In celebration of National Hispanic Heritage Month, Redeemer East Harlem will highlight the life and ministry of key Hispanic Christian leaders who are important to Hispanic and Hispanic American history.
The following resources are a mere sample of many Hispanic leaders, theologians, and histories. Our hope is to encourage you to learn the many ways Hispanic Christian leaders are shaping our church today.
Get to know Hispanic Christian Theologians & Leaders (there are many who could be included, so please seek out more!):
Orlando E. Costas (Born 1942 - Died 1987) Costas became a major figure in the Latin American Theological Fellowship and the Lausanne movement, advocating for a holistic mission that brought together evangelism with social activism. In 1976, he completed his Th.D. at the Free University of Amsterdam, writing on "Theology of the Crossroads in Contemporary Latin America: Missiology in Mainline Protestantism, 1969-1974" under Johannes Verkuyl. He later taught at Eastern Baptist Theological Seminary and Andover Newton Theological School.
Justo L. González (Born 1937 - present) is a retired Cuban-American historical theologian. He is the author of the three-volume History of Christian Thought and is considered an influential contributor to Latin American Theology. Gonzalez attended United Seminary in Cuba and also attended Yale University, where he became the youngest to be awarded the historical theology doctorate. Over the past thirty years, he has focused on developing programs for the theological education of Hispanics, and he has received four honorary doctorates.
Alexia Salvatierra is a Lutheran Pastor with over 35 years of experience in community ministry, including church-based service and community development programs, congregational and community organizing, and legislative advocacy. She has been a national leader working in areas of poverty and immigration for over 20 years, including co-founding the national Evangelical Immigration Table (a broad coalition of moderate and conservative evangelical leaders and institutions advocating for immigration reform). Salvatierra founded multiple programs and organizations, in the US and overseas. These included a gang prevention program for at-risk immigrant youth in Fresno, a community computer center, an intergenerational community garden where the elderly taught at-risk youth to grow produce in Oakland, homeless leaders and congregation members providing emergency services in the streets of Santa Cruz, and migrant farmworker camps in Watsonville. She is currently working as Assistant Professor of Integral Mission and Global Transformation at Fuller Theological Seminary.
Manuel Ortiz (Born 1938 - Died 2017) was a Puerto Rican, East Harlemite who became a pastor, professor, and writer. Ortiz was best known for teaching at Westminster Theological Seminary for 20 years. He was also known for planting and pastoring the urban and multiethnic congregation Spirit and Truth Fellowship, a multiethnic church in Philadelphia. Ortiz had a lifelong passion for urban ministry and was involved in founding several churches and schools in Puerto Rico, Chicago, and Philadelphia.
Dr. Eldin Villafane (Born 1940 - present) is a Puerto Rican, lifelong community advocate, social ethicist, passionate teacher of social justice, and writer. Dr. Villafane has served as director of Gordon-Conwell’s Campus for Urban Ministerial Education (CUME) in Boston and then served as the Associate Dean for Urban and Multicultural Affairs. He spent his time there preparing the school and church leadership for the ever-increasing urban and multicultural world. He served as the Minister of Education at Iglesia Cristiana Juan 3:16 in the Bronx and was the founder and president of La Comunidad of Hispanic American Scholars of Theology and Religion. He was recently named one of the “Top Hispanic Evangelical Scholars” by the National Hispanic Christian Leadership Conference and received an Esperanza Spirit lifetime Award for “outstanding and dedicated ministerial service.” His areas of expertise are Hispanic Studies, Urban Ministries, Pentecostalism, and Justice. He continues to be active in areas that involve civic engagement, church, academic boards, and committees.
Virgilio P. Elizondo (Born 1935 - Died 2016) was a Mexican-American Roman Catholic priest, a community activist, and was widely regarded as "the father of U.S. Latino religious thought." Elizondo was the founder of the Pastoral Institute at the University of the Incarnate Word. He was also a co-founder of the Mexican-American Cultural Center. Elizondo was well known for his book, Galilean Journey: The Mexican-American Promise.
Ada María Isasi-Díaz (Born 1943 - Died 2012) was a Cuban-American, Roman Catholic theologian who served as professor of Ethics and Theology at Drew University in Madison, New Jersey. As a theologian, she was an innovator in the realm of Hispanic theology in general and specifically, of mujerista theology. Isasi-Díaz experienced a regular and unofficial role as a staff pastor beginning in 2007, when the Archdiocese of New York shut out Our Lady of Angels Church in East Harlem, the parish church she adopted when she moved to New York to attend the seminary. At that time, a group of faithful parishioners began holding prayer meetings on the sidewalk outside. Initially it was a protest. But eventually, it became a neighborhood institution.