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Hispanic-Latinx Center

Sign in English and Spanish with illustrations, with another sign for the Catedra Paulo Freire in the background

The Center was established in 1988 to bring Hispanic-Latinx culture and experience into the life of the seminary. As a reflection of our quest to represent our base, the Center has had several names throughout its history: Hispanic Center, Hispanic Latino Center, and Hispanic Latino(a) Latin American Center. Our community continues to grow, change, and learn new ways to come to terms with itself in all its glorious complexity. For this reason, the Center adopted the term “Latinx” as a gender-neutral alternative to “Latino / Latina” and, in 2016, renamed it as “Hispanic-Latinx Center.” The new name explicitly connects us to our heritage, while communicating our desire to be an expansive and welcoming space.

The Center's mission has been to meet the needs of Hispanic-Latinx students, pastors, parishioners, and community leaders in creative, insightful, useful, and organic ways. It also seeks to cultivate a community of friends who have a heart and concern about the realities of Latinx communities across the United States, Latin America, and beyond. Latinx faculty at Garrett-Evangelical has been committed to this cause and has offered specific courses focusing on topics directly relevant to Latinx and/or minoritized racial-ethnic students.

Also, the Center has partnered with many segments of The United Methodist Church (UMC), such as the UMC North Central Jurisdiction, Hispanic-Latinx Team at the Northern Illinois Conference, HYLA (Hispanic Youth Leadership Academy) and MARCHA (Associate Methodists Representing the Hispanic American Cause). It also established a partnership with other denominations and organizations, such as HSP (Hispanic Summer Program) and AETH (Association for Hispanic Theological Education).

Throughout the school year, we develop activities such as lectures during the Hispanic heritage month, the annual Cátedra Paulo Freire conference, the Hispanic Youth Leadership Academy (HYLA) annual course, and other occasional programs. The goals are to provide resources and academic discussions on relevant topics for Latinx communities addressing theological and practical aspects of ministry in cross-cultural contexts. Furthermore, we seek to offer opportunities for reflection on complex issues related to Latinx's experiences from a theological and social justice standpoint, while seeking to promote dialogue and partnership with community leaders and non-profit organizations that together work for the common good.

For more information, contact Dr. Débora Junker, Director of the Hispanic-Latinx Center.

Welcome from the Director

Dr. Debora Junker

¡Amigos y Amigas, Bienvenidos y Bienvenidas! 

As Director of the Hispanic-Latinx Center at Garrett-Evangelical Theological Seminary, I am pleased to welcome you into our community.

The Center seeks to bring together students, staff, teachers, and leaders from the Latinx community to learn from each other and, together, find new ways to engage with the wider community through academic and cultural programs that address urgent and relevant issues for our community.

It is our sincere desire to offer our students space, regardless of nationality, gender, sexual orientation, citizenship or immigrant status, where we all come together to celebrate our diversity, culture, and gifts. We understand the value of the family and recognize the efforts of many who made the path that brought us here possible. Therefore, within the set of objectives of the Center, I would like to highlight three: first, helping students to succeed in their academic life, second, providing a spiritual, cultural and socially enriching environment where they can feel at home and, finally, helping each student to achieve their life dreams in a way that contributes to the transformation of the world.

During these challenging times, we are aware of the threats facing Latinx communities across the country, including poor working conditions and speeches that aim to further marginalize our communities. That is why we recognize the importance of cultivating a deeper understanding of the complex issues related to the experiences of the Latinx community and the need to develop a sense of belonging among members of our community.

As director of the Hispanic-Latinx Center, please accept my personal invitation for you to visit and connect with us through the different channels that we have established during this time. I am sure that you will be warmly welcomed and discover new friends, experiences, and adventures that are likely to become essential in your education, career, and life.

Débora B. A Junker

Cátedra Paulo Freire

Cátedra Paulo Freire

Line drawing of Paulo Freire in multi colors with Catedra Paulo Freire text next to itThe Hispanic-Latinx Center at Garrett-Evangelical Theological Seminary has created a cathedra using the Spanish-Portuguese word, Cátedra, naming it Cátedra Paulo Freire in recognition of the invaluable contribution that Freire has imparted not only to the field of education, but to the theological field as well.

The Cátedra was inaugurated on April 8, 2016 by Ana Maria Araújo Freire, widow of Paulo Freire, who has approved the use of his name. The 2020 Cátedra will take place on March 12-13, 2020, under the theme "The Potency of Collective Conscientização - Resisting the Disimagination Machine." The keynote speaker will be internationally renowed critical educator and public intellectual, Dr. Henry A. Giroux.

You can learn more about Paulo Freire and the Cátedra at

Hispanic-Latinx Fellows Program

The Hispanic-Latinx Fellows Program recognizes the unique gifts of our Hispanic and Latinx applicants who will be ministering in bilingual settings and/or who have significant contributions to make to the global religious landscape. Priority is given to United Methodist bi-lingual and/or first and second generation Hispanic and Latinx students,

As a Hispanic-Latinx Fellow, a student in guaranteed the following:

  • A scholarship ranging from 50-100% of tuition;
  • Gatherings with the Hispanic-Latinx Fellows and faculty advisor, Dr. Débora Junker, Associate Professor of Critical Pedagogies and Director of the Hispanic-Latinx Center, for fellowship, mentoring, and conversation around various topics related to theological education and professional ministry formation;
  • Opportunities to work with and help shape the activities of the Hispanic-Latinx Center; and
  • Networking with our Hispanic-Latinx alums.

To learn more about the Hispanic-Latinx Fellows Program, click here.

Hispanic-Latinx Faculty Members

Dr. Nancy Bedford, Georgia Harkness Professor of  Theology

Nancy Elizabeth BedfordDr. theol. (Tübingen, 1994), was born in Comodoro Rivadavia, Argentina. She has been the Georgia Harkness Professor of Theology at Garrett-Evangelical Theological Seminary (Evanston) since 2003. Previously she taught theology at Instituto Universitario ISEDET and Seminario Internacional Teológico Bautista (both in Buenos Aires). She has written or edited eight books and written over 70 book chapters and journal articles, which have appeared in five languages.

Her latest book is Galatians, A Theological Commentary forthcoming summer 2016 from WJK in the Belief series. Her current project is on the Christology of the marvelous exchange from a Latin American and Latino/a perspective. Her research interests focus on global feminist theories and theologies, Latin American theologies, Latino/Latina theologies in North America, theologies in migration, liberating readings of Scripture, hermeneutics, and the rearticulation of classical doctrinal loci from the perspective of critical, artistic and poetic reason.

She is a member of Reba Place Church (Mennonite) in Evanston, where she is on the preaching rotation. She is married to Daniel Stutz, with whom she has three daughters, Valeria, Sofía and Carolina.

Dr. Débora Junker, Associate Professor of Critical Pedagogies

Dr. Débora Junker is the Director of the Hispanic-Latinx Center and Associate Professor of Critical Pedagogies at Garrett-Evangelical Theological Seminary. She received her Doctor of Philosophy degree in education and congregational studies from Garrett-Evangelical; she also holds a Master of Arts in Christian education from Christian Theological Seminary and a Master in Religious Science (practical theology) degree from the Methodist University of São Paulo - Brazil. She also received post-graduate specialization in the psychopedagogy of early childhood and adolescence from the Methodist Institute of Higher Education of São Paulo – Brazil and a licentiate in letters from the Methodist Institute of Higher Education of São Paulo – Brazil. Junker has published numerous articles, chapters, and books in the field of Christian education. She is currently working on a new book, Religious Education for Global Citizenship: Embracing Compassion and Solidarity.

Dr. Luis Rivera, Associate Professor of Theology

Dr. Luis Rivera is Associate Professor of Theology. He served as the Academic Dean and Vice President for Academic Affairs at Garrett-Evangelical from 2014-2019. Prior to joining the faculty of Garrett-Evangelical in 2014, Rivera served as faculty member and academic dean and vice president for academic affairs and the James G. K. McClure Professor of Theological Education (2009-13) at McCormick Theological Seminary (PCUSA) in Chicago. Rivera started his teaching career in 1986 when he joined the faculty of the Evangelical Seminary of Puerto Rico (1986 -1995).

Rivera holds degrees from the University of Puerto Rico (B.A.), the Evangelical Seminary of Puerto Rico (M.Div.), and Harvard University, the Divinity School (Th.M., Th.D.). His research and teaching focuses on the theological and hermeneutical challenges posed by the experiences of global migrations and the formation of diaspora communities and congregations amidst multicultural societies in a globalized world.

He is co-editor of Diccionario de Intérpretes de la Fe (2004; also in Portuguese (2005) and English (2006) and contributor to the following works, among others:  Encyclopedia of Religion and Violence (Routledge, 2004), Shaping Beloved Community (JKWP 2006), Character Ethics and the Bible (JKWP, 2007), Feasting on the Word (JKWP, 2008), The Encyclopedia of Hispanic American Religious Cultures (Baylor University, 2009), and Jesus in the Hispanic Community: Images of Christ from Theology to Popular Religion (2009).

Rivera has served Hispanic theological education and the Association of Theological Schools (ATS) in several ways. He has been a teacher, workshop leader, and Board member for the Hispanic Summer Program. He served as mentor and is the current chair of the Member Council of the Hispanic Theological Initiative. He was a member of the National Advisory Committee for the Center for the Study of Latino/a Catholicism, San Diego University. Rivera was chair of the program committee of ATS Chief Academic Officers Society and a consultant for the Committee on Race and Ethnicity. He has also contributed to the work of the Forum for Theological Exploration and the Wabash Center for Teaching and Learning in Theology and Religion.

Rev. Dr. Osvaldo Vena, Emeritus Professor of New Testament Interpretation

Born in Azul, Argentina, on October 29, 1950, Osvaldo Vena attended the Buenos Aires Bible Institute of the Christian and Missionary Alliance from where he graduated in 1975 with a Th.B. He came to the U.S. in August of 1976 to attend Bethel Theological Seminary in St. Paul, Minnesota, where he obtained a M.Div in 1980. During his time at Bethel, he served as a minister in an independent Hispanic congregation in Minneapolis.

In 1980 he entered Princeton Theological Seminary, from where he graduated in 1981 with a Th.M. Back in Argentina he was ordained in 1985 by the Reformed Church and was appointed to serve in two different congregations of the Presbyterian Church, first as interim minister and later as senior pastor. From 1983 to 1989 he completed his Th.D. in ISEDET (Instituto Superior de Estudios Teológicos) in Buenos Aires. Invited by the Church of Scotland, he spent nine months in New College, University of Edinburgh, doing post-doctoral research.

From Scotland he came to the U.S. where he served as an interim minister in a UCC congregation in Joliet, Illinois and as a bilingual teacher in two different school districts in the Chicago area. He was called in 1995 to Garrett-Evangelical Theological Seminary as an assistant professor of New Testament Interpretation and director of the then Center of Hispanic Ministries. He was promoted to associate professor in June of 2000 and granted tenure in October of 2001. In May of 2010 he was promoted to the rank of Full Professor.

Apart from many articles and essays, written both in English and Spanish, he has published numerous books including Evangelio de Marcos: Comentario para Exégesis y Traducción (Mark: A Commentary for Exegesis and Translation), United Bible Societies, 2008, Jesus, Disciple of the Kingdom. Mark’s Christology for a Community in Crisis, Pickwick Publications, 2014, Antifaz Negro. El impacto de lo religioso en la vida de un niño (Antifaz Negro. The Impact of the Religious in the Life of a Child), JuanUno1 Publishing House, 2020, and Postcards from Egypt. Reimagining Jesus in the Gospel of Mark, Resource Publications, 2020.

Young Clergy Initiative (YCI)

Garrett-Evangelical Theological Seminary is proud to implement the Young Clergy Initiative (YCI) focused on developing a comprehensive program to help young Latino/Latina students discern and hear the call to lay and ordained ministry and to train, mentor and nurture them as they continue in their spiritual and vocational journey as leaders for the church and the world. As such, YCI strategically partners with communities, churches, colleges and universities, United Methodist agencies, annual conferences and key individuals to help identify and prepare high school and college Latino/a students for leadership.

The skills for effective ministry leadership are fostered through the practice of ministry in the local church and in the community. Students come together over the summer for a 3-4 day retreat to explore vocation, discipleship, leadership, United Methodist history and polity as well as social justice issues that are important to the Latino/a community. A long term mentoring relationship is established for each student through partnerships with pastors, seminarians, conference staff and other ministry leaders. The YCI is dedicated to supporting young Latino/a students in their pursuit of higher education, leadership development, and ministry vocation as they grow into the purpose God called them to.

Hispanic Youth Leadership Academy (HYLA)

Garrett-Evangelical Theological Seminary is proud to partner with the Hispanic Youth Leadership Academy (HYLA) program on our campus for Hispanic/Latino/a college students. The program will take place during the summer. Students already in college or beginning college in the fall are encouraged to apply to participate in the program. Applications are due by April 1st of each year.

The Hispanic Youth Leadership Academy serves Hispanic United Methodist youth and young adults. Its main purpose is to identify, recruit, and facilitate the leadership development processes of college students while taking into consideration the context and particularities of Hispanic/Latino/a youth and young adults in the context of the United States. HYLA is a three year-program that will focus on different topics each year. The Garrett-Evangelical/HYLA partnership in the Chicago area will focus on college scholarships.

Contact for general questions about HYLA and contact for specific questions about the summer program at Garrett-Evangelical.

Hispanic Summer Program

The Hispanic Summer Program (HSP) has, since its inception in 1989, sought to complement and enrich the theological and ministerial education offered in seminaries and universities, with academic courses and other programs that directly address the history, ministry, and theology of Latinx. As a Latinx program, the HSP tries to find ways to restore connections and build bridges between Latinx and non-Latinx communities by increasing the awareness and appreciation of Latinx's contributions. In these more than 30 years, the HSP has sought to contribute to the development of countless Latin American clergy, community organizers, and teachers through academic courses and high-level programs.

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