerning the new degree track demonstrates the tremendous need for such a program, Fagan said. As leaders in Hispanic churches obtain theological education, their churches will reap significant benefits, she said.

Enrollment for the Spanish-language master of divinity program is currently open for the summer semester.
Further information about the M.Div. in Spanish degree track at Southern Seminary can be obtained from the seminary’s Graham School at (502) 897-4108.