A letter from Katie Griffin in Argentina
October 15, 2012
Some of you are now receiving a hard copy of my newsletter for the first time. For this reason, I would like to present the institution with which I have been collaborating since 2001 as a professor of Church History through Presbyterian World Mission. The Rector, Rev. Dr. José Davíd Rodríguez, is helping me to redact this letter.
The University Institute—ISEDET (Instituto Superior Evangélico de Estudios Teológicos) is a result of the very first efforts toward Protestant theological education in the River Plate region (Argentina, Paraguay and Uruguay).
The Board of Trustees is currently formed of nine member church denominations, some of which, like the Evangelical Waldensian Church of the River Plate, have been in the River Plate region since the early 19th century and have been important partners in ministry with the Presbyterian Church (U.S.A.) for more than four decades. The current UI-ISEDET was born of the union in 1969 between the Evangelical School of Theology (Methodist and Waldensian, formed in 1884) and the Lutheran School of Theology (1954). The initial mission of both of these previous institutions was to prepare pastors, men and women, for the member churches, here in the River Plate region, instead of sending candidates for ministry to seminaries and universities abroad or bringing foreign pastors here. The spiritual, social and material needs of the churches here could not be adequately served through leadership trained in a foreign context.
Since the formation of ISEDET itself in 1969, the theological focus that the institute has emphasized has been strongly related to its ecumenical identity and the institute has insisted on the responsibility of the various evangelical churches in advocating for human rights in contexts of the violence of dictatorial governments and in addressing situations of marginalization, be that for religious, ethnic, gender, socio-economic, or other reasons.
Since 2003 the UI-ISEDET has been the first and only Protestant institute for theological education in Argentina to grant officially accredited university-level degree programs. This accreditation is currently provisional and we are working hard to obtain final accreditation. ISEDET is the only Protestant institute in all of Spanish America to grant a doctoral degree in theology—a degree for which I am also a candidate. ISEDET also boasts the best theological research library in Latin America. Many theologians and church leaders throughout Latin America have testified to the importance of the theological contributions that my colleagues at ISEDET have made to Protestantism, ecumenism and human rights in the entire region.
In an effort to respond to the challenges that today’s world presents to us, the UI-ISEDET is currently undergoing a careful study of its organizational, administrative and academic structure in order to make the revisions and adjustments necessary that can help us to undertake a more adequate and effective use of our material and human resources in accordance with our university-level goals. An external commission of institutional diagnosis is guiding these efforts with the purpose of helping us in the elaboration of short (5-year) and long-term (10-year) strategic plans. This strategic planning will have as its goal the consolidation of ISEDET’s strengths so that, in communication with representatives of the nation’s Ministry of Education (the accrediting agency) and the churches that constitute the patrimony of the institute, we can achieve the final accreditation of our degree programs and a more efficient fulfillment of our tasks.
An important part of these strategic plans will be organizing an office for development and public relations for the institution in order to become financially self-sustainable. This initiative will allow us to relate more closely to our partners in mission in Argentina, throughout Latin America, and in the rest of the world that may be interested in our programs of studies and additional offerings. We also look forward to the opportunity of inviting research scholars to use our magnificent library resources and making some of our publications available. Given the agreements we have with universities and churches in Latin America and abroad, an office of development and public relations might enhance our opportunities to enrich and broaden these accords and also allow us to support the work of other centers of theological education in our region and around the world.
Another part of our strategic planning involves enhancing our technological resources for teaching and research purposes. We expect that this office of development will be able to facilitate this endeavor. This would also make some of our academic programs and publications available to students and researchers who are not able to relocate to Buenos Aires.
Presbyterian World Mission has set up an ECO account for one year to which members and churches of the PC(USA) can make one-time contributions to support the initial organization of this office of development and public relations. We are hoping to raise US $10,000.00. Even the smallest donations can go a long way, if many people contribute. You may donate directly online with your credit card at: http://www.presbyterianmission.org/give/E052133/.
I hope to send another newsletter before the end of November in which I can share more about my family and myself and our efforts to live and bear witness to our faith in the Bethlehem Child here in Argentina.
May God be with you as you celebrate the church reformed and constantly reforming in this month of the Reformation.
In Christ’s mercy,
The 2012 Presbyterian Mission Yearbook for Prayer & Study, p. 26