Bridging Cultures: The Transformative Work of Translating the Book of Church Order into Spanish

Overcoming many obstacles since the General Assembly’s approval for translating the Book of Church Order (BCO) into Spanish, the PCA Administrative Committee (AC) is making significant strides that will help the denomination welcome, bless, and serve the Hispanic community. At the forefront of this transformative project is Luis Garcia, a dedicated PCA church planter and chairman of the Spanish BCO review committee.

In a recent interview with the AC, Pastor Garcia shared his journey, the importance of the translation, and the collaborative efforts involved in perfecting the Spanish version. 

From Church Planter to Translator

Born in Mexico but raised in the States, Pastor Garcia’s church planting journey began when he recognized a need for a Reformed Presbyterian church among Hispanics in Wisconsin. In 2017, he and his wife embarked on a mission to plant Iglesia Presbiteriana Corpus Christi, a PCA church that emphasized unity in the body of Christ across diverse nationalities.

In 2022, Luis was asked by Hernando Sáenz-Oggioni, Hispanic Ministries Coordinator at Mission to North America (MNA), to help translate the BCO into Spanish.

The Need for a Spanish Translation

The primary motivation behind the translation project is simple: the Church is called to make disciples of all nations. In addition, many first-generation Hispanic members and elders currently have to rely on their pastors to guide them in understanding church polity, governance, and worship practices outlined in the BCO. Having a Spanish version would allow them to read and comprehend these principles independently, fostering a deeper connection to their faith and our Church.

“It will be so much better when they can have [the Spanish BCO] in their hands and read it for themselves,” said Luis.

The Spanish BCO will also be a much-needed resource for the Hispanic pastors and church planters who face challenges with English fluency. It will not only aid their personal understanding but also facilitate teaching and preparing for ordination without the need for constant translation. Luis also hopes that the Spanish BCO will be a resource to potential future Hispanic presbyteries.

Growth and Impact

The project is also coming along at a providential time. In recent years, there has been significant growth within the PCA amongst Hispanic pastors and church plants.

“The Lord’s favor to us in 2023 was unmistakable,” said Hernando Sáenz-Oggioni, Hispanic Ministries Coordinator at Mission to North America (MNA). “We grew to 62 Hispanic Teaching Elders, 52 candidates, and 42 churches. To put it into perspective, over the past decade, we have doubled the number of PCA Hispanic pastors and more than tripled the number of Hispanic candidates for the gospel ministry in the PCA.”

Although these gains are worthy of celebration, Hernando emphasized the need for the PCA to continue its efforts to reach Hispanic communities. “Currently, Hispanics account for only 0.01% of PCA pastors and 0.02% of churches,” he said. “Having the BCO in Spanish is a tangible way to demonstrate our love and care for our Hispanic neighbors, and I’m grateful for the AC’s work.”

In addition to benefiting the PCA Hispanic community, the translated BCO holds the potential to serve as a guide for other denominations in Spanish-speaking countries. By sharing resources and insights, Luis hopes the project will foster collaboration and understanding among different denominations, ultimately strengthening the global Church.

Overall, Luis’s prayer is that this project will not only enrich the Hispanic community’s understanding of church polity but also pave the way for greater gospel impact.

“There’s definitely a significant Hispanic population presently,” he said. “But with all these new people coming, I think we’re going to have more opportunities to bring the gospel to them and serve them. And plant churches that will be a blessing to the community.”

The Review Committee’s Process

According to Pastor Garcia, translating the BCO is a meticulous process and one rife with challenges. Chief among them is considering the diverse cultural backgrounds and linguistic nuances between various Spanish-speaking countries. For example, a Spanish word in Mexico may have a slightly different meaning in El Salvador or Chile.

With this in mind, the committee strives to select words that resonate across various Hispanic countries. Committee members share insights and work towards creating a precise and culturally sensitive translation in regular Zoom meetings.

“In one sense, the translation part is a bit easier than the review part,” said Luis. “[The review] is more complex because you need to be faithful to the original English and also communicate well across multiple Hispanic countries.”

Despite the challenges, the committee is aiming to complete the project by the upcoming General Assembly in June.