Theological education coordinator will facilitate church leader training
by Pat Cole | Presbyterian News Service
HONDURAS – While their formal preparation for ministry is modest, Presbyterian pastors in Honduras possess an abundance of “faith seeking understanding.”
Unfortunately, educational opportunities to help these faithful pastors to gain understanding — and fulfill the motto of St. Anselm of Canterbury — have been limited. However, more access to theological training is on the horizon, thanks to the collaborative work of the Presbyterian Church of Honduras, Presbyterian World Mission and the Honduras Mission Network.
A new mission co-worker position has been created to coordinate theological education opportunities and to facilitate partnerships between Honduran and U.S. Presbyterians. The position was developed at the urging of the Presbyterian Church of Honduras and was prioritized because it fits squarely into World Mission’s focus area of evangelism through leadership development. The position will likely be filled this year. The Honduras Mission Network, which stepped forward to help secure critical funding for this position, was a key player in making it a reality.
The network was inspired by the commitment of Honduran pastors and their hunger for theological education, says Leslie Belden, convener of the Honduras Mission Network. “They have a lot of social capital and they work hard,” she said. “Their commitment to Jesus Christ makes our commitment pale in comparison.”
Leslie is parish associate at First United Presbyterian Church in Fayetteville, Arkansas, and stated clerk of the Arkansas Presbytery. Arkansas and two other presbyteries, Tampa Bay and Carlisle, anchored the efforts to fund the mission position. Network members raised funds within these presbyteries and identified individuals, congregations and presbyteries across the country that had been involved in mission in Honduras. They worked with Mission Engagement and Support staff to invite Presbyterians to make a gift in support of the position. They also provided input to World Mission about how this position could make the network’s involvement in Honduras more effective.
“When the co-worker is appointed, he or she will find Honduran Presbyterians are eager to learn more about what it means to be Reformed,” said Tracey King-Ortega, regional liaison for Central America. However, she emphasized in a prayer letter last year that it would be wrong to impose on them a North American perspective on being Reformed. The role of U.S. Presbyterians, she said, is “to walk with them as they wrestle with scripture and define their Reformed identity for themselves.”
This style of learning was used in a 2016 exploratory workshop for Honduran Presbyterian leaders held by Costa Rica-based Latin American Biblical University (UBL). “They loved how interactive the workshop was,” King-Ortega said. “They have been accustomed to being given information to memorize instead of encouraged to wrestle with Scripture and context. For the first time, I heard them relating the gospel to justice.”
Mission co-worker Karla Koll and her UBL faculty colleague, Nidia Fonseca, led the workshop. King-Ortega said that everyone left the event excited about the possibility of more classes. Koll and Fonseca returned in January to lead a three-day session, the first of six learning opportunities scheduled over the next two years.
Belden said the network is enthusiastic about the role the co-worker will play in facilitating theological education and mission partnerships. She noted that she has seen network members grow in their relationships with Honduran Presbyterians and in their understanding of partnership. “You are not just sending money away,” she said. “You are part of the ministry.”
Pat Cole is a communications specialist with the Presbyterian Mission Agency.
PROVIDE SUPPORT — Consider making a gift to support the new mission co-worker position in Honduras: pcusa.org/donate/E200535
This article is from the Summer 2017 issue of Mission Crossroads magazine, which is printed and mailed free to subscribers’ homes three times a year by Presbyterian World Mission.
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Categories: Mission Around the World, Theological Education
Tags: Arkansas Presbytery, Fayetteville, honduras, Karla Koll, Leslie Belden, Mission Network, pcusa, presbyterian, reformed, theological studies, Tracey King-Ortega
Ministries: World Mission, Theology, Formation & Evangelism, Mission Engagement and Support, Gifts & Financial Support