An Ecumenical Program in Theology and Religion
The Hispanic Summer Program seeks to train leaders in the Hispanic Church.
The Hispanic Summer Program can be described as a “wandering institution” born of the hopes and struggles of a variety of Latina/o Christians as well as the institutions that work in solidarity with the broader Latino communities. Since its inception the HSP was created to be an ecumenical academic program intended to enhance Christian Reflection and Ministry in and among the Latino/a community in the U.S.A and as such strives to represent among its faculty and student body the varieties of Latina/o experience and national, regional, racial, economic, and cultural backgrounds.
With a focus on advancing “the theological education and the pastoral leadership of the ever growing Hispanic American Church,” the HSP began as an effort by the Association of Theological Schools that hired Dr. Cecilio Arrastía, a Cuban-born Presbyterian preacher and theological educator, to help them “find ways for theological schools of the mainline Protestant denominations to respond to and to integrate the ever growing number of Hispanic Americans into mainline theological education.”
Dr. Arrastía worked across Protestant denominational lines as well as with Roman Catholics so as to think about how these groups could best assist one another. Dr. Arrastía’s work was followed by that of Dr. Justo González, who funded by the Pew Charitable Trusts, conducted a national study on Latina/o theological education which made clear that beyond financial assistance to attend seminaries, Latina/o students “also needed an educational context that took seriously into account the challenges and questions that derive from their context of ministry and religious experiences.” So in the “absence of a full-fledged Hispanic seminary or Hispanic program of ministerial education and training, it was decided to have a two-week summer program whose character would be such that it would serve as a Latino seminary for that short period of time.” And so on June 25, 1989 the first HSP session took place in Andover Newton Theological School with Dr. Justo González as the Director assisted by Dr. Benjamín Alicea, who shortly after became the program manager of the Fund for Theological Education.
Since that first session in 1989, the HSP has remained true to the vision and hopes that led to its creation as stated in these six principles:
1. To provide theological education for Latinas/os in a context of academic excellence and critical reflection.
2. To provide an academic context that is inclusive of male and female faculty and students and that affirms the leadership of women in the academy and in the church.
3. To provide an ecumenical theological learning experience that creates an ethos that will help students discover “the joy, richness, and faithfulness to God, of doing theology and pastoral work en conjunto.”
4. To create a space that gathers Latina/o faculty and students from and in different regions of the country so as to maintain awareness of the great diversity of the Latina/o realities both religious and cultural/social.
5. To create a program that values worship and understands that worship in such a diverse context is an opportunity for the students and faculty to “experience and honor each religious tradition as well as [have] an occasion to practice the values of respect, inclusiveness, and recognition of the diversity of Hispanic worship experiences.”
6. To provide an opportunity for the “growing number of non-Hispanic students who are committed to serve the Hispanic church and community” to engage in a program of theological education offered from the Latina/o perspective and context.
The HSP has continued to grow and move forward under the leadership of these directors:
- Dr. Justo González (1989-1999)
- Dr. Ismael García (1999-2002)
- Sally Gómez (interim, 2002-2003)
- Dr. José Irizarry (2003-2006)
- Dr. Otto Maduro, (2006-2012)
- Dr. Daisy L. Machado (2012-present)
The first Governing Board of the HSP – one representative from each of the institutions which had already become HSP sponsors – met at Princeton Theological Seminary during the summer of 1995.
- From then on, near 40 other university departments of theology, seminaries,ivinity and theological schools, Protestant, Catholic, Evangelical, and Pentecostal, have joined the roster of HSP sponsors.
- Thus, since 1989, over 1,000 graduate students, mostly Latinas/os, have studied at the HSP with near 100 Hispanic faculty, and many have gone on to join the faculty of many institutions across the Americas, to become ministers in a variety of churches and denominations throughout the continental U.S. and Puerto Rico; and/or to hold high administrative posts in their universities, seminaries, and denominations.
- At the onset of our second decade, an endowment was established in 1998 to ensure the continuity and financial health of our program. This permanent fund, currently managed by the Presbyterian Foundation – makes the HSP the only fully endowed Hispanic program in higher education in the U.S.
- Self-managing, incorporated, and endowed, the HSP is entering now its third decade of existence.
Truly, our history is barely beginning.