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IAD leaders give a standing ovation to Dr. Jaime Castrejon and his wife Gloria for their contribution in establishing the Inter-American Theological Seminary more than a decade ago. The IATS Board reported progress and plans during its meeting on Nov. 2, 2015, in Miami, Florida. Images by Libna Stevens/IAD

November 6, 2015 | Miami, Florida, United States | Libna Stevens/IAD

Inter-America’s Theological Seminary (IATS) leaders celebrated the success of graduating hundreds of ministers with master’s degrees from its various programs during the past 12 years. The report came as the IATS Board reported progress and plans for the next five years to committee members on Nov. 2, 2015, in Miami, Florida.

Dr. Jaime Castrejon, outgoing president of IATS speaks to board members.

“Today is a very special day, it’s a historic day that will mark a moment in the life of this institution,” said Elie Henry, executive secretary of the church in Inter-American and chairman of the IATS Board. The meeting became the first of the new five-year period with IATS as a fully accredited institution by the Association of Theological Schools. ATS granted full accreditation to IATS in 2011.

“This institution has been a blessing for the church in Inter-America during the past 12 years as 780 ministers have obtained a master’s degrees from our institution,” said Dr. Jaime Castrejon, founder and outgoing IATS president. IATS has also granted 49 Doctorate degrees to ministers across Inter-America.

From the very beginning that the IATS began to organize in 1998 and partner with Andrews University, the objective has been to equip ministers across the Inter-American Division territory to preach better sermons, improve the spiritual life of pastors and in turn church members, said Dr. Castrejon.

Dr. Castrejon reported the milestone accomplishment by the most recent IATS graduation of 43 ministers in Haiti with a master’s degree in pastoral ministry this past summer. “This will reach a new level of classes in Haiti that had not been seen before and I know greater things will be happening in Haiti as a result of this accomplishment,” said Castrejon.

Ministers pose for a picture after graduating with a master’s degree from IATS on the campus of Northern Caribbean University in Jamaica, August 2015. Image courtesy of IATS.

IAD President Pastor Israel Leito thanked Dr. Castrejon and his wife for their service in the Inter-American Division and for being instrumental in establishing and preparing the institution as complete and strong as it is now. “You single-handedly started IATS to become the second fully accredited Adventist seminary from ATS around the world, after Andrews University,” said Pastor Leito. “We will never be able to show you our full gratitude for what you have done for this institution and Inter-America.”

Dr. Castrejon began his work as IAD associate ministerial secretary in 1985 and later moved to head the Ministerial Association at the IAD headquarters until 2000. Castrejon was also instrumental in spearheading Montemorelos University in North Mexico.

As Dr. Castrejon announced his retirement, top administrators set up a search committee for his replacement. IATS Board members voted in Dr. Efrain Velazquez as IATS president.

Dr. Velazquez has been academic vice president of IATS since 2008. He has more than 17 years of church service and has a doctorate degree in Old Testament archaeology from Andrews University, and a Master of Divinity with emphasis in youth ministry from Andrews University.

In his report to the board, Velazquez spoke of the plans to offer a PhD. for professors teaching Bible classes, a new cycle for the academic master’s degree program on Old and New testament, will begin in 2016. The new journal published by IATS called TeoBiblica has been well accepted for the high quality of its articles and participation of top scholars, said Velazquez.

Leaders voted to move the IATS headquarters to Puerto Rico, except for its admissions and registrar’s office, which will remain in Miami, Florida for now. Construction of an IATS facility will begin on the campus of Antillean Adventist University in Mayaguez, Puerto Rico, next year.

Newly Elected IATS President Dr. Efrain Velazquez.

IAD Treasurer Filiberto Verduzco spoke on financing the new facility for the next five years. “The plan is to have the employing organizations of IATS students to assume financial responsibility of tuition costs by 2020,” said Verduzco.

IATS Board members voted to reelect the following leaders to serve for the next five years:

Efrain Velazquez, President, newly elected.
Eduardo Villanueva, Vice President of Finances
Carmen Perez, Vice President for Institutional effectiveness and Strategic Planning
Jorge Torreblanca, Assistant to the President and Publications director, reelected
Ketlie Henry, Registrar

The position of Academic Vice President is still pending to be filled. A search committee has been organized and applications will be accepted until Jan. 31, 2016.

The Inter-American Adventist Theological Seminary (IATS) is a multi-site institution with a unique structure that serves thirty-four countries. The IATS is committed to providing professional and academic programs to ministers in Mexico, Central America, the Caribbean and the northern part of South America. Professional programs include the MA in Pastoral Theology, MA in Biblical Studies, and the Doctor of Ministry. These programs are offered at various affiliated sites: Costa Rica, Colombia, Cuba, Dominican Republic, Haiti, Jamaica, Mexico, Puerto Rico, Trinidad, and Venezuela.

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