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Hispanic caucus calls for restoration of Iliff president


Hispanic caucus calls for restoration of Iliff president

Nov. 24, 2004       

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A UMNS photo by Amanda Bachus

The Rev. Germ�n Acevedo-Delgado, MARCHA president, presents the resolution on Iliff School of Theology.

MILWAUKEE (UMNS) — The United Methodist Church’s Hispanic caucus is calling for the reinstatement of the Rev. David Maldonado as president of Iliff School of Theology, and the organization says it will encourage Hispanic/Latino students not to enroll at the seminary if “institutional racism issues” are not satisfactorily addressed.

MARCHA took the action during its Nov. 19-21 annual meeting, three weeks after the Denver school received a public warning from the United Methodist Church’s University Senate and Commission on Religion and Race. The warning, issued Nov. 2, followed a review team’s report that leadership problems and cultural insensitivity led to the abrupt retirement of the former president last May.

The caucus expressed “outrage for the injustice and mistreatment done by Iliff against Dr. David Maldonado.” It stated that if the seminary does not make significant changes before the end of the spring semester, MARCHA’s executive committee will discourage Hispanic/Latino students from enrolling at Iliff.

The Rev. J. Philip Wogaman, interim president of Iliff since Sept. 1, said MARCHA has not been in touch with the school, but he has seen the caucus’ resolution.

“Iliff is implementing all of the recommendations of the review team,” Wogaman said Nov. 24. “With all due respect, I am not sure that MARCHA fully understands this complex situation. I would welcome dialogue with them.”

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The Rev. J. Philip Wogaman
In its report, the review team said that “failures to assert appropriate leadership by the board of trustees, the unwillingness of some faculty members to recognize and respect different leadership styles, as well as not letting go of traditional norms and behaviors to allow for an inclusive institutional transformation, contributed to the problems that President Maldonado and the institution faced.”

It issued the warning after determining that “institutional racism was a major, significant factor” leading to Maldonado’s departure. 

Iliff is one of 13 theological schools affiliated with the United Methodist Church. The University Senate, an elected church body of higher education professionals, determines what schools, colleges, universities and seminaries meet the criteria for affiliation with the denomination. The commission is the church’s racial advocacy and monitoring agency. Representatives of both organizations were on the eight-member review team.

MARCHA is an unofficial church caucus based in San Marcos, Texas. Its full name, translated from Spanish, means Methodists Associated Representing the Cause of Hispanic Americans.

Maldonado, who served at Iliff from June 2000 to May 26, was the first Hispanic president to lead a United Methodist seminary.

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The Rev. David Maldonado Jr.
In a parting letter to trustees, Maldonado said the faculty resisted his leadership. Some faculty leaders accused him of being too theologically conservative or moderate and said that he did “not fit” or was “culturally different,” he wrote. In addition, he said, he felt pressured to leave by faculty leadership and some trustees.

The Rev. Germán Acevedo-Delgado, MARCHA president, presented the resolution supporting Maldonado during a plenary discussion of Iliff’s actions. The resolution stated that Iliff disguised the circumstances of Maldonado’s departure with retirement language in the announcement that he was leaving.

The caucus called on the seminary to reinstate Maldonado to the presidency 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 resolution also advocates 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.”  The caucus cited findings of intimidation against Maldonado’s supporters.

“We were appalled by the intent to intimidate Dr. Eunjoo Kim due to her support to Dr. Maldonado,” the resolution stated. “The assembly of MARCHA commends Dr. Eunjoo Kim for her integrity and courage.

“Integrity, courage, taking a stance against injustice and bigotry are values that any school of theology should be instilling in the members of its community. Iliff needs to take steps to redress the injustice against Dr. Maldonado, against Dr. Kim and against all the people struggling to overcome racism.”

Wogaman said he has reviewed Kim’s case “very carefully” and it is being handled confidentially through Iliff’s normal procedures.

Five of Iliff’s 20 faculty members are racial ethnic minorities. The ethnic faculty members issued a statement criticizing the review team’s report for not adequately reflecting their comments during the investigation.

The University Senate’s public warning following the review served notice “that if the problems are not corrected, Iliff’s support from the United Methodist Ministerial Education Fund can be withdrawn.” The fund contributed $900,000 to the school’s $5.14 million budget last year.

Iliff has carried out about half of the review team’s recommendations, and the rest should be done in the next few months, Wogaman said.

The review team’s recommendations included holding a celebration event for Maldonado, and Wogaman said he has been in touch with the former president. “I have already communicated clearly with him that we are prepared and would be happy to do that. … He declines to have that done, at least at this time.”

In addition, the team said Iliff should arrange an appointment in the church for Maldonado. “We are not the appointing authority in the United Methodist Church or in this (regional) conference,” Wogaman said. “However, we have made moves in the direction of helping to encourage that — again, subject to his approval. We’re quite open to that with the understanding that we don’t have appointive power for any other part of the church.”

Iliff has “strong commitments toward inclusiveness,” Wogaman said. Beyond the current situation, he said the school is seeking ways to serve the Hispanic community in the Denver region. “I would welcome the opportunity to discuss that with MARCHA.”

In other action, MARCHA members:

  • Welcomed the Rev. Miguel Albert-Lopez as the new national coordinator for the National Plan of Hispanic/Latino Ministry, effective Jan. 1. Members also learned of the establishment of a new National Coordinating Committee that works with the plan’s national office and the national coordinator; 
  •  Learned of the national plan’s efforts to work with ministries in Brazilian communities in the United States. 
  • Elected the Rev. Ana Haydée Urda as president; the Rev. Michael Rivas as vice president; and Oscar Garza as treasurer, re-elected Mary Silva as executive director of the caucus. 
  • Passed a resolution advocating establishing a structure in the new Division on Ministries with Young People at the United Methodist Board of Discipliship that would work on networking and training Hispanic/Latino youth and young adult leadership in the church.

News media contact: Linda Green, (615) 742-5470 or

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