The early founders of Edinburg Theological Seminary (ETS) discovered the Rio Grande Valley (RGV, or “the Valley”) as an ideal doorway for missions and scholarship between two nations. Located along the Texas / Mexico border, ETS developed a vision of training and scholarly studies in English and Spanish. Desiring to teach transformative, Biblical worldview studies, four highly-trained pastor/theologians came together and soon developed a vision for Kingdom service.
In the first chapter of the Seminary, Dr. Max Lathrop, one of Westminster Theological Seminary’s first graduates in Philadelphia (1939) and pioneer Wycliffe translator in Mexico, arrived in the RGV (early ‘80s) after a half-century of translating the Bible into the Purepechan language. An original signer of the Summer Linguistic Institute charter in Mexico City, Dr. Lathrop would go on to a storied life among the Tarascan Indians of Michoacán. The Rev. John Carpenter, who covered all of the northeastern states of Mexico as regional director and Bible Instructor for Logoi Ministries, settled in the Valley around the same time that Dr. Peter Y. De Jong began to criss-cross the area on his speaking trips to Mexico. A lifetime scholar, author, professor, and solicited conference lecturer, after receiving his doctorate from Hartford Seminary, Dr. De Jong worked as a missionary to India, served as a professor at Calvin Theological Seminary and pastored many churches in North America. Lastly, Dr. John Roberts, a Presbyterian missionary professor originally called to this area as a pastor by a border church in Reynosa, arrived from his labors in the Sierra Madre Sur shortly after the others had settled in the Valley. At the request of Drs. Lathrop, Carpenter, and De Jong, Roberts soon settled in the university town of Edinburg, TX, approximately 30 miles north of neighboring Mexico. The four found the Valley to be an ideal academic bridge-building setting to help start a combined teaching-evangelism effort among young Christian leadership. And thus each, from differing evangelical traditions—an Independent Bible translator, a Baptist preacher, a Reformed scholar, and a Presbyterian missionary—united in worshipping together and providing advanced theological classes on weekends to train the future Christian leaders.
The second chapter begins when the original training school fell on hard times in the late ‘90s, due in part to the advancing age of the earliest founders. It was at this low point that God used the Rev. Dr. Carlos Ireta, associate Hispanic Pastor of a Harlingen church, to invite a large number of pastors, from Laredo to Brownsville, to meet at his office in order to provide a more formal structure to the earlier training efforts. At this meeting, a mission charter was elaborated and pledged to by all the pastors attending. A church in Edinburg (Dios Con Nosotros) served as the first site selected for classes and its pastor, the Rev. Dr. Pedro Guzmán, was elected as the Seminary’s first President. In the same meeting, in God’s unfathomable Providence a young civil engineer in attendance at the worship service manifested to the group that he had long been seeking to follow in his father’s footsteps as a minister of the Gospel, and forthwith applied as one of the first students! In time that young man graduated, was ordained and pastored a growing church—and became the second president of ETS: the Rev. Dr. Acero Valencia.
In 2014, Dr. Valencia became Chancellor of the seminary and another young scholar and pastor, Rev. Joseph Nájera, took the organizational helm. With Dr. Roberts easing into retirement and spending more time on his writing, Rev. Najera has the difficult job of steering the school into its next phase of Kingdom mission as we face the growing challenges of the 21st. century.