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2016 Hispanic Summer Program Reflection

from Mayra Picos Lee, M.Div., D.Min., LMFT
Faculty at 2016 HSP, Oblate School of Theology
San Antonio, Texas
BPFNA~Bautistas por la Paz Board Member













The Hispanic Summer Program (HSP) was formed by a consortium of theological schools and seminaries in the US and Puerto Rico committed to promoting the presence, scholarship and perspectives of Latinx students in theological education and church ministry. This program supplements and enriches theological perspectives offered at seminaries and universities through academic courses and other activities offered at HSP. The consortium is currently formed by 36 schools that are very diverse in theological perspectives and curricula and represent different regions in the US.

The 2016 HSP took place in San Antonio, Texas at Oblate School of Theology from June 18 through July 2, 2016. There were approximately 50 students at HSP, representing a wide variety of Latinx communities, as well as participants from non-Latinx backgrounds who wanted to learn about Latinxs history, theology and ministry. The HSP is one of the few programs that currently provides the academic structure for such an engagement. It has created a space in which Latinx and non-Latinx students are able to come together and wrestle with each other in ways that promote greater inclusivity, justice and representation of voices in theological education and church life. This experience is not a perfect struggle or a struggle without challenges. Yet, it is definitely a crucial step toward greater peace and justice work within churches, seminaries, theological institutions and the culture at large. The HSP contributes via theological engagement and experiential activities and learning toward an increase in the representation of voices in academy and church ministry. This advancement occurs as students, faculty and staff study and work together over a period of two weeks.

The 2016 HSP offered seven courses that provided academic skills and knowledge to prepare students to lessen the climate of violence, exclusion and polarization that is so prevalent in our current culture and to contribute to peace and justice in more positive ways. The 2016 HSP was particularly characterized by the diversity of the student body and theological discussions around issues of gender, sexuality, inclusivity of theological perspectives and denominations, migration experiences, and educational backgrounds, just to name a few. The discussions in and outside of the classroom between students, faculty and staff expressed the commitment of participants to understand what it means to live in a multicultural world in a manner that affirms diversity and difference. Although the experiences were challenging and exhausting, they were also enriching for most participants, especially younger students seeking to grow. It is also important to note that contrary to what many people in dominant theological education cultures may imagine, the Latinx are not a homogenous group; they represent a wide spectrum of perspectives that are rooted in Latin America but have also been influenced by their presence in the US. As a Latinx theological educator, I have also experienced the limited ability most theological schools, seminaries and universities have at promoting the internal diversity of the Latinx or other groups within their curricula and programs. This inability only serves to stress even further the importance of the HSP.

BPFNA~Bautistas por la Paz is committed to peace rooted in justice. Toward this end the organization seeks to gather, equip and mobilize peacemakers around the world and especially in North America (Mexico, Puerto Rico, Canada and USA). Supporting and promoting the growth and presence of Latinx students and scholars in academia and church life is a vital step toward peace and justice. Helping young Latinx students grow in their ability to critically engage structures of power and theological discourse in nonviolent and more inclusive ways is very important to the mission of our organization. BPFNA~Bautistas por la Paz is able to serve the church and academy in greater ways by supporting the HSP mission to bring together Latinx students from Mexican, Puerto Rican and other backgrounds to help them grow theologically and in community.

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