The First Baptist Theological Conference in Latin
America and the Caribbean
~ March 2016 ~
What kind of
pastors should Baptist seminaries be producing? What do we want the
church to look like in the next 20 years?
These were some of the questions we wrestled with this
past weekend in Managua, Nicaragua, at the First Baptist Theological
Conference in Latin America and the Caribbean, with 25 leaders of
Baptist seminaries from 9 countries (Nicaragua, El Salvador, Costa
Rica, Cuba, Colombia, Mexico, Bolivia, Chile, Puerto Rico)
representing 12 seminaries. We met on the beautiful campus of AMOS ministries.
that some far-reaching changes are needed, and listened with
excitement to some of the innovative programs being implemented. No
one would deny the need for a pastor to study the Bible, preaching,
Christian education, theology, etc. But the world is in crisis, and
somehow those studies need to prepare a pastor to take leadership to
help the church respond to migrations, climate change, despair,
injustice, desperate poverty, and diversity of cultures, religions,
values. We must teach our seminarians to make the connections between
profound biblical truths and human realities, to see how God is
working in the world, so that they can show those connections to
We affirmed the central importance of a holistic
spirituality: a profound personal relationship with a God who is Lord
of all the earth, who cares about people’s health, material well
being, relationships with others, harmony among different groups, and
the creation. Nothing new for American Baptists, but often we fall
short of living out that holistic vision.
A pastor, we decided, must first and foremost be a
person who loves God. Several seminaries take this seriously by
offering courses in spirituality and self-care, others in conflict
resolution skills. Some teach non-hierarchical models of leadership,
urgently needed in this region of the world where pastors are
declaring themselves “apostles” and “prophets” with absolute control over
their congregations. Parallel to this are Baptist principles of the
priesthood of all believers and soul freedom. We talked about
the need to support women in ministry.
A number of seminaries are recognizing that the
traditional model of seminarians living on campus for 3-4 years as
full time students is no longer viable. They are offering online
courses, distance courses with learning modules, and in many cases,
professors who travel to where the students are and meet with them
evenings and weekends. In Bolivia, the seminary extension program
provides a tablet to each student with the study materials as text,
as video, and as spoken word. The farmer can listen to his text while
he plows and the artist while she weaves.
for your faithfulness and vision in supporting our efforts to prepare
leaders for the 21st century.