Leaders and Friends Remember C. René Padilla


Theologians and pastors from Latin America and around the world mourn the theologian who helped integrate social action and evangelism.

CT asked Christian leaders who knew René Padilla, who died today at age 88, about his legacy among the Latin American evangelical community, how he changed the Western evangelical world, and how he personally impacted their lives.

Valdir Steuernagel, Brazilian pastor and theologian:

Padilla was a church person. The church was not something he spoke about but that he belonged to. His life and his theology can’t be understood outside an ecclesiological frame. As a continuous traveler and minister at large, Padilla knew the church—especially in Latin America—quite well. Many evangelical leaders in the continent went into the avenue of prosperity theology, quantitative church growth, and a populist right-wing political approach. Padilla was a critic of a model that was more concerned with numerical growth than with the ethical consequences of the gospel, and a church that was more concerned with having an impact in society instead of transforming that society toward a more just, horizontal, and transparent one. Padilla always committed himself to a church that wanted to be a sign of the kingdom of God.

The North American missionary enterprise had come to Latin America with a strong critical tone toward a more “liberal theology” and a so-called “social gospel.” Padilla could not accept a gospel that was not able to provide an answer to the deep problems of poverty and injustice in this continent. Padilla was, somehow, an “evangelical outsider” be it in Latin America or in North America. An outsider building bridges with other “outsiders” without denying himself to sit at the table—as can be seen at his deep, critical involvement in the Lausanne movement. …

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