“The time is NOW,” said Mirtha Villafane, pastor of Latin American Christian Reformed Church in Anaheim, Calif., “I’m sure that people before us envisioned something like this. And now it is the answer, the momentum of the Lord for Latinos.”
Villafane is a board member of Consejo Latino, a network formed in 2015 to connect Latino pastors within the CRCNA and those wishing to join the denomination. In January, Consejo Latino members were invited onto the board of Revelation University in Miami, Fla., to form the Hispanic Reformed Theological Seminary, offering accredited, Spanish-language degrees that will reach Latinos in the United States and in Latin America and South America. That’s the momentum Villafane is grateful for.
Villafane and Harold Caicedo, president of Consejo Latino, say Consejo’s aim is to serve classes (regional groups of churches) in the CRC by providing in-depth Spanish-language training in Reformed doctrine and theology for pastoral candidates. Classes can be confident that they are ordaining solid, Reformed pastors. “Having a good institution covering all of Latin and South America with Reformed doctrines, with accreditation and connected with Calvin (the denomination’s seminary), is something important for our denomination. It’s not just about a Bible institute in Miami, it’s something that’s important for us as the CRC,” said Caicedo.
A seminary is a natural next step: Villafane, Caicedo, and Jose Rayas (secretary of Consejo Latino) have been leading Spanish Language Institute of Ministry workshops in many locations in the States and Latin America for two and a half years, in junction with the CRCNA’s Office of Candidacy. “SLIM offers the big picture of the denomination, who we are, what we believe. If participants like it, they ask, ‘What is the next step?’” said Villafane.
Right now the answer is “Luke 10,” a pilot program for the new seminary developed by Marco Avila, Eastern USA regional mission leader for Resonate Global Mission. Luke 10 expands SLIM into 11 courses taken throughout a year. The Hispanic Reformed Theological Seminary will continue offering Luke 10 as a certificate program but also will add a two-year associate degree (giving students the option to finish their undergrad at other seminaries) and eventually master’s-level degrees. Luke 10 classes are online, as the initial seminary programs will be. The first Luke 10 cohort of 14 students is graduating in June, and the second cohort of 67 students is two months into the program.
Resonate Global Mission sponsored the first cohort, covering 54% of their tuition. The seminary program is developing with encouragement from Susan LaClear, director of candidacy. Caicedo’s hope is that Luke 10 can become a requirement for candidacy for new pastors—or pastors wishing to change denominations—to streamline the ordination process.
The Hispanic Reformed Theological Seminary is being given a building and accreditation through Revelation University, which was founded in 2001 as a non-denominational theological institution. Narciso Montas, the leader of Revelation University, comes from a Pentecostal tradition. Villafane remembers his participation in SLIM in 2021: “He had his second conversion, he fell in love with Reformed doctrine and theology,” she said. Revelation University is now undergoing a doctrinal redirection, seeking accreditation for the seminary and a name change.
The seminary is coming at a time when, thanks to the efforts of Consejo Latino, there is an unprecedented interest among Hispanic churches to be affiliated with the CRC. The seminary is one large step in the momentum of change that Villafane and Caicedo see affecting the entire denomination.
Related: Historic Moments at Synod 2022, June 15, 2022; Consejo Latino: Networking, Resourcing, Connecting in the Christian Reformed Church, February 26, 2021; and Church Planters Challenge the Church to Grow, June 19, 2019.