The dearth of Hispanic Presbyterian scholars in the Presbyterian Church (U.S.A.)’s theological seminaries dominated conversations in the first meeting of a task force elected by the National Presbyterian Hispanic Caucus to address the need for systemic changes in the denomination.

The group met in Salem Presbytery in North Carolina Sept. 3-5.
It prioritized four major areas of immediate concern — immigration, theological education, institutional racial and cultural discrimination, and financial co-dependency and stewardship — and developed strategies and plans of actions addressing all four areas.

As a result of recent staff reductions at a number of PC(USA)-related seminaries two of the nine institutions — San Francisco Theological Seminary and Union Presbyterian Seminary in Richmond, Va. (formerly Union Theological Seminary-Presbyterian School of Christian Education) — now have no Hispanic faculty members.

 “The lack of Hispanic professors in our seminaries prevents Latino/a students from having mentors who understand the plight and situation of our congregations,” said the Rev. Alfredo Miranda, moderator of the Hispanic Caucus and associate executive presbyter for Hispanic/Latino/a ministries in Salem Presbytery.

“Moreover, students of all ethnic groups, including whites, are not exposed to the Hispanic theologies and cultures, thus they are ill-prepared to minister in a multi-cultural society and church where Hispanics are the fastest growing ethnic group,” he added.

Robert Fohr, program assistant for the General Assembly Mission Council’s Office of Theological Education, was invited to be a resource to the group. The caucus decided to pursue a conversation with the Committee for Theological Education (COTE) to express its concerns.

The task force also highlighted the importance of creating linkages with other PCUSA entities such as the Advocacy Committee on Racial Ethnic Concerns, the Advocacy Committee for Women Concerns, and especially the National Black Presbyterian Caucus in order to dialogue about areas of common interest and advocacy.

Other plans include working more closely with the Office of Immigration Issues in the Office of the General Assembly, as well as the development and/or translation into Spanish of church documents and curriculum dealing with human sexuality and make them available to the Hispanic congregations for study and discussion.

Besides Miranda, participants included the Rev. Amy Mendez, Racial Ethnic Ministries coordinator for Denver Presbytery; the Rev. Sandra Luciano, pastor of Iglesia Presbiteriana El Buen Vecino, Kissimmee, Fla.; the Rev. Lemuel Garcia, Associate Executive Presbyter of Salem Presbytery; the Rev. Mauricio Chacon, pastor of Iglesia Fuente de Esperanza NCD in Houston, Texas; the Rev. Jose Luis Casal, General Missioner of Tres Rios Presbytery; the Rev. Carmen Rosario, pastor of Iglesia Presbiteriana Fort Washington Heights in New York City, N.Y.; the Rev. Tony Aja, coordinator for Hispanic/Latino/a Ministries, Mid-Kentucky Presbytery. General Assembly Mission Council staff the Rev. Marissa Galvan-Valle, associate for Resources and Relationships for Hispanic/Latino/a Constituency; and the Rev. Dr. Hector Rodriguez, associate for Hispanic/Latino/a Congregational Support, also attended the meeting.

For information related to Hispanic ministries, visit their Web site or the PC(USA) Spanish site.