Columbia Welcomes Rev. Dr. Victor Aloyo

From President Victor Aloyo, A Prayer of Lament for the Attack on the LBGTQIA+ Community 

We at Columbia Theological Seminary offer our deepest condolences to those affected by the horrific attack in Colorado Springs at Club Q, where five people were killed and 25 others injured late Saturday night. On behalf of our entire community, I extend our prayers and sympathy to those whose family, friends, and community members lost their lives or loved ones in this tragic event. This is a story of human tragedy and suffering, and yet again, this target of hate was pointed at the LGBTQIA+ community.

On behalf of the Seminary, I humbly and respectfully offer this prayer of lament:

Lord, our God, we lament with all who have been brutally touched by gun violence. We stand in solidarity with the victims’ families and our siblings who were hurt by the shooter’s choice for violence. We lament with the hearts broken by loss and all the lives cut short today. We lament the hate speech and divisive rhetoric that demonize communities at the margins and jeopardize the sanctity of our existence and the right to live, love and rejoice with one another. In this time of unmitigated tragedy, welcome, Oh God, our anger, confusion, despair, anguish, hurt, grief, and tears of sorrow. 

When evil darkens our world, give us light! When despair numbs our souls, provide us with hope! When we stumble and fall, lift us! When doubts assail us, provide us with faith! When nothing seems sure, give us trust! When ideals fade, provide us with vision! When we lose our way, be our guide! Oh, Lord, we pray that in reflecting on this tragedy, worshipping communities, our nation, and the world may find the strength and wisdom to prevent violence such as this from happening again. 

Lord, our God, receive this prayer today and embrace our LGBTQIA communities so that they know that we are their neighbors. Columbia Seminary will be vigilant in this unmitigated tragedy and will not run away or hide in fear. This is not the time for moments of silence but rather a time to scream out loud that all of us are children of God and no one, absolutely no one, should ever be discounted, devalued, excluded, or dismissed. We pray in the name of the One who came to give us life more abundantly!

Welcome to Columbia’s Eleventh President: Rev. Dr. Victor Aloyo

” I am drawn to Columbia Theological Seminary because I believe with its long and rich history, it is positioned to serve a vital purpose of leading the theological academy by preparing people for innovative, creative, and substantive leadership. My call to ministry embraces important principles of adaptive leadership, innovation in strategic planning, trust-building, equitable distribution of resources, and access to education. With the collaboration of trustees, students, faculty, administrators, alumni, community organizers, faith leaders, and donors, I intend to serve to equip the saints for ministry. The vision statement recently approved excites me and it speaks to my passion for continuing to explore and model how God intersects our common call at all levels of the teaching-learning-serving paradigm.”

A Visit to Athens, GA

The weekend of August 20-21, Rev. Dr. Victor Aloyo, visited Athens, GA. Alumni, friends and the community heard an exuberant message from Dr. Aloyo as he preached at First Presbyterian Church of Athens and Presbyterian Village Athens and spoke at the Presbytery of Northeast Georgia meeting.

We Belong At Columbia!

As my family and I drove to Decatur to begin a new chapter in ministry with Columbia Theological Seminary, I reflected on the many stories that have impacted my life. These stories represent the presence of an all-benevolent God in a complex world full of unique individuals and thousands of paths for each to take. I will be honored to integrate my call as President with a vibrant group of servant leaders committed to positively impacting the world by joining a fellowship of learning, teaching, scholarly research, and serving.

Together, we will continue to bring to life the Seminary’s critical mission of inspiring and challenging every student to a life of leadership and purpose for the glory of God. We have much grace and abundance where we can be thankful as we begin this new chapter together. When I was on campus a few weeks ago, I had the opportunity to meet with many Faculty, students, staff, and members of the Board of Trustees, and I had the chance to record a few thoughts that I hope will give you a sense of who I am, why I am here, and what we will work on together.

Serving as educators, facilitators, motivators, and mentors, Columbia Seminary’s Faculty, students, and staff will nurture and challenge and enhance our covenantal spirit of community. We will strive to embrace every story through our curriculum, policies, campus life, and virtual platforms because we belong to each other on this journey to become world changers, discoverers, explorers, curators, and stewards of God’s kin-dom.

This day and this message are only the beginning of our journey together. I look forward to having conversations with you immediately. This first week, I begin my trajectory of learning, discernment, relationship building, and strategic planning. Through meetings with the Enrollment and Student Affairs team, members of the Advancement team, Faculty, one of our student organizations, alumni, and community leaders, we will construct pathways of efficient and sustainable partnerships because we all belong at Columbia!

As I look ahead to this first week and the many more that we will share, I am reminded of our new Vision statement that says: We believe God is already doing a new thing among us for the sake of the church and the world; we yearn to join in that holy work, for WE BELONG AT COLUMBIA!

Q&A With Our New President

What is it that draws you to Columbia Theological Seminary?

Columbia’s commitment to educating and nurturing faithful, imaginative, and effective leaders for the Church and the world resonates with my experience and skills in being an effective and collaborative instrument for the “equipping of the saints.” I am drawn to Columbia Theological Seminary because I believe with its long and rich history, it is positioned to serve a vital purpose of leading the theological academy by preparing people for innovative, creative, and substantive leadership. My call to ministry embraces important principles of adaptive leadership, innovation in strategic planning, trust-building, equitable distribution of resources, and access to education. With the collaboration of trustees, students, faculty, administrators, alumni, community organizers, faith leaders, and donors, I intend to serve to equip the saints for ministry. The vision statement recently approved excites my outlook and is integral to my passion for continuing exploring and modeling how God intersects our common call at all levels of the teaching-learning-serving paradigm.

What are your thoughts/hopes/ideas as you prepare to become the 11th President of Columbia?

During these endemic times when viruses, wars, political unrest, and religious divisiveness are impacting the integrity of institutions created to serve as transformative platforms, such as the family, communities of faith, and educational systems, I am convinced now is the time for substantive evaluation of existing approaches in theological higher education and sustainable innovation in curricular development. Columbia is committed to meeting these challenges by raising intellectual capacity and imagination while nurturing passion, compassion, and empathy through its students, faculty, administration, staff, alumni, and partners.

We will move forward in meeting these challenges by operating from a position of grace and strength. I am ready to lead the Columbia community by ensuring that the Seminary’s mission is clearly articulated to internal and external constituents. I am committed to engaging, transparent, and collaborative leadership so that the campus community shares a collective understanding of the Seminary’s mission, vision, and values.

Converting challenges into innovative solutions and focusing on continuous improvement is necessary to ensure the ongoing success of Columbia Theological Seminary. Supporting team members by recognizing their tireless work and who are prepared to take risks is a crucial part of my role. Too often, stakeholders are afraid to “think outside of the box” for fear of negative repercussions if the idea does not create positive results.

While risk must be tempered, my job is to support entrepreneurial ideas and theological imagination while ensuring support if things do not go as hoped.

What is one message you want to convey to the Columbia community as they learn of your appointment as President-elect?

Previous financial shocks have hit higher education institutions and, more adversely, theological schools and seminaries, either the revenue or the expenditure sides of the ledger, but the coronavirus and its variants have hit both simultaneously. In the last two years, hiring freezes, furloughs, salary freezes, and layoffs have become the norm for survivability. This current reality has created a phenomenon where the priority on financial flexibility will need to be operational for a period. With a decline in overall applications stemming from the fear of indebtedness in an unstable economy, prioritizing financial liquidity may lead seminaries to reconsider ambitious plans to grow their way out of budgetary challenges. Therefore,

We will need to examine different rhythms of learning, community service, and other experiential opportunities with the bold confidence that something new is being created (Isaiah 43).

We must reimagine what community will look like after these numerous disruptions have challenged the very core of our theological foundations. It is imperative to design an inclusive process wherein we can define and refine our questions before enumerating solutions that skim the surface of our lament and grief. Questions such as “What creative solutions will our faculty members devise to challenge their classes?” “How will students develop new ways of finding and maintaining friends and taking care of one another?” “What disciplines need to be integrated into our curriculum development processes to acknowledge the long-term effects of the pandemic, such as mental health, spiritual direction, ministry entrepreneurship, and so on?”

We will explore and implement creative cultural capacity-building platforms that will enhance our sense of inclusive community as we will commit to safeguarding the integrity and viability of every story in our midst.

We have tough days coming, yet Columbia Theological Seminary has the resolve and capacity to explore and execute. It has weathered many storms in its close to two centuries of being an educational ministry of the Presbyterian Church with excellence. I am aware that the Office of the President is more complex and demanding than it has been. Yet, I am enthused about this opportunity to serve with faculty, students, alumni, trustees, and staff. I am committed to not only being an effective communicator of the Seminary’s mission and vision but an integral part of the healing, change, and innovation process.

How will your service to La Iglesia Presbiteriana Nuevas Fronteras, and other churches, inform your work as President of Columbia?

As I reflect on the gift of God’s call in my life, I rejoice in the opportunity of serving Christ and the Church. As an organizing pastor of three congregations, including my current call with La Iglesia Presbiteriana Nuevas Fronteras for the past eighteen years, I have learned that every voice matters. In this context, we have seen the hand of God guiding us through many transitions. A congregation composed of families from twenty-one countries in Latin America, Asia, Europe, and Africa, I consistently witness God’s Kairos in our interactions. Amid the chaos of pandemics and a country riddled with racism and socio-economic depravity, I admire the resilience of a group of people who suffered immeasurable loss and are walking on eggshells every day of their lives. Amidst these struggles, we have served as an educational platform for over sixty seminarians from Princeton Theological Seminary. They are now pastors, educators, social workers, and servants of the Lord in numerous places. In creating a leadership style of collaboration, I have learned countless lessons of grace, resilience, and humility from elders, deacons, children, scholars, and young adults. My parents and mentors taught me invaluable lessons regarding the responsibility of “equipping the saints” for ministry. This honorable venture is not to be accomplished alone. I bring to the call of the President of Columbia Seminary an eager willingness to walk with students, faculty, staff, alums, and trustees in this journey of life as we keep our hands on the plow (Luke 9:51-62) and our sights beyond what we can see.

What are some things that you are looking forward to learning and working on as you prepare to transition to be our next President?

This is an exciting time to be part of Columbia Theological Seminary. Then again, every chapter in Columbia’s history has been exciting because the God we serve is constantly creating. As I prepare to transition to be your next President, I look forward to learning from and working with;

Every constituent of the Seminary in learning the institution’s history and appreciating its aspirations by establishing a comprehensive process of listening and dialoguing. Vision casting and strategic planning are successful when we all contribute to its strategy and implementation.

The faculty who has demonstrated a long-term and profound impact on our students and the community. I pledge to work with the Vice President of Academic Affairs and the Academic Affairs team to strengthen Columbia’s commitment to its faculty through further support. Our commitment to the teaching-learning process must remain at the very core of everything we do. Columbia can never lose sight of its primary responsibility to provide the experiences, instruction, and examples to support culturally sensitive pedagogy and meaningful learning in each new cohort of students.

Our students represent numerous denominations, cultural realities, and theological perspectives. I will encourage us all to view and embrace the diversity of our campus community as an irreplaceable educational resource that enriches all our lives and permits student formation and human flourishing to be experienced across institutional lines.

Our Student Affairs and Enrollment Management colleagues as we enhance how we conduct our outreach, recruitment, mentoring, and retention efforts of a diverse population of students. This is fundamental to the overall learning experience at Columbia. We must commit ourselves to providing the most comprehensive learning environment of belonging possible, one that will equip our students to lead and contribute to a world of multiple perspectives, viewpoints, and values.

Our Administrative Staff as we continue to steadfastly intensify our continuing efforts to be wise stewards as we support such inclusivity since the Church and entities called to transform oppressive systems will fully actualize.

Our Board of Trustees as we continue to strive to provide a top-tier education to those who most need it and to those who can least afford it. The promise of what we as a community of scholars and practitioners can become in this endemic era is paramount. Seeking the resources necessary from partners to solidify an environment where innovation, experimentation, and community are central to Columbia’s mission will be a crucial objective in my service as President.

Our resilient alumni who are leading the charge in creative and impacting ministries. Enhancing our capabilities to celebrate accomplishments and challenges from their scholarship and experience will be essential to bridge both praxis and pedagogy.

Our friends and partners in the region, across the country, and around the globe –residents, business and community leaders, and government officials, to reach our fullest potential, for what we do will be — and must be — a collaboration.

About Dr. Aloyo

Victor Aloyo is the son of the late Esperanza Aloyo and Victorino Aloyo from Vieques, Puerto Rico. He has been married to Suzette Aloyo for over thirty-five years and they are blessed with two daughters, Kayla Cristen, an aerospace engineer working in Huntsville, AL, and Alyssa Nicole, a Program Manager with the Steve Fund.

Victor was previously the associate dean of institutional diversity and community engagement at Princeton Theological Seminary and organizing/lead Pastor of La Iglesia Presbiteriana Nuevas Fronteras. Victor received a Bachelor of Arts in Religious Studies and Sociology from the College of New Rochelle, a Masters of Divinity from Princeton Theological Seminary and a Doctorate in Higher Education Administration from the University of Pennsylvania focusing his dissertation on navigating diversity and inclusion within a framework of social justice.

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