In early 2013, United partnered with Global Empowerment Ministries in the Kentucky Conference of The UMC to launch the first regional online campus (ROC) of the Academia Cristiana Hispana / Hispanic Christian Academy (HCA). HCA seeks to equip Hispanic/Latino leaders for ministry in the local church. A three-year Course of Ministry program, taught entirely online, provides basic theological curriculum in Spanish and English.
“Our Hispanic/Latino brothers and sisters are leading the American church in intentional evangelism and authentic worship,” said Erin Gildner, HCA coordinator at United. “The HCA provides a solid training in theology and ministry that is geared to the Hispanic/Latino community.”
With the flexibility of an online format and the accessibility of courses in both Spanish and English, the Academia Cristiana Hispana has continued to grow, developing new partnerships with the Northwest Texas, North Georgia and West Michigan conferences of The United Methodist Church over the last three years. By partnering with organizations across the United States, the Academia Cristiana Hispana now serves students in seven conferences of The UMC.
Giselle Galban, a student in the Northwest Texas Conference, said the opportunity to study from home has been key to pursuing her call to ministry.
The HCA has allowed me to learn more about the Bible, theology, leadership and ministry,” she said. “Each piece of knowledge that I gain becomes a tool ready to be used at the opportune moment or part of daily life.
Having moved with her family from Cuba to Texas, only two years ago, Giselle also values the insights into ministering to Hispanic/Latino communities in the United States.
“Many of the ministry efforts that worked well in Cuba don’t work well here,” she said. “As I have listened to and read my classmates’ experiences, who have lived in the United States for many more years than I, it helps me to better understand my current context.”
Empowering leaders with tools for their ministry contexts is a primary focus of the Academia Cristiana Hispana. Angela Baza, a student currently in the candidacy process in the North Georgia Conference, has also confirmed her calling through the process of completing the HCA training.
“I am more than convinced today that God is calling me to be a pastor, to preach the good news of salvation, to guide and nurture his people,” she said. “I want to pass on and share what I have learned with the people of God so they can walk together with Jesus.”
Gildner says that by partnering with denominational organizations and other groups to form ROCs, the Academia Cristiana Hispana (HCA) is able to build connections between students, instructors, ROC personnel and United staff.
“As part of the body of Christ, I see the HCA as a bridge that connects us with each other to provide theological training to those who are desperately desiring it,” Gildner said.
All quotations of Giselle Galban and Angela Baza translated from Spanish by Erin Gildner, HCA coordinator.