José R. Irizarry is a student of culture, a teacher of intercultural engagement, a writer, professor, minister, artist, father, spouse, and a real gift to the Presbyterian Church (U.S.A.). Jose is the Decano Académico and Acting President at one of our Presbyterian Seminaries, Seminario Evangelico de Puerto Rico (SEPR or ESPR).
ESPR was founded by a variety of mainline denominations ninety (90) years ago this month and maintains ecumenical as well as a strong denominational connections with Methodists, Episcopalians, Baptists, and Lutherans among others in addition to the PC(USA).
On behalf of the General Assembly, the Committee on Theological Education is engaged in a review of the GA covenant with ESPR. Recommendations will come to the November meeting of COTE and the GA in July of 2010. The timing of this covenant renewal, in effect for over a decade already since Reunion, coincides with the first time both the President and Academic Dean of ESPR are Presbyterian.
Sergio Ojeda-Carcamo was called to teach pastoral theology at ESPR in 1995 and has served as President for the last six years. While Dr. Ojeda-Carcamo is on sabbatical, Jose Irizarry has added to his already full plate by also serving as Acting President.
Who is Dr. Irizarry? First of all, he is Jose’ to most who know him, Joe to some. A down to earth person with vision far beyond the horizon. I was honored to spend some time with him and others on his campus in early September and just last week here in Louisville as he represented COTE at the General Assembly Mission Council meeting.
Jose’ has at least two collections, turtles and children's books. Each describe this emerging leader. If you go in his office you will see the collection of turtle trinkets, many that were given to him. I suspect they have a multiple meaning for him. For me, they remind me of the fable of the Tortoise and the Hare. As they race, the hare runs and rests and ends up losing the contest to the slower tortoise who just keeps on moving forward. Jose never stops moving forward at a consistent pace, with an even keel and great determination and intentionality. I suspect he knows the story well, because he collects children’s storybooks! This second collection has a practical use, as he is the parent of three children ages 10, 8, and 5. He reads to them and loves a good story. Good children’s stories describe culture and convey a message. That’s Jose, a student of culture and an interpreter of meaningful messages.
Formerly the dean of doctoral programs and McCormick Theological Seminary and professor at the Lutheran School of Theology, Jose has a background in theatre and a PhD in Religion and Personality. He has served as the president of the Religious Education Association of the US and Canada, a board member of the Presbyterian Publishing Corporation, and as an author and contributor to journals and edited volumes. One recent essay is entitled “Lost in Translation: The Challenges and Possibilities of Ecumenical Dialogue” is featured in the New Theology Review.
May we all give thanks that in addition to his service to the Seminario, Jose currently serves on the PC(USA) Committee on the Review of the Whole, as the ESPR Institutional Representative to COTE, and will be a panelist and presenter this week in Chicago at the annual gathering of Theological Educators for Presbyterian Social Witness (TEPSW). And may we join in prayer for his strength in the coming days.
Lee in Louisville on a windy day