BUIES CREEK - “Ten years old and growing” might be a way to describe the Hispanic Theological Education Program at Campbell University Divinity School.
The program began in the fall of 2002 after more than 100 Hispanic leaders attending a Bible study in Spanish indicated they were interested in theological classes offered in Spanish. The program had its largest enrollment (127) in 2012.
Forty-two students attended the first class in 2002. Since then, almost 1,000 students have attended classes and dozens of certificates have been awarded in Pastoral Leadership and in Christian Ministry. Each student has to complete eight courses in one of these areas in order to receive a certificate.
“We were not surprised at the turn out for the initial Bible study,” said Patricia Wright, founding director of the program. "We wanted to use it to test our sense that there was a yearning for theological education offered in Spanish."
Wright's husband Jim taught the first semester-long class. The Wrights were Southern Baptist missionaries in Puerto Rico for many years before ministering among Hispanics in the United States.
In recent months, they have created an endowment for the Hispanic program.
In the early years, the instructors were former retired Southern Baptist missionaries and staff of the Baptist State Convention of North Carolina, who had encouraged Campbell Divinity School to start the program and made some early donations. Today, the ministry preparation program for God-called men and women is led primarily by Hispanics, some of whom have doctorates.
The Rev. Jaime Molina, pastor of Iglesia Renovación Christiana in Raleigh, and his wife Sandra have been co-directors since 2007. Molina is a member of the Campbell University Board of Ministers.
“It is a joy to walk beside these students who sacrifice so much to be here on Saturdays," Molina said. “In order to earn a certificate, they attend at least two years.”
Students, who are mostly Baptist but include other denominations as well, pay $145 per class, which covers about 50 percent of the expense of the program. Individual donors, churches and church-related organizations make up the difference between the costs of the program and student revenue.
“This ministry, which we believe is the longest running theological program in Spanish in North Carolina, has been a blessing to our school,” said Dr. Andy Wakefield, Dean of the Divinity School. “It has enriched the Divinity School experience for all of us.”
The classes, taught on a high school level, include students with limited formal education alongside those with advanced professional degrees. They attend classes on Saturdays throughout the semester.
Dr. Guillermo Soriano, senior consultant for Multicultural Evangelism at the Baptist State Convention, provided the message for the 10th anniversary celebration held in Butler Chapel on Sept. 8, challenging the students to focus on their call to salvation and service.
During the service, 25 new students were commissioned as they begin their theological preparation. As part of their commissioning, they receive a Celtic cross pin which is the symbol used by Campbell University Divinity School.
For more information about the program, contact Jaime or Sandra Molina at (919) 889-7188 or [email protected].
Story, photo courtesy of Campbell Divinity School
Pictured: Dr. Guillermo Soriano, senior consultant of Multicultural Evangelism for the Baptist State Convention, challenges the students and graduates of the Hispanic Theological Education Program at the 10th anniversary celebration not only to strive to know about God and His Word but to know God and His Word.