Midwestern commencement 'epic and historic' for Hispanic graduates
KANSAS CITY, Mo. – Midwestern Baptist Theological Seminary (MBTS) celebrated a milestone during its 66th Commencement Ceremony Dec. 6 as 29 Spanish-speaking church planters earned their Church Planting Certificates, and two of those graduates also received a master's in Theological Studies with an emphasis in Pastoral Ministry from the school's Spanish Language program.
"What happened today is epic and historic. The pilot program is no longer a pilot," said Felix Cabrera, assistant professor of pastoral ministry and Spanish church relations coordinator. "Ministerial experience combined with theological education is an ideal scenario for these pastors who serve in the Dominican Republic, Venezuela, Mexico, Paraguay, Nicaragua, and Puerto Rico."
"As an institution with over 4,000 students, we are teeming with significant joy over the growth and essential nature of our Hispanic language program at Midwestern Seminary," said Midwestern president Jason Allen.
"God has brought our Hispanic program over the past 10 years from conception to now graduating in substantial numbers each year a new generation of Hispanic ministers serving churches in North America and far beyond.
"I rejoice in God's favor on this program and look toward the future with added optimism and anticipation of what the Lord will do through these graduates."
Cabrera, also executive director of the Convention of Southern Baptist Churches in Puerto Rico, helped pioneer the certificate program in 2017 with the vision of reaching the Hispanic community with theological education.
Midwestern also offers a master's in theological studies and a doctorate in ministry that is available fully online and recently became accredited by the Association of Theological Schools.
"Historically the accreditation requirement requires that a part of the program be done in-country," said Rodney Harrison, MBTS dean of post-graduate studies, distance education and effectiveness and professor of Christian education.
The ATS accreditation makes it possible for international students to receive their doctorate degree without leaving their home country.
"It is very hard for some people to get visas and some people can't travel because of financial restrictions, but now they don't have to. They can receive a Midwestern education without ever setting foot in our Kansas City campus."
The online program is text-based and very interactive.
"Every week you are interacting with other students and the professor, which creates a sense of community which is so important for the Hispanic community," Harrison said. "That is what Christianity is about, relationships. Restoring our relationship to God through Jesus Christ and to one another."
The Church Planter Certification Program and the master's degree must be completed in person, as they require the student to engage in a local church to learn first-hand what it is like to plant and lead.
"All church planters have to go through six months of church life," Cabrera said. "During that time they will sit in on leadership meetings, attend small groups, sit in on pastoral team meetings and so on. Then when they go plant a church, they are not going in blind but rather with answers to many of their questions."
The certification program is a gateway for Hispanics into theological education, Cabrera said, adding that some of the certificate program graduates have enrolled to pursue their bachelor's degree.
"We are creating opportunities for Hispanics to be equipped for the church," he said.
This year the Spanish language program had a total of 100 registered students, Harrison said, adding, "We are very excited about this season of growth."
Written by Baptist Press, the official news service of the Southern Baptist Convention.