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Midwestern offers D.Min. in Spanish

KANSAS CITY, Mo. (BP)–Spanish-speaking students now can pursue doctoral studies in their own language at Midwestern Baptist Theological Seminary in March.

The seminary’s new missions and leadership concentration within the doctor of ministry program answers a need expressed by state convention leaders intent on reaching a growing Hispanic population.

“During recruitment trips, state convention leaders would ask if we offered a D.Min. in Spanish,” said Rodney Harrison, Midwestern’s director of doctoral studies. “With the launch of the D.Min. in missions and leadership, this will be the only program taught in Spanish with all work done in Spanish, including the dissertation.”

Gus Suárez, a professor at Midwestern’s Nehemiah Center for Church Planting, brings further credibility to the program, having served as a North American Mission Board-appointed missionary for more than 20 years with experience in New York, Maryland, New Mexico and the Northwest Baptist Convention. Suárez will be one of several Hispanic leaders teaching in the seminars.

Six students will make up the initial class who will take a series of five-day seminars, beginning with orientation to doctoral studies and critical thinking March 16-20 taught by Suárez and Bobby Sena, a church planting coordinator for NAMB. Missional leadership will be taught at the annual meeting of the Southern Baptist Convention by Joe Hernandez, and a fall seminar will address Hispanic church planting and evangelism.

Luis Mendoza will be among the first students to pursue the doctor of ministry in Hispanic studies. A church planter and pastor of Iglesia Cristiana Palabra Viva in North Kansas City, he also develops multicultural churches and encourages other church planters in developing evangelistic strategies for the Clay-Platte Baptist Association.

Mendoza said a call to ministry also is a call to obtain the best instruction available.

“The D.Min. program of study will help me to improve my biblical and theological training as well as academic knowledge, helping me achieve my personal educational goals as a servant of God,” Mendoza said. “This will give me the possibility of being better prepared to train the new generation of Hispanic leaders in a more conscientious and productive way.”

Church planters like Mendoza readily speak English, but studying in what is described as a heart language has an advantage.

Students applying to the program are fluent in English in most cases, Suárez said, and many of them have completed master’s degrees at English-speaking institutions. While he agrees with the frequently used assimilation argument that encourages English usage in order to succeed in the United States, Suárez said being proficient in two languages in the midst of a growing, diverse population only strengthens a person.

“The idea of assimilation does not necessarily mean that a person must ignore his or her native language,” he said.

The fact that the program is offered fully in Spanish initially caught Mendoza’s attention.

“Even though I speak and write English, Spanish is my heart language,” he said. “I believe it is a wonderful opportunity to have the privilege of receiving this high level of education in a language close to your heart.”

Students in Midwestern’s newest program will be making an academic contribution written in Spanish for Hispanics and contextual to the Hispanic culture, Suárez said.

“Midwestern recognizes that the Hispanic population in North America is growing exponentially. Training these Hispanics who are now in key leadership positions in local churches, associations and conventions will facilitate additional Spanish resources in the language and context of the Hispanic population,” Suárez said. “We, as a seminary, do not want to miss the opportunity to train our Hispanic leaders in their own language.”
Tammi Ledbetter writes for Midwestern Baptist Theological Seminary. For more information, contact Rodney Harrison at 816-414-3755.

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