COTTONWOOD HEIGHTS, Utah – Rafael Gutierrez, a bivocational pastor in the Salt Lake City area, has translated into Spanish the report of the Southern Baptist Convention (SBC) advisory group on Calvinism.
Hispanic Southern Baptists can benefit from the translation of the 3,200-word report originally released in English, said Gutierrez, pastor of Bread of Life Hispanic Church in Cottonwood Heights.
“The fact is that the controversy of Calvinism versus Arminianism is a brand-new theological discussion in the Hispanic culture, and many times those discussions are smeared with ignorance and prejudice on both sides,” Gutierrez told Baptist Press. “My hope is that the translation of this document in Spanish will serve as a platform where individuals who hold different theological perspectives … will be able to dialogue in sincere love and profound respect, knowing that we serve the same awesome God and teach His Word.
“I truly believe that the God we follow is greater than both our theological positions put together,” said Gutierrez, who also is director and professor of the Equip Bible Institute of Salt Lake City, affiliated with the Equip Bible Institute of El Cajon, Calif. He holds a master of divinity from Southwestern Baptist Theological Seminary in Fort Worth, Texas.
When he learned of the report, Gutierrez said, a few Hispanic churches were already discussing the opposing theological perspectives.
“When I found out last June about President Page’s … advisory report on Calvinism, I became immediately interested for several reasons. The first reason was that I knew of a few Hispanic churches that were involved in that kind of controversy at that very moment, and I had witnessed the damaging results the controversy had in their working relationships,” Gutierrez told Baptist Press. “So, when I read the document I was positively impressed by the spiritual and professional manner by which the [advisory group] had handled the situation, by trying to avoid division and bring about fairness and reconciliation.
“Therefore, I thought it was very important for our Hispanic Baptist churches to have such a document readily available as a resource,” he said.
Daniel Sanchez, professor of missions at Southwestern Baptist Theological Seminary and associate dean of the seminary’s Roy Fish School of Evangelism and Missions, affirmed Gutierrez’ initiative to translate the Calvinism advisory group’s report.
Sanchez, who was a member of the advisory group, noted “the time and effort that Rafael Gutierrez invested in translating this very important report. Brother Gutierrez did an outstanding job of translating the highly technical and complex theological terminology that is used in the report. At the same time, it is evident that he truly comprehended the spirit in which the advisory group conducted its dialog and crafted its recommendations.”
Sanchez said he is “in full agreement with Brother Gutierrez’ observation that this issue can become very divisive if those representing the different views concentrate on winning arguments instead of focusing on the main purpose that keeps Southern Baptist together: implementing the Great Commission of our Lord Jesus Christ.
“It is my sincere hope and prayer,” Sanchez said, “that this document can contribute to a spirit of mutual respect which candidly acknowledges theological differences yet stresses the many things that we have in common articulated in the Baptist Faith and Message [confessional statement of the Southern Baptist Convention]. Let us continue to be committed to truth, trust and testimony as we foster a spirit of reconciliation and collaboration which honors the one who prayed ‘that they may be one.’”
SBC Executive Committee President Frank Page appointed the 19-member Calvinism advisory group in 2012 to craft a strategic plan to unite various members of the convention who hold different opinions on the issue of Calvinism. In announcing the team, Page emphasized it was not an official SBC committee, and its goal was to offer practical solutions to the doctrinal divide, not to establish doctrinal changes.
The advisory group issued a report, “Truth, Trust, and Testimony in a Time of Tension,” after nine months of meetings and discussions, encouraging the SBC to do “all within our power to avoid the development of partisan divisions among Southern Baptists.”
“We should expect all leaders in the Southern Baptist Convention and all entities serving our denomination to affirm, to respect, and to represent all Southern Baptists of good faith and to serve the great unity of our Convention,” the group reported. “No entity should be promoting Calvinism or non-Calvinism to the exclusion of the other. Our entities should be places where any Southern Baptist who stands within the boundaries of the Baptist Faith and Message should be welcomed and affirmed as they have opportunities to benefit from, participate in, and provide leadership for those entities.”
His translation, posted at BP en Español, can be accessed here.
(EDITOR’S NOTE – Diana Chandler is Baptist Press’ staff writer. Baptist Press editor Art Toalston contributed to this report.)