Dawn Treading: A Monthly Blog Dedicated to New Experiences and Practices in Faith Development
Editor’s Note: In the coming months we will post a blog each month in hopes of deepening our experiences in Christian education and faith development. We will seek to share insights on how one might grow in her/his relationship with Christ. We will use a variety of methods but each month we will visit with a professor from a different university or seminary to explore what is happening on his/her campus in relation to faith development. In addition to learning about what is happening in theological education we will also ask for recommendations on what folks are reading at their seminar.
This fall I had the pleasure of sitting down with Dr. Nora O. Lozano. I found her to be extremely bright, gracious, articulate and passionate in her calling. Dr. Lozano is professor of theological studies at Baptist University of the Américas. She received her Ph.D. and M.Phil. in Religious and Theological Studies at Drew University, Madison, NJ, her M.Div. at Eastern Baptist Theological Seminary, now Palmer Theological Seminary, Philadelphia, PA, and her BA in Social Communication at Universidad Regiomontana in Monterrey, Mexico.
Her academic interests are centered in the areas of systematic, Hispanic, Latin American, and women’s theologies as well as leadership studies. Her writings include chapters in books, essays in theological dictionaries, devotionals, and Bible study curricula. In addition, she is a monthly columnist for Baptist News Global.
Dr. Lozano is executive director and co-founder of the Christian Latina Leadership Institute. The work of the Institute is devoted to the discovery, development, nurturance, and empowerment of women leaders from a Latina perspective to be transformational agents in church and community settings. The Institute offers a three-year certificate in Latina Leadership Studies. The CLLI is housed at Baptist University of the Américas, and has sites in United States in Texas and North Carolina, and In Mexico in Metepec and Monterrey.
Professor Lozano is part of the Baptist World Alliance Commission on Doctrine and Christian Unity and was a member of the second Baptist World Alliance delegation that held theological conversations with the Catholic Church (Pontifical Council for Promoting Christian Unity) in order to find ways to understand each other better and to promote collaboration on issues of social justice and religious freedom.
She attends Woodland Baptist Church in San Antonio, where she lives with her family.
DT: I asked Dr. Lozano to tell us a bit about herself and her call to ministry.
NL: I grew up in Monterrey, Mexico and attended a conservative Baptist church. I was quite active in the youth group and had been nominated to become the president of the youth group.
About that time our church called a new pastor, who was quite different than those in the past. He came to our youth group just prior to the elections of officers. He then pulled out a Bible and began to quote I Timothy 2:11-14 where the subordination of women was advocated. It was obvious that he did not want a woman to be the president of the youth group or any other organization in the church. Knowing that the president of the youth group had to work closely with the pastor, I withdrew my name for consideration. However, it was that encounter that began a calling for me because I immediately began studying the bible with an intense desire to know what it says.
I enrolled at the Baptist Bible Institute and began a journey into formal education that was punctuated by a holy curiosity to know what the bible says about women, and especially women in leadership. I loved my interpretation classes and the opportunity to ask questions, however, I could not find the answers that I was looking for. Even though I continued to study the bible, I found a different source of comfort in secular feminism. However, my life was split between my Christian and feminist perspectives.
In 1986, with an earned B.A, I felt the distinct call to the ministry and began to look for places to further my education. Trusted pastors advised me to study outside of Mexico due that the main seminary there had a double standard for men’s and women’s theological education. Thus, I turned my attention to the United States. I came to the Baptist University of the Américas where Dr. Daniel Rivera advised me to go to an accredited seminary to get my Master. I solicited information to the Southwestern Baptist Theological Seminary, but they took an exorbitant amount of time to reply to my request. During that period, I heard about Eastern Baptist Theological Seminary in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania, and applied there. Immediately, I heard back from them and was offered a full scholarship to come and study. I went there and pursued a Master of Divinity. It was there that I was able to put my Christian and feminist perspectives into a coherent understanding. I was so excited with my new findings that I wanted to study more. Thus, following my time at Eastern I entered the doctoral program at Drew University where I eventually earned a Ph.D. in theological and religious studies.
DT: Tell us about your calling into academia.
NL: Following my doctoral training I moved to San Antonio and began teaching at the University of the Incarnate Word. In 2000 I was called to the faculty at the Baptist University of the Americas where I have taught for the past eighteen years.
DT: Have you considered teaching elsewhere?
NL: People have talked to me about that, noting that I could go to a larger school and get paid more money, but I believe God has called me to BUA. While my official role at BUA is to impart knowledge, the simple fact that I am there as a Latina woman theologian and leader serves as a way to open the students’ imagination. If I, as a Latina woman who came as an international student, was able to obtain a doctoral degree, they can do it, too.
DT: Share a bit of BUA with us, and give us a sense of what is going on at BUA these days.
NL: Baptist University of the Américas is an institution that educates people in preparation for ministry (lay and clergy). There are four B.A. programs – Biblical/Theological Studies, Business Leadership, Human Behavior, and Music. BUA is multi-cultural with more than twenty nationalities represented. Thus, we are a working laboratory in preparing our students for the world.
DT: What are the areas of study for BUA students?
NL: Many of our students go into church ministry, beginning at the Bachelor degree level. 85% are Hispanic. Thus, they receive a solid biblical and theological education. In addition, one of our major foci is to inform and further educate them in regard to their Hispanic identity. They so often come with a damaged cultural self-esteem that is the result of the negative messages that they hear from the predominant culture. We give them an empowering understanding of their heritage in ways that build up their general self-esteem, and thus, transform their future.
DT: Go on with that a bit in regard to formal education. How much personal engagement do students get with faculty?
NL: Our student body is small, so there is a lot of opportunity for personal time between students and professors. Everyone knows everyone by name at BUA. Our classes are small and we as faculty have office hours and other times to assist our students in their pilgrimages.
DT: Speak to us about the discipline employed in training your students for the ministry.
NL: Everyone is required to do some kind of ministry or community service. We want to give them a practical understanding of their callings, but we also want BUA to be a “stepping stone” to the next steps in formal education. We want to push our students to go further.
DT: Can you give an example of that?
NL: Yes. Recently I went to a Wabash workshop at Baylor University where I represented BUA. In preparation for this event, I was asked to reflect in experiences that represent my teaching at its best. I talked about an experience with a Latina student. She arrived to BUA and to the Christian Latina Leadership Institute with low self-esteem as a Latina. She came from a particular Texas Hispanic background where acquiring an education beyond high school was foreign for both her family and friends. In this setting, high school counselors often discourage Latino and Latina students from considering attending college.
Unfortunately, many of these students hear something like this: “You are not college material, find something else to do.”
Given this environment, after her high school graduation, her goal, and that of her Latino and Latina friends, was only to climb the work ladder of fast food restaurants.
After attending BUA and the Christian Latina Leadership Institute, and observing me and other Latina faculty, her academic, gender, and cultural self-esteem was nurtured and developed. The teaching at its best moment was one that I did not know about until much time had passed.
During an informal conversation after one class, I asked her: Are you planning to attend a master’s program after college?
Given her background, she was shocked by my question. Eventually, this question opened her imagination and her dreams. Last spring, she graduated with her master’s degree, and now she is dreaming about starting a doctoral program.
DT: What an amazing story! What an affirming story! Resonating with that can you describe some of the issues challenging your students these days.
NL: Immigration is, of course, a major discussion on campus. It is not just an academic subject to study but a way of living. It is a dramatic example of how to put theology and life together. Then again, there are the women issues. I have been fervent in speaking in favor of women rights and women in ministry, encouraging and empowering our female students to strive for the best.
DT: What are some of the teaching strategies you employ to do that?
NL: We use the lecture method, of course, wanting to disseminate the knowledge that our students need for ministry and further education. But we are also group-oriented, encouraging everyone to learn from everyone. This is especially true in our advanced classes where we do more seminar work. We want our students to be able to be knowledgeable but also to effectively communicate that knowledge.
DT: What are you suggesting for the students to read?
NL: I like to introduce them to authors and theologians who write from different theological and cultural perspectives. I want them to feel empowered by reading theologies that mirror their own experience. In addition, my job is to help them understand gender, class, and race dynamics that will affect their ministerial and leadership roles. Of course, they read, too, traditional theological books, but the uniqueness of BUA and the Christian Latina Leadership Institute is that the students are able to learn from the Hispanic perspective – perspective that unfortunately many times is ignored in other educational institutions. One of my primary goals is for the students to start thinking theologically for themselves. This is a life changing experience at many different levels.
DT: I want to go back to something you just said. You want them to think theologically for themselves. Can you expand on that a bit?
NL: Yes, I don’t want them to just repeat theological formulas. I want them to think theologically in order to explain the reasons why they affirm a particular doctrine or belief. This new skill will empower them for life, and will prepare them for graduate studies.
DT: Nora, I think it would be a privilege to be one of your students. Thank you for your time and insights.