From 1990 to 2000, Hispanics grew from 21 percent of Dallas's population to 35.6 percent, according to the U.S. census. With a continual current of Latin American immigrants flowing across the Dallas-Fort Worth landscape, Spanish-speaking evangelical churches have mushroomed. And with churches like the 900-member Iglesia Evangélica Bethania (Bethany Evangelical Church) in Farmers Branch and Mundo de Fe (World of Faith), a 1,600-member charismatic congregation in Carrollton, you can expect the boom to continue.

Developing leadership for Hispanic churches in this region known for its large, distinguished seminaries is tricky business. Institutional behemoths such as Dallas Theological Seminary are not designed for self-taught ministers of low education and few financial resources. These seminaries do reach some immigrant pastors with Spanish-language field education classes, but mostly they train Hispanics already assimilated into mainstream culture, says Jimmy Garcia, director of Hispanic work for the Baptist General Convention of Texas.

The bilingual/bicultural churches these Hispanic seminarians are preparing to serve are older and, with few exceptions, not growing, Garcia says. "It's the immigrant churches here that are growing."

While exact figures are not available, Spanish-speaking charismatic, Pentecostal, and nondenominational churches, and to a lesser extent Baptist congregations, have multiplied in the Dallas-Fort Worth area in the past 10 years, Garcia says. In 1990 there were 38 Hispanic Baptist congregations in the Dallas-Fort Worth area. By 2000 there were 97, he says. Some Spanish-speaking charismatic Catholic congregations have also formed.

Seminary education for Latino ministers becomes indispensable, says Rudy ...

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May 21, 2002

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