BIC Church of North America offers courses for Spanish-speaking ministry leaders

GRANTHAM, Pa. (Nov. 10, 2008)—
¡Bienvenidos!”—Welcome!—read the sign marking the room in which 21 Brethren in Christ pastors and church leaders met over the weekend of Oct. 31–Nov. 2, for the first BIC Core Course in Spanish to be offered in the northeastern corner of the United States. The course, which was sponsored by Equipping for Ministry, the theological education arm of the BIC Church, was held in the General Church Offices in Grantham, Pa. It attracted a diverse group of learners, six of whom were women and 20 of whom were native Spanish-speakers from six different countries, including Honduras, Mexico, Puerto Rico, Cuba, Guatemala, and Brazil.

Plans for the weekend began taking shape in six months ago when David Espinosa, a member of the Equipping for Ministry team and pastor of Iglesia el Buen Pastor (Springfield, Ohio), had the idea of offering a Core Course in the Northeast. Previously, courses in Spanish had been offered only in California, an arrangement which proved a hardship for the mostly bi-vocational Spanish-speaking pastors and church leaders based in Virginia, Ohio, Florida, and Pennsylvania.  

“Given the fact that one out of every five BIC churches in North America is identified as being primarily Spanish-speaking, it has become clear that more course offerings in Spanish need to be made available across the whole of the Church,” Dorothy Gish, dean of Equipping for Ministry, notes. “When people better understand the beliefs and foundation of the BIC Church, they are better equipped to serve their local churches and communities.”

Because the Brethren in Christ Church does not have a seminary of its own, in 1984, the governing board of the Church approved a series of four Core Courses as a way of introducing pastors and other ministry leaders to the history, theology, leadership, and structure of the denomination. The courses are a key component in the credentialing process for ministers and must be completed prior to ordination within the BIC Church.

In response to rapid growth in the number of Spanish-speaking pastors in BIC churches, Eduardo Llanes, bishop of the Southeast Conference, developed Spanish-language versions for three of the four the Core Courses. And up to this point, he had taught all of those in California. Now, he has company at the front of the classroom, as David has been added to the Equipping for Ministry faculty team.

Working closely with Eduardo and Dorothy, David prepared for his first time as a Core Course instructor, and based on the course evaluations, it was a successful collaboration. As Rufino Rodriguez, of Rios de Agua Viva in Waynesboro, Pa., put it, “At the personal level, everything that I was taught will be of much benefit to achieve the objective in my ministry, since before this seminar I had a number of questions.”

And for Abel Ramirez, a church leader at Luz, Alegria, y Esperanza (York Springs, Pa.), the weekend proved transformational. Having received Christ through a Core Course he took five years ago, Abel felt led from what he learned in this class to publically affirm his faith through baptism. So fervent was he in his decision that he was baptized in the nearby Yellow Breeches Creek following the course’s conclusion.

The Equipping for Ministry team is eager to make even more educational resources available to Spanish-speaking pastors and lay leaders within the denomination, including offering each of the Core Courses in California, Florida, and Pennsylvania annually so as to better accommodate pastors from across the country. This will require that the Equipping for Ministry program continue to recruit Spanish-speaking instructors and to develop the curriculum for other seminars and online courses. It also means remaining committed to welcoming Spanish-speaking congregations into all aspects of the BIC Church with a warm “¡Bienvenido!”