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CBF Latino Network and Hispanic Theological Initiative launch collaboration with internship position

November 12, 2020

By Aaron Weaver

DECATUR, Ga. — The CBF Latino Network announced today an intentional collaboration with the Hispanic Theological Initiative (HTI) to further the network’s mission to serve Latino congregations and their pastors and lay leaders.

Founded in 1996 and located on the campus of Princeton Theological Seminary in Princeton, N.J., the Hispanic Theological Initiative, with the support of 24 PhD granting institutions, helps Latinx PhD students complete their doctorates and become faculty and leaders in the academy, the church and the world. The CBF Latino Network—known as Familia—is focused on the principles of fellowship, advocacy, ministry and missions, identity, leadership, intergenerational diversity and alliance, and aims to offer a place for Latino/a leaders to find a home within the Cooperative Baptist Fellowship.

Gonzalo Alers

Familia and the Hispanic Theological Initiative have established a year-long HTI/Lilly-funded internship position as part of this collaboration. Gonzalo Alers, a doctoral student at Drew University School of Theology in Madison, N.J., will serve as the CBF Latino Ministries Intern and work alongside CBF Latino Field Ministries Coordinator Rubén Ortiz on two significant projects. Alers will work to create a catalog of Hispanic theological education programs from certificate to doctoral levels.

He will also develop a United States-Mexico border ministry training program to educate clergy and lay leaders of Latino/a congregations serving on the border. This program will help meet the pastoral, theological and leadership needs of these congregations and would be conducted through stand-alone classes on weekends and using volunteer teachers from across Familia as well as Fellowship Southwest, available especially to students with a limited academic background. 

This collaboration comes following a dialogue concerning Hispanic theological education held in October 2018 at Woodland Baptist Church in San Antonio, Texas, where 40 leaders gathered to meet with stakeholders in Hispanic theological education, including representatives of Familia and others interested in Hispanic ministry. During this two-day dialogue, participants identified existing priorities for preparing Latino/a congregational leaders, both clergy and laity, for effective ministry. Participants discussed challenges to fulfilling those priorities as well as a range of possibilities for effective collaboration toward meeting the priorities. From this meeting, CBF leaders across different states and regions began seeking ways to strengthen theological education opportunities for Latino/a students, professors and congregations.

Ortiz expressed his excitement for this new collaboration with Hispanic Theological Initiative.

“We are celebrating that our Fellowship and Familia is beginning to better understand the landscape of theological education for Latinos here in the United States,” Ortiz said. “For many reasons, our churches have not had easy access to theological education programs that are both practical for local ministry and recognized with accreditation. We hope to learn where Familia should focus our energies in the years ahead through Gonzalo’s work. We thank HTI for the opportunity to partner and know this collaboration will be a beneficial time of mutual learning for all.”

Rev. Joanne Rodríguez, executive director of HTI, echoed Ortiz’s enthusiasm for the collaboration.

“We are delighted to enter into this partnership with CBF,” Rodríguez said. “HTI’s en conjunto model is about creating life-giving and life-transforming opportunities for HTI Scholars, and for the institutions they are in relationship with, whether that be in the academy and/or the church. We trust that this will be a bountiful relationship for all involved.”

Dr. João Chaves, assistant director for programming of HTI, highlighted the impact of the initiative on many Latinx Baptist leaders over the years.

“The Hispanic Theological Initiative helped form many Latinx Baptist leaders and we are excited to partner with CBF through this internship as we continue to shape Latinx scholars for leadership in the academy, the church and the world,” said Chaves, a Baylor University doctoral graduate in religion and former HTI Scholar. “We are thankful for this wonderful opportunity for Gonzalo and we are convinced that the CBF Latino Network will benefit from working en conjunto with HTI. We celebrate the important work that Familia is doing and look forward to seeing the fruits of this relationship.”

Alers said he looks forward to the coming year serving with CBF in this new intern position to impact Latino/a communities for Christ.

“It will be a great privilege to be able to impact Latino/a communities in the United States through this collaborative opportunity between CBF and HTI,” Alers said. “I’m very proud to be part of this initiative and happy to know that many people will be blessed by God.”

Learn more about the Hispanic Theological Initiative https://hti.ptsem.edu.

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CBF is a Christian network that helps people put their faith to practice through ministry eff­orts, global missions and a broad community of support. The Fellowship’s mission is to serve Christians and churches as they discover and fulfill their God-given mission.

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