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Hispanic Leadership Initiative: Raising up a new generation of leaders in the PCA

September 24 2018
September 24 2018

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When Redeemer Associate Pastor Victor Martinez talks about the importance of developing minority leaders in the Presbyterian Church in America, he asks what the PCA will look like a generation from now.

According to denominational statistics presented at the PCA’s General Assembly, out of 4,882 Teaching Elders in the PCA, 51 are African American (one percent), and just 34 are Hispanic (.8 percent). While our communities have become more diverse, our churches have not kept up. That is not just a problem for churches located in majority-Hispanic or majority-African-American communities — it’s a problem for the future health of the denomination.

“The PCA will die in 50 years if we don’t pursue this,” Martinez says. “The more we love and cherish our Reformed tradition and our connectedness with history and the ancient creeds, the more we need to think ‘how do we share that with other ethnicities?’ This great tradition, this great richness we have, who is going to pick that up?”

Redeemer has invested in the work of minority leadership development since 2010 as a founding church of the Hispanic Leadership Initiative, which provides mentoring and financial support to Hispanic seminary students, church officers and others called to ministry. Pastor Martinez is currently serving as president of HLI, which will host its bi-annual conference, VIVO, at Redeemer October 4th-6th.

At the national level, the PCA recently launched a denominational effort toward minority leadership development with the 2017 creation of The PCA Unity Fund, which works to recruit, train and mentor future minority leaders. Redeemer is a financial supporter of the Unity Fund.

Curtis Castleberry, now leading Reformed University Fellowship at the University of Texas San Antonio, was HLI’s first official intern. Castleberry began pursuing ordination in the PCA by commuting from San Antonio to seminary in Austin while also working at Discount Tire to support a young family. After the first year, with a baby on the way, Castleberry was considering dropping out for a semester or two and working full time before continuing on with his coursework. The offer of a paid internship from HLI allowed him to work at Redeemer, gaining valuable ministry experience and drawing a salary during seminary. Curtis and Marian Castleberry serve with RUF at UTSA

The financial assistance was pivotal, but Castleberry now views the close mentoring he received from Redeemer’s pastors as the best thing HLI’s internship gave him. Castleberry is the second person in his family to earn a college degree, and the first to attend graduate school. He did not grow up in the PCA, and although he was drawn to the theology and worship, he felt like a cultural outsider in some ways. Over time, he says, those feelings could have pushed him away from the denomination without an anchoring relationship with minority pastors already inside the denomination like Pastor Martinez.

“Culturally I was becoming more aware of where I come from, and asking the question ‘Do I actually fit here?’” Castleberry remembers. “Whenever I would come up against struggles and be ready to jump ship from it all, I would remember that Victor had gone through all this. And I would remember that they hadn’t kicked me out yet, and they were still here, rooting for me and pushing me. That’s really what HLI is trying to do for guys who come from places like mine.”

Minority leadership development, like racial reconciliation, is not quick or glamorous work, Pastor Martinez says, and it requires that churches ask themselves uncomfortable questions. But he sees signs that the conversation is gaining traction in the denomination. When HLI was founded, part of the challenge was simply convincing churches that developing minority leaders should be a priority for them. Now churches proactively seek out HLI’s advice.

“It was a struggle,” he says. “I think there was an overall awareness that we should have more Hispanics, but there wasn’t awareness that we have to do something about that. I think that is changing.”

Redeemer members are invited and encouraged to attend The Hispanic Leadership Initiative's VIVO Conference, October 4th-6th at Redeemer. Attendance is free for Redeemer members, but conference meals are not included. View the schedule and list of speakers HERE.


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