Grace Presbytery in Texas hosted professor Reinerio Arce, the Henry R. Luce International Scholar at Brite Divinity School and Professor of Systematic Theology at the Evangelical Theological Seminary in Matanzas, Cuba, at its December 10 presbytery meeting. Held at St. Stephen Presbyterian Church in Fort Worth, Arce discussed discipleship by summarizing what he had preached at the graduation ceremony at Matanzas Seminary early in the year.
Arce said he has spoken about this topic often lately as relations with the United States begin to normalize, saying it will impact discipleship in Cuba.
“Following Jesus—what does it mean for us in Cuba? What are the challenges for us to say we are Christians and followers of Jesus?” he asked. “As a Presbyterian church, we have always been able to maintain the relationship between our churches despite the differences between our governments. And I think that was a call from God to us, to build bridges over the walls that politicians build.”
In his remarks, Arce analyzed Luke 9:23, “If anyone desires to come after me, let him deny himself and take up his cross daily and follow me.” He said we must not only preach the reign of justice and peace but be the “doers of justice and peace” and defend the marginal, those who suffer the most: the Samaritans of today in society, the sick and elderly. Arce urged the church to reach out to everyone because God loves all humanity, saying the opposite of love is not hate, but indifference.
In his analysis, Arce said taking up the cross daily means assuming the risks of political commitment and working to eliminate anything that “obstructs the realization of justice and the construction of the reign of God” and that we cannot, as followers of Jesus, remain indifferent, but be willing to assume the “risks of that commitment to justice and peace.”
Denying oneself, he said, means “not confusing responsibilities assigned to us as something we deserve instead of what they really are, an opportunity to serve and follow the Master.”
Challenging the group to make the basics of discipleship true in our lives and in our practice, hes aid we must have a passion for service. Arce said Christians of Cuba face these same challenges in this time of great transition. He said the call to discipleship is both an individual call and a call to the Presbyterian church.
Professor Arce will spend the spring of 2016 teaching at Knox College in Toronto, which is affiliated with the Presbyterian Church in Canada. Before coming to Texas, Arce completed 11 years as President of the Evangelical Theological Seminary in Matanzas, Cuba. He also served as President of the Cuban Council of Churches for six years, acting as a liaison between churches and the Cuban government. He is a ruling elder in the Presbyterian Reform Church in Cuba and has numerous degrees including a doctorate in theology from Eberhard Karls University, Tübingen in Germany.