The assistant teaching professor in Latinx studies on his “dual call to serve as a pastor and an educator”
June 2022 – Drew Theological School welcomed Francisco Pelaez-Diaz, assistant teaching professor in Latinx studies and ministries, as a faculty member for the 2021-22 academic year.
Pelaez-Diaz brings his experience in pastoral ministry—both in Mexico and the U.S.—along with his scholarly work to make theological education relevant to societal issues and enrich the educational experience for Drew students.
We sat down with Pelaez-Diaz to learn more about his path from Mexico to the U.S. and landing at Drew.
What brought you to Drew Theological School?
I knew about Drew Theological School through the work and legacy of two important Latinx scholars, Ada María Isasi-Díaz and Otto Maduro. The fact that such influential figures developed much of their work while teaching at Drew University was a clear sign that this is an institution committed to social justice and diversity. As a scholar interested in the intersection of religion and migration, with a particular focus on Latinx faith communities and theologies, I knew that Drew would be a wonderful place to teach and work. I sensed that students and colleagues are interested in making the teaching and learning experience relevant and applicable for a successful professional transition and leadership in both ministry and society.
How has emigrating from your native Mexico influenced your work as an educator and pastor?
The experience of migrating from Mexico to the U.S. greatly expanded my understanding of pastoral ministry and made me keenly aware of the importance of making theological education relevant to the issues of today’s societies. My first exposure to pastoral work in the U.S. took place in a multicultural/multiracial congregation that was very active in social justice issues. This experience contrasted in many ways with my previous work as a pastor in Mexico, where direct involvement in initiatives to alleviate societal issues was not a priority or even an expectation. Similarly, my understanding of theological education increasingly grew more grounded in real-life issues. I believe now that theological education should help find solutions and alternatives to the problems affecting human life and its relationship with the environment.
What called you to pursue life as a theological scholar?
One of the things that I reflected on early as a student was the great influence and impact that teachers and professors had on my life. The knowledge they transmitted, the perspectives they invited me to consider, the imaginations they sparked in my mind, and the creativity they helped me to discover and develop in and by myself, opened my mind and shaped me in profound ways. The desire to contribute in one form or another to that fascinating process in others grew over time. When the time came for me to consider career paths, I had already sensed a call to pastoral ministry. Before I finished my bachelor’s degree in theology, I was given the opportunity to teach. That experience confirmed what I consider a dual call to serve as a pastor and an educator.