Reformed Reflections

A Reformed Seminary Grows in Mexico

Mexico, Latin America's fourth largest country, is a land of stunning contrasts. Its population is a mixture of Spanish, Mestizos and Negroes, all sharing the Spanish language. The Amerindians on the other hand are divided into 56 language groups with 200 dialects, divergent enough to need separate Bible translations. About 50% of Mexico's population is under age 15, and drug and alcohol abuse pose severe problems. In 1982 its population was 10 million. . It will have 30 million citizens by the end of the century

The Roman Catholic Church is relatively strong despite the loss of political power in 1910. Yet Mexico is still officially anti-clerical and anti-Catholic. The evangelical movement, a large number of them strongly influenced by fundamentalism, has grown dramatically despite opposition of traditional Roman Catholics.

In Chiapas the Tzotzil Indian evangelicals have endured 30 years of persecution, including the expulsion of over 15,000 from their homes and property. And to a small extent Marxists and liberation theology advocates have their followers. Numerous sects and cults also thrive under the hot Mexico sun.

Mexico has been described as a partly Third World and partly a First World country. The disparity between a relatively small number of very rich and the poor multitudes is enormous. Many Mexicans suffer economic hardship due to rural poverty, urban unemployment, explosive population growth, injustice, and exploitation by government officials. One of the legacies the Spanish conquerors brought to Mexico was a legal system that favoured wealth and personal influence. Justice has rarely been available for the poor.

But Mexico is also a country of great potential for the presentation of a Biblical world and life view. Christians in commerce and industrial classes (including white-collar and blue collar workers) are spiritually hungry for a Biblical vision of daily work. New converts are seeking ways to integrate their faith and work. They are looking for a faith that works in their daily life.

The Seminario Juan Calvino (John Calvin Seminary) in Mexico City has become the center of reformational activity. The people at the Seminary have become acquainted with what is being done in Canada via the Christian Labour Association and the Work Research Foundation. Recently Harry Antonides, director of the WRF was invited to conduct a two-day conference devoted to a discussion of the Kingdom vision on economics, trade unionism, and politics. His translator, Dr. Adolfo Garcia de la Sienra, is a fairly recent convert to the philosophy of the Dutch reformational scholar Dr. Herman Dooyeweerd. Dr. de la Sienra is now teaching Christian philosophy at a public university in Mexico City, as well as teaching various other smaller groups, including the staff of a small, recently established Christian university in Mexico City, which has begun to develop ties with the seminary. The conference was attended by people from a variety of denominational backgrounds, including Baptists and Pentecostals. A couple in attendance were co-founders of a new Christian party in Mexico.

Founded in 1948 by Rev. Dr. Felipe Delgado, translator in the early 1960s of Dr. Louis Berkhof's Systematic Theology into Spanish, the Seminary has grown from its first three Bible students to one of the best-known undergraduate and graduate seminaries in Latin America. The seminary trains not only ministers for Presbyterian, Pentecostal, Reformed and Independent churches, it also trains professional men and women who are eager to integrate their earlier academic study with the claims of the Lordship of Jesus Christ in every area of life. This has produced an outstanding growth in many cities across Mexico of teaching centers, where Christian educators are being prepared and Christian schools established.

On Saturday morning, August 10, Dr. John Paul Roberts, professor at Seminario Juan Calvino, met with a small group at Redeemer College in Ancaster, Ontario, Canada. With great enthusiasm this dedicated man of God challenged his audience to join hands, heads, talents and resources in becoming partners in the ongoing development of a Christ-centered, academically excellent facility. The small Presbyterian and Reformed churches in Mexico do their utmost to provide spiritual and prayer support to the seminary.

The opportunities for the Reformed faith are unparalleled. Time and again students of the most diverse church backgrounds exclaim, on their becoming acquainted with the Calvinist world-and-life view, that this biblical foundation was the missing link in the reformation they had desperately prayed for in their nation.

However, most of the Presbyterian and Reformed churches have little income. Their usual church offerings are unhusked corn and eggs. They barely have sufficient means to pay the meager salaries of their pastors. Yet, these churches are excited about the message of the Reformation. They long to spread it.

Realizing the key role of the seminary in the promotion of the Reformed faith, they are extending a call for help. Money is needed for the library, office equipment, etc. Retired people could consider spending time as short-term missionaries to help out with renovating and upkeep of the seminary facilities. And those who participate, Dr. Roberts said, would benefit from the love the new Latin American converts have for the Reformed faith.

As a result of the meeting at Redeemer College, a decision was made to establish a foundation in support of Seminario Juan Calvino. A committee was formed to work out organizational details. The foundation intends to sponsor a speaking tour for Dr. Roberts in Canada, to get the message out, with the hope that the exciting work taking place in Mexico will rekindle the flame for the Calvinistic world-and-life view.

Johan D. Tangelder
September, 1996