WESTMONT, IL— Dr. Manuel “Manny” Ortiz, respected urban missionary, educator, and church planter, passed away on February 8, 2017.
Ortiz served as the professor of ministry and urban mission and as director of the urban program at Westminster Theological Seminary for many years. He was also the founder and senior pastor of Spirit and Truth Fellowship (Christian Reformed Church), a multiethnic congregation in Philadelphia, and the codirector of the CRC Philadelphia Initiative for Church Planting.
“I am grateful to have called Dr. Manny Ortiz a friend and a mentor who was an urban ministry practitioner, a pastor, and an academic who inspired myself and many other leaders to faithfully represent Christ in our urban communities,” said Noel Castellanos, chief executive officer of the Christian Community Development Association (CCDA). “Brother Ortiz made disciples and invited us into his familia. His legacy as an author and pioneer urban Christian leader is well established. Even more impressive is the way he inspired Latino Christian leaders like myself to make disciples for the world and for the kingdom. Gracias.”
Ortiz was passionate about integrating urban ministry, education, and the gospel. In a feature for the Cairn University magazine in 2010, Ortiz said, “I think it’s crucial for us to be kingdom centered; if we are, we’re going to be very comprehensive in how we see society in all its layers. People are not just souls, they’re complex. The gospel can speak to all aspects of people—intellectual, physical, social, spiritual. We have a gospel that reaches the total person.”
Ortiz touched on this topic in his books with InterVarsity Press, including The Hispanic Challenge: Opportunities Confronting the Church, One New People: Models for Developing a Multiethnic Church, and Urban Ministry: The Kingdom, the City and the People of God (coauthored with Harvie Conn).
Jeff Crosby, InterVarsity Press publisher, said, “Manuel Ortiz has been a pioneer in numerous ways, including through the writing of books that all of us doing work in missiology, urban contexts, and the church urgently needed to grapple with. The Hispanic Challenge and One New People were among the earliest resources on the multiethnic church we published, and his coauthored work, Urban Ministry, has had an enduring life as a core textbook in its field. His imprint on our publishing program goes well beyond the books he’s written.”
Ortiz was born in Puerto Rico and raised in New York City, where he became a Christian at age thirty. “I come from a Roman Catholic family, as would be expected of most Latinos in the 1950s and 1960s,” Ortiz said in an interview with the theological journal, Themelios, in 2003. “My father had come to know the Lord as his Savior and was very passionate about the eternal state of his family and wanted to see his children and wife come to know Christ. To cut a long story short, after various attempts, he wrote a letter asking a pastor to visit me and that began a process of my being awakened by God’s Spirit. Soon after that I saw my wife, Blanca, come to know Christ as well.”
Ortiz enrolled at Philadelphia College of Bible (now Cairn University) where he earned a degree in missions and theology. He taught for one year at the Philadelphia Area Christian Schools as well as Philadelphia College of Bible. Ortiz and Blanca went on to plant a church in Puerto Rico before moving to Chicago. They ministered to Hispanics in Chicago for fourteen years and founded five urban congregations, two elementary schools, and an extension school for theological education. In 1987, Ortiz returned to Philadelphia, where he and Blanca began Spirit and Truth Fellowship and continued to promote urban and multiethnic ministry around the nation through his speaking and consulting efforts.
Sandra Maria Van Opstal is the executive pastor of Grace and Peace Community Church, one of the churches Ortiz planted in Chicago. She said, “Manny Ortiz wrote with integrity; his work gave birth to his words. The principles and wisdom that he passed on through his books were things that he lived in his community. Manny’s books were the first ones to give voice to my experience as a Latina leader, and they are a gift from Latino scholarship in missiology to broader evangelicalism.”
Cindy Bunch, IVP’s associate publisher, editorial, said, “It was my delight to serve as Manny’s editor for his first two InterVarsity Press books. Although he was never my professor, I was his student, and from him I learned about the nuances of ministry within the multiple Latin cultures in the United States. He was a wise leader and a kind-hearted follower of Christ. He will be missed.”
Founded in 1947 as an extension of InterVarsity Christian Fellowship/USA, InterVarsity Press serves those in the university, the church and the world by publishing thoughtful Christian books that equip and encourage people to follow Jesus as Savior and Lord in all of life. For more information, visit ivpress.com.