Citing significantly increased program growth, Midwestern Seminary’s Spanish Studies Department announced on Aug. 17 a reorganization of the staff and the addition of new faculty members.
According to Bobby Sena, director of Spanish Studies, Arnaldo Achucarro and Cesar Perez have been added to the teaching faculty, and Felix Cabrera will assume additional responsibilities.
“With nearly 200 students now pursuing degrees through the Spanish Studies Department, the time was right to expand the program,” Sena said. “With these recent moves, it’s clear that the administration at Midwestern understands the value and need for strengthening the program.”
From what was once only a doctoral focus, Sena explained that the school has now moved to an overall Spanish Studies Program, that includes a certificate level, three master’s programs, and a Doctor of Ministry degree with a focus on leadership.
What makes the program special, Sena shared, is that all members of the Spanish Studies team are Hispanic with Cabrera being from Puerto Rico, Achucarro from Paraguay, and Perez from Cuba. Each will teach students in their heart language and understands the Hispanic culture. Each is also currently or has in the past served in a pastoral role, “which keeps them relevant as they lead and teach pastors, denominational workers, and lay leaders in the Spanish Studies Program.”
Within their new roles, Cabrera will serve as assistant Spanish Studies director and assistant professor of pastoral ministry; Achucarro will be academic coordinator for the program as well as an adjunct professor; and Perez will be academic assistant and adjunct professor.
Sena said Cabrera, who also serves as a NAMB SEND director and executive director for the Puerto Rico Southern Baptist Convention, “is a leader of influence, with a deep commitment to the Scriptures; reaching Hispanics with the gospel and training them to serve in and through the church.” Cabrera also will work with Midwestern’s new For the Church Institute to develop institute courses in Spanish as well as continuing to promote and recruit students for all Spanish Studies programs.
Achucarro serves as pastor of a new Hispanic church in Kansas City, Mo., and is a trainer of church planters for NAMB. Sena explained that in Achucarro’s new role, “When students have a question, they’re able to connect with the doctoral offices at Midwestern and are greeted by a Spanish voice—their heart language—and by a person who understands their culture and identifies with their specific programmatic needs because he also graduated from at Midwestern.”
Sena shared that Perez’s other responsibilities include serving as the point person for Spanish social media platforms, and he will also be the lead person for a future Spanish Ph.D. program. Perez also presently serves as pastor for international ethnic groups at the Kingsland Baptist Church in Katy, Texas.
Another gratifying aspect of each man’s appointment to his respective role, Sena noted, is that each is a product of Midwestern Seminary.
“These are true team players, who have been ‘home grown’ at MBTS,” he said. “They can speak from their own experience at the institution, and they identify linguistically, culturally, and educationally with the students.
“Through this, our hope is that our programs will make Midwestern’s Spanish Studies Program the most complete pathway for theological training available in the Spanish language in Iberoamerica—from certification and master’s to doctorate and Ph.D.”
President Jason Allen noted that what’s taking place in the Spanish Studies Department falls in line specifically with Midwestern Seminary’s vision of existing for the local church and, in this case, particularly toward helping “our Hispanic brothers and sisters in reaching the nations for Christ.”
He added, “Dr. Bobby Sena and his team are poised to do just that. We’ve created a comprehensive Spanish Studies program that well positions us to train Spanish-speaking ministers in their heart language. As a result, these students will be optimally prepared to minister the gospel to Spanish-speaking churches and peoples across the globe.”
The Spanish program at Midwestern Seminary started in 2010 with a small cohort of Doctor of Ministry students. Cabrera noted that today the program has “more than 100 students in the doctoral program with our student population being composed of students from across the U.S., Central and South America, and beyond.”
Cabrera added that with the addition of the three master’s programs and the certification program in 2017, and the anticipated Ph.D. program addition, there’s a projection for significantly increased enrollment by 2023.
“We’ve already seen a strong increase in our enrollment with the formation of doctoral partnerships with the Cuban Baptist Seminary and the Seminario Teologico Bautista Lacy and Seminario Mexicano in Mexico,” Cabrera said, noting that the Cuban classes have already begun and the Mexican cohort will begin this September. Additionally, he shared that the Convention of Southern Baptists of Puerto Rico is working diligently to offer a Christian studies undergraduate degree program completely in Spanish by 2021.
Master’s degree offerings within the program include the Master of Divinity, the Master of Theological Studies with Pastoral Ministry emphasis and Master of Arts in Ministry Service, both the M.Div. and MTS being created for pastoral ministry preparation and the MAMS being designed for lay people desiring to increase their theological knowledge.
At the certificate level, the team has also developed strategic alliances with ministries that are serving local churches to equip believers who have little-to-no academic preparation and/or theology.
“The combination of equipping the local churches with academia is having outstanding results,” Cabrera shared. “Without a doubt, providing affordable tuition costs, along with the recruitment of an all-Spanish faculty for the program places us as one of the best Spanish theological education programs. Additionally, we are unique in that we are the only SBC seminary to offer a doctorate completely in the Spanish language.”
Looking to the future, Sena said his desire is that the Spanish Studies Program at Midwestern would be the first in the SBC to offer a complete pathway of academic opportunities—from Certification to Ph.D.—totally in Spanish. He said he foresees the addition of new master’s and doctoral degree programs as well as a commitment to recruiting and hiring outstanding Hispanic faculty, publishing books by our faculty, developing a Spanish language Journal of Theology, and implement the first Ph.D. program totally in Spanish.
To learn more about Midwestern’s Spanish Studies Department, visit https://www.mbts.edu/degrees/spanish-studies/.