Faculty Stories

Rivera Awarded a 2020 Sabbatical Grant for Researchers from the Louisville Institute

Dr. Luis R. Rivera

Dr. Luis R. Rivera, associate professor of theology and former academic dean at Garrett-Evangelical Theological Seminary, was awarded a $40,000 2020 Sabbatical Grant for Researchers from the Louisville Institute. He is grateful to President Lallene J. Rector, Academic Dean Mai-Anh Le Tran, and Dr. Justo L. Gonzalez for their support during the application process.

The Louisville Institute’s Sabbatical Grant for Researchers Program enables ecclesially-engaged academics and scholarly religious leaders to conduct a major study that can contribute to the vitality of Christianity in North America. Grants of up to $40,000 support year-long research projects that address Christian faith and life, the practice of ministry, and/or religious institutions.

Rivera’s research project is titled, “The Journey and Legacy of US Protestant Latinx Theological Movement.” His study documents and analyzes the emergence, development, and impact of the Protestant branch of the ecumenical Latinx theological movement in the U.S. graduate theological establishment. This multicultural, intergenerational, and diverse socio-intellectual movement had its roots in the late 1960s and early 1970s, developed in the 1980s, consolidated in the 1990s, and has been expanded and renewed by new generations in the 2000s. Rivera will explore the main paths, turns, and stages of a fifty-year journey.

Though other publications have focused on the intellectual production of these theologians, this research project uses insights from social movements studies to foreground network formations, collective action, strategic interventions, organizational developments, collaboration with allied organizations, the use of political opportunities, and the employment of non-violent action repertoire to support the emergence of a cadre of professional theologians who produced the academic version of Protestant Latinx theology in the academy. Rivera’s study claims that the Latinx Protestant Theology movement can be characterized as a reformist and non-institutionalized intellectual movement in the theological academy inspired by and connected with the goals, spiritualities, and work of progressive Latinx social movements in society and Latinx progressive religious sectors in Protestant denominations. Members of the Latinx Protestant movement have conceived their intellectual production and professional work in the academy as providing scholarship and pedagogical resources to challenge and transform the socio-cultural-political conditions that have been detrimental to Latinx peoples, communities, churches, and the academy in the US.

Reflecting on the personal meaning of this research, Rivera said, “I am writing this book as a witness, participant, and scholar to account, memorialize, and celebrate the US Latinx theology movement. I have observed the growth and impact of this movement during my thirty years of service as a theology professor, program administrator, and dean of faculty serving three accredited Protestant seminaries. My formation and development as a theological student, educator, scholar, and chief academic officer have been informed and shaped by my study of and collaboration with networks of Latinx Protestant theologians that I write about. This research is part of my contribution and legacy to the movement, the profession, and the academy.”

Rivera added the following thoughts about his motivations to conduct and publish this research, “The future and quality of graduate theological education in the US demands both acknowledgement and critical engagement with the challenges and contributions generated by Latinx and other minoritized theological scholars and educators. Ignoring these histories and legacies is an epistemic and ideological stance of ignorance or amnesia revealing postures of resistance, privilege, exclusion, and shortsightedness in the face of future trends before us.”

Rivera received his ThD and ThM from Harvard Divinity School, his MDiv from Evangelical Seminary of Puerto Rico, and his BA from the University of Puerto Rico. He is co-editor of The Westminster Dictionary of Christian Theologians (English, Spanish, and Portuguese editions). His research and teaching focus is in systematic theology, specifically Latinx and Diaspora theologies. He has published many articles on these subjects, including “Jesus el Migrante/Jesus the Migrant” in Jesus in the Hispanic Community: Images of Christ from Theology to Popular Religion (Westminster John Knox Press, 2010).

For more information about his research project visit: https://louisville-institute.org/our-impact/awards/sabbatical-grant-for-researchers/14896/.

Louisville Institute is funded by the Religion Division of Lilly Endowment and based at Louisville Presbyterian Seminary (Louisville, Kentucky). The Institute’s fundamental mission is to enrich the religious life of North American Christians and to encourage the revitalization of their institutions, by bringing together those who lead religious institutions with those who study them, so that the work of each might inform and strengthen the other.

Garrett-Evangelical Theological Seminary, a graduate school of theology related to The United Methodist Church, was founded in 1853. Located on the campus of Northwestern University, the seminary serves more than 450 students from various denominations and cultural backgrounds, fostering an atmosphere of ecumenical interaction. Garrett-Evangelical creates bold leaders through master of divinity, master of arts, master of theological studies, doctor of philosophy, and doctor of ministry degrees. Its 4,500 living alumni serve church and society around the world.