Hispanic leaders attack Iliff advertisement
The Rev. J. Philip Wogaman
|The Rev. J. Philip Wogaman|
April 5, 2005
A UMNS Report
By Linda Green*
leaders are incensed by a United Methodist seminary’s newspaper ad, in
which the school extols its accomplishments following the controversial
departure of its Hispanic president.
advertisement, in the form of an open letter to United Methodists from
Iliff School of Theology, appeared in the March 25 issue of the United
Methodist Reporter. In it, the Denver seminary said it was resolved to
address the findings of an investigative team that examined leadership
and cultural sensitivity issues related to the retirement of the Rev.
David Maldonado, former president of Iliff School of Theology.
The ad stated that the school was addressing the report’s recommendations “with efficacy and diligence.”
the seminary’s first Hispanic president, became president in June 2000
and abruptly retired last May 26. He said the faculty resisted his
leadership. He said that some faculty accused him of being too
theologically conservative or moderate, or told him that he did “not
fit” or was “culturally different.” In addition, Maldonado said, he felt
pressured to leave by faculty leadership and some trustees.
Iliff’s March 25 open letter noted the controversy that has developed surrounding Maldonado’s departure in spring 2004.
had accused him of wrongdoing, but the seminary community was deeply
divided about the continuance of his presidency,” wrote Iliff interim
President Philip Wogaman in the open letter.
critics say Iliff’s letter puts a “slant” on the seminary’s progress in
advance of an April 26-28 visit to the school by the Religion and Race
Review Team. They issued a rebuttal letter to the United Methodist
Reporter on March 30 and also e-mailed it to various groups in the
United Methodist Church, including United Methodist News Service.
investigative team from the denomination’s University Senate and the
United Methodist Commission on Religion and Race issued a public warning
to the school last November after finding “patterns of institutional
governance and perceived racial and cultural insensitivities.”
team issued the warning after determining that “institutional racism
was a major, significant factor” leading to Maldonado’s departure.
is one of 13 theological schools affiliated with the United Methodist
Church. The University Senate, an elected church body of higher
education professionals, determines which schools, colleges,
universities and seminaries meet the criteria for affiliation with the
denomination. The Commission on Religion and Race, which provided part
of the team, is the church’s racial advocacy and monitoring agency.
Iliff is at risk of losing $900,000 in Ministerial Education Funds from
the United Methodist Church.
school’s trustees did not treat Maldonado “with fairness, justice and
care,” the report stated. The investigation team also noted that
Maldonado came into a “difficult situation” and succeeded in stabilizing
Iliff’s finances, increased student enrollment, brought institutional
mission and purpose, and increased Hispanic/Latino representation at the
In a March 30 letter of response to Wogaman, two
Hispanic leaders wrote: “We urge you to not attempt to pull a fast one
on the Latino/a community or the community at large on this issue by
simply whitewashing the situation at Iliff with this particular ad. This
ad is misleading and untruthful.
The Rev. David Maldonado Jr.
|No Long Caption Available for this Story|
appreciate the fact that Iliff continues to address ’some’ issues, Iliff
has much to fulfill before it starts to trumpet its success in a
meaningless ad of blatant propaganda. Your endeavor to paint your
picture of reality through this ad, in our opinion, is an attempt to
influence the process and outcome of a very important visit to Iliff by
the review team.”
letter—reflecting a broader sentiment among Hispanics supporting
Maldonado beyond the United Methodist Church—was signed by Fidel “Butch”
Montoya, a former Denver director of public safety, and Estevan Flores,
executive director of the Denver Latino Research and Policy Center.
leaders in Denver, from a variety of faith traditions, have been in
communication with the United Methodist Church’s Hispanic caucus “due to
our common stand against institutional racism, and seeking justice for
Dr. Maldonado,” said the Rev. German Acevedo, a leader of MARCHA. MARCHA
is an unofficial church caucus; its full name, translated from Spanish,
means Methodists Associated Representing the Cause of Hispanic
caucus called on Iliff to reinstate Maldonado as president and to issue
a public apology to him and the Hispanic/Latino community. Should
Maldonado choose not to return to his former position, he should be
compensated with the equivalent of his salary until age 65, MARCHA said.
The caucus also advocated for the “well-being of other racial ethnic
minorities working or studying at Iliff, and for the quality of
theological education in the United Methodist Church.” It cited findings
of intimidation against Maldonado’s supporters.
said the purpose of the ad was to summarize the seminary’s “fulfillment
of expectations from the University Senate/Commission on Religion and
Race Review Team Report of last November.” “Having addressed these tasks
faithfully, Iliff awaits the arrival of a follow-up review team … with
confidence,” Wogaman said.
also responded to MARCHA’s call for Maldonado’s reinstatement. “Iliff
has indicated its willingness to plan appropriate celebration of the
accomplishments of the former president and to assist in his locating
further opportunities, having previously arrived at mutually agreed-upon
terms of settlement,” Wogaman said.
the racism review committee issued its warning, Iliff trustees, faculty
and staff have been working on fulfilling 20 recommendations listed in
the committee’s report. Actions have included arranging diversity
training; establishing the seminary president’s right to participate in
any faculty committee; and hiring an ombudsperson.
three seminary trustees resigned in January, citing impatience with
board decisions in the wake of Maldonado’s departure. The trustees
allege that the racial climate at Iliff is unchanged since the
investigative team’s report.
The Rev. German Acevedo
That sentiment is
echoed by MARCHA. “We are looking forward to the next review team visit
to Iliff, and we know that they will look at the facts and not at the
Iliff paid propaganda,” Acevedo told UMNS. “Iliff has not taken
seriously the possibility that the United Methodist Church (may)
withhold funds from them.
wants to depict an image that everything is well to the wider public of
the UMC,” he said, “because Iliff has not made any attempt to really
listen to what leaders of different racial ethnic minorities are saying
regarding the need to do justice to Dr. Maldonado.”
an interview with UMNS, Montoya spelled out what the school must do to
repair relations with Latino and other communities of color. “Iliff must
aggressively work to re-establish a partnership and a series of
conversations with the various ethnic communities and United Methodist
Church ethnic caucuses to ensure that the 20 recommendations of the
board and justice issues of Dr. Maldonado are met and institutionalized,
to ensure that racism, white privilege and marginalization within Iliff
are eradicated. Iliff has much to do to overcome the damaged
relationship with the Latino/a community.”
*Green is a United Methodist News Service news writer based in Nashville, Tenn.
News media contact: Linda Green, (615) 742-5470 or firstname.lastname@example.org.