Winter 2007 Volume 6 Number 2

Herzogs’ Legacy in Peru
Helping Support Peruvian Church Leaders

By Debbie Selinsky • Photos courtesy of the Peru Initiative

 Frederick Herzog

If you visit the Methodist Church in the small town of Cusco, Peru, you will find a picture of the late Frederick Herzog, along with a loving dedication inside a hymnal of songs in the Quechua language.

The Methodist seminary in Lima closed a decade ago, yet the bishop’s house includes Herzog’s portrait, and his name is painted on the playground of the Children’s Village outside Lima — a place where the professor of systematic theology took Duke students in an effort to sustain and enhance dialogue with the church in Latin America.

Although Herzog taught only one semester at the Methodist seminary in Lima, his former students there haven’t forgotten him, says the Rev. Tiffney Marley D’96, coordinator of Duke Divinity School’s Peru Initiative.

  The Children’s Village near Lima.

“Even though he is no longer here, his work continues because the seeds he planted are good seeds,” says Marley, who also serves as director of Black Church Studies.

Among those good seeds is the Peru Initiative, which sends students, staff and alumni to various locations within the country to conduct clergy education workshops each year during spring break and, since 2006, sends students for 10-week internships to Huancayo, Peru.

The work, supported by the Frederick Herzog Memorial Fund of Duke Divinity School, also continues through Kristin Herzog, Ph.D., an independent scholar and author and long-time partner in her husband’s work.

Herzog’s early interest in Peru was due, in part, says his wife, to the country’s ancient academic tradition, which included a university that pre-dates Harvard by several decades. The Herzogs belonged to the United Church of Christ, which had no member churches in Peru, so her husband wanted to work through the Methodist churches of N.C. and Peru to establish an ecumenical exchange program for Duke Divinity School.

  Kristin Herzog and her Quechua godchild.

With a liberation theology that he had developed during the civil-rights struggle in the southern United States, he saw important parallels in Latin America, where Gustavo Gutierrez is known as the “father of liberation theology.”

During two weeks at Christmas in 1987, the Herzogs traveled to Lima, where they first made contact with the Methodist seminary there. In 1989, Herzog was granted a semester’s leave to establish a program patterned after the Duke Divinity exchange with Bonn, Germany, that he had initiated earlier.

But by the time the first Duke student had completed his studies in Lima in 1989, “the guerilla war that had started around 1980 became so fierce and violent that Duke said ‘We can’t send our students there,’” Kristin Herzog recalls.

Still, there were brief faculty exchanges. In 1990-91, Duke’s Russell Richey, Mary McClintock Fulkerson and William Turner traveled to Peru. More recently — in 2005-06 — Esther Acolatse and Susan Eastman went.

  Student Stephanie Lind D’07 teaching in Spanish.

A related exchange between the Methodist Church of Peru and the N.C. Conference of the United Methodist Church has continued since 1987, primarily under the leadership of Dr. Mark Wethington D’78, G’84. Groups of North Carolina Methodist pastors and lay people are still visiting annually, often doing much-needed construction and medical work.

“In Peru, most Protestant pastors do their pastoral work with little or no formal seminary training,” says Chris Barrett D’01, who served as translator and co-leader of the ’06 Spring Break program. “Usually, they are bi-vocational with their primary income coming from outside the church.”

The classes are often the only opportunities Peruvian pastors and lay leaders have to engage Scripture through the lens of critical/classical scholarship, explains Barrett, who is an associate pastor at Manning United Methodist Church, Manning, S.C., and whose wife, Elise Erickson Barrett D’04, has also organized church group visits to Peru.

“That being said, there’s plenty of delight to go around,” adds Chris Barrett. “The Duke folks are always moved by the richly imaginative interpretations of the faith offered to us by our Peruvian colleagues.”

  Lay pastors with fabric art.

Divinity students are equally enthusiastic. Christian Peele D’08 of Goldsboro, N.C., says: “I was humbled by how much our Peruvian brothers and sisters taught us about living for God. Their honesty and willingness to embrace us was breathtaking.”

Peele, a 19-year-old who plans to minister through domestic missions when she graduates, also learned a lot from the Peruvians’ relationship to the earth.

“Many of the people we worked with were farmers. They understand that the earth is a gift from God, and as such, is life-giving. They understand their relationship with the land to be a reflection of and an integral part of their relationship with God.”

Peruvians still suffer from poverty, as well as from the trauma of a guerilla war that left 69,000 people dead and countless others missing, says Kristin Herzog, whose books include Finding Their Voice: Peruvian Women’s Testimonies of War (Trinity Press International, 1993), and Children and Our Global Future: Theological and Social Challenges (Pilgrim Press, 2005). The latter contains a chapter about children in Peru.

A former teacher of religion and German in German secondary schools, she earned her Ph.D. in 1980 at the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill and is a member of the American Academy of Religion and the National Coalition of Independent Scholars.

She is active in the Pilgrim United Church of Christ in Durham and a board member of the United Christian Campus Ministry of N.C. Central University.

  Clouds around Macchu Picchu, sacred mountain of the Incas.
When she returns in the spring to Peru, this time to a seminary in the tropical rainforest region, she will have made 20 annual trips to the country her husband loved so well.

She says that will be her last trip to Peru with divinity students: “I’m going to be 78 this year, and I have to quit sometime. I might still travel there privately.”

Those who know her have difficulty imagining her forgoing travel to Peru, where two of her husband’s former students named her godmother to their daughter in 2001, or that she will slow down.

“She’s got so much energy — she can wear you out,” says Tiffney Marley, who was a student of Fred Herzog. She praises both for their selflessness and quiet dedication, adding “Dr. Herzog was quite tenacious about the work, and so is Kristin.”

Kristin Herzog’s response to this praise is a quiet, “Modesty is an important virtue.” When pressed she admits that her husband would “probably be satisfied” that she’s done her best for the work he began. And it’s clear that her sense of urgency about the remaining work will not diminish any time soon.

Like many Latin American countries, she explains, Peru has suffered a tremendous “brain drain,” leaving the Methodist Church in dire need of trained leadership.

“Duke Divinity School has an important role to play in helping to provide it, while giving its students and faculty members the opportunity of a life-changing experience.”

Debbie Selinsky is a freelance writer who lives in Durham. A former deputy director for Duke News Service, she covered The Divinity School for 12 years.


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