Category: Latin America

The World Cup of Theologians is a blog series that coincides with the 2014 World Cup Tournament. Each team in the round of 16 has an entry with the biography of a noteworthy theologian or leader from that same country.

esquivelAdolfo Pérez Esquivel (1931- )was born in Buenos Aires, Argentina. An architect and sculptor by trade, he taught art and architecture for 25 years at various levels. In 1974, in the early days of Argentina’s Dirty War, Pérez Esquivel left his teaching post to lead a movement of human rights activists throughout South America who shared a commitment to nonviolence. A deeply committed Christian, his book is marvelously titled Christ in a Poncho: Witnesses to the Nonviolent Struggles in Latin America.

When awarded the Nobel Peace Prize in 1980 for his work on behalf of human rights, he concluded his acceptance speech by quoting the Beatitudes of the Sermon on the Mount. Here’s how the speech began:

With humility I stand before you to receive the high distinction that the Nobel Committee and the Parliament grant to those who have committed their lives on behalf of peace and to the pursuit of justice and solidarity among nations.

I would like to receive this award in the name of the people of Latin America and especially in the name of the poorest and smallest of my brothers and sisters, who are the most beloved children of God. I receive it in the name of my indigenous brothers and sisters, the peasants, workers, and young people, in the name of the thousands of members of religious orders and of men and women of goodwill, who renounce privileges to share the life and way of the poor, and who struggle to build a new society.

For a man like myself, a small voice for those who have no voice, who struggles so that the cry of the people may be heard in all its power, for one without any special identity except as a veritable Latin American man and as a Christian, – this is, without any doubt, the highest honour that I can receive: to be considered a servant of peace.

You can read the full English text of the acceptance speech here or watch it in Spanish here.

Tim Hoiland blogs at and tweets at @timhoiland. He found “Christ in a Poncho” at a used bookstore in Philadelphia several years ago, and judged the book (positively) by its cover.

The World Cup of Theologians is a blog series that coincides with the 2014 World Cup Tournament. Each team in the round of 16 has an entry with the biography of a noteworthy theologian or leader from that same country.

Sandra Campos is a the president of the Conference of Mennonite Churches in Costa Rica and has been appointed as a Latin American representative to the Mennonite World Conference Executive Committee. As a leader, her influence has been seen in her ability to gather and encourage women from around the world to participate in the expanding ministries of the church. She has been at the center of the Mennonite World Conference’s recognition of women in the church and the development of theological networks (Link to article).

In a 2011 article in The Mennonite, Campos is recognized alongside other leading women from around the world.

As I serve in my various roles, I am given the opportunity to propose and implement changes in the national church through education programs, such as the Bible Institute for Justice and Peace Program. At the regional level, I am helping advance Anabaptist Women Theologians of Central America. This is helping build a greater awareness of our need to train women for greater participation in places that traditionally were shaped exclusively by men.

As women, we feel useful in our service to others and do not settle for being a spectator. We try to be part of work, changes and achievements that are part of building God’s kingdom.

Click here for full article

Michael Shepherd is the editor of He is a graduate of Fuller Theological Seminary and Hope International University in southern California, USA, where he lives with his wife and son.

The World Cup of Theologians is a blog series that coincides with the 2014 World Cup Tournament. Each team in the round of 16 has an entry with the biography of a noteworthy theologian or leader from that same country.

Juan Luis Segundo (1925-1996) was a Jesuit priest and scholar who was instrumental with the introduction of liberation theology in Latin America and the application of the hermeneutic circle. His initial work, Liberation of Theology, raises issues of the Latin American context and its perspective, although he does so within the style of traditional Western theologians. segundo

In many Western contexts, the term “ideology” has a negative connotation, which bleeds into the consideration of liberation theology, to which Segundo defines the relationship of ideology and faith, writing in Liberation of Theology,

“a system of goals and means that serve as a necessary backdrop for any human option or line of action”, yet “Faith…is the total process to which [the human being] submits, a process of learning in and through ideologies how to create the ideologies necessary to handle new and unforeseen situations in history.” As such, ideologies are derived from the particular context of a community and contribute to faith. But at no point can ideology supersede the role of faith, which encompasses a diverse range of idealized theories of life.

His writing on hermeneutics emphasized the role of the community in interpretation, rather than assuming that an individual is the driver of the interpretive process. This stood as a critique and addition to Schleiermacher’s conception of the hermeneutic circle which would become a standard interpretive principle within liberation theology.

For more information about Segundo’s writing, see the entry in the Boston Collaborative Encyclopedia of Western Theology.

Michael Shepherd is the editor of He is a graduate of Fuller Theological Seminary and Hope International University in southern California, USA, where he lives with his wife and son.

The World Cup of Theologians is a blog series that coincides with the 2014 World Cup Tournament. Each team in the round of 16 has an entry with the biography of a noteworthy theologian or leader from that same country.

TorresSergio Torres is a Chilean Catholic priest whose leadership and writing has focused on how the Liberation Theology of Latin America can separate itself from the ideologies of Eastern Europe and its Marxist materialist underpinnings and adapt to new contexts. In an interview with Instituto Humanitas Unisinos, he covers a broad range of liberation theology history, including the role of Amerindia in forging a new path for the church of the American continent.

IHU On-line: In 2012, we are also celebrating the 40th anniversary of the publication Gustavo Gutiérrez’s book. Since that inaugural work, what were and are the main contributions of liberation theology in the context of Latin America? What is the meaning of liberation today?

Sergio Torres: The rise of liberation theology represented an important moment in the history of theology in general. Before it, it was thought that there was only one universal theology, along the lines of St. Paul’s expression, “One Lord, one faith, one baptism.” Without in any way denying this fundamental principle, liberation theology opened the contextual perspective. We believe in one Lord, but we do so from our contexts and our own different situations and cultures. The context allows one to delve into some aspects of the single message and make it more credible to people of different cultures. Born in Latin America, liberation theology has spread to Africa and Asia and has also generated experiments in contextual theology in North America and Europe.

The concept of liberation expanded and became richer. At first, they talked about the liberation of the poor, understood as the workers in the industries and factories of the great cities of the continent. Subsequently, the concept of the poor also deepened. The poor are the excluded ones, the marginalized, those who have no voice, are discriminated against, or, as we say today, “the other”. Currently, the concept of liberation expresses the salvation and liberation that Jesus brings, including many terms that refer to the salvation of neglected and oppressed sectors in the current cultural and social situation.

Today, there is not just one liberation theology. There is an open theological pluralism, one that is truer to some of the intuitions and basic principles of the first liberation theology. That theology still has much to give in and of itself. For example, it should continue joining the individual and complementary contributions of academic theologians and grassroots theologians. Moreover, professionals are called on not only to speak ‘for’ the poor but, from [the perspective of] the poor and with them.

Read the full interview – in Englishem portuguêsen español

Michael Shepherd is the editor of He is a graduate of Fuller Theological Seminary and Hope International University in southern California, USA, where he lives with his wife and son.

The World Cup of Theologians is a blog series that coincides with the 2014 World Cup Tournament. Each team in the round of 16 has an entry with the biography of a noteworthy theologian or leader from that same country.

Samuel Ruiz (1924-2011) was a Roman Catholic priest and bishop serving among the indigenous Maya peoples in San Cristóbal de las Casas in the Mexican state of Chiapas. He was an advocate for the rights of the marginalized peoples which led him into conflict, both within and outside the Catholic Church.

ruizEven though he was raised with a traditional and conservative view of the Church, he was heavily influenced by Vatican II’s desire to integrate the teachings of the Roman Catholic Church with the culture and perspective of the local parish. This emphasis would mark his ministry and the Catholic faith that spread throughout the region.

To bring the Catholic faith to the Mayan people, he learned the dialects that were spoken widely and ordained Mayans into the diaconate and priesthood to further serve their communities. As he witnessed the injustices these people suffered, Ruiz championed the human rights of the indigenous people, calling for political reforms which led him into conflict with the leadership of the Church.

…we need to realize that we have a role to play in overcoming our own discrimination which is sometime very subtly held but that we do need to overcome it and see our indigenous peoples as brothers and sisters, not because we are legally mandated to do so, but because we genuinely see them as our brothers and sisters in our struggle for a better world.

For more information about the Mayan-led church in the Chiapas region and recent easing of anti-liberation policies, read more here.

For a coloring activity for children about Father Ruiz, click here (via

Michael Shepherd is the editor of He is a graduate of Fuller Theological Seminary and Hope International University in southern California, USA, where he lives with his wife and son.



The World Cup of Theologians is a blog series that coincides with the 2014 World Cup Tournament. Each team in the round of 16 has an entry with the biography of a noteworthy theologian or leader from that same country.

Like many contributors outside of the West, Paulo Freire (1921-1997) entered the theological conversation through alternative means. His original research was in education- specifically, how to teach adults who were illiterate and without a basis for traditional, institutional education.

Painel Paulo Freire by Luiz Carlos Cappellano via Wikimedia Commons

Painel Paulo Freire by Luiz Carlos Cappellano via Wikimedia Commons

In this context, he became critical of the “banking” philosophy of education, in which the learner was an empty vessel to have knowledge “deposited” by an expert and then “withdrawn” by the student to apply to a given situation. Chief among his criticism is that this approach reduced the person to the value of their deposits from an outside institution and did not take into account their contextual education—traditional knowledge and experience – that did not fit the categories of formal academics. His primary work on this topic was Pedagogy of the Oppressed (1968).

“One cannot expect positive results from an educational or political action program which fails to respect the particular view of the world held by the people. Such a program constitutes cultural invasion, good intentions notwithstanding.”

The application of these theories to theology have been revolutionary. In contrast to the formal topics of theology proper (which is largely insulated by the power and privilege of Western institutions), Freire’s theories opened up the study of the Bible and theological reflection to communities long considered outside the scope of meaningful contribution. The value of community-based knowledge to theological reflection gave voice to disenfranchised groups whose experience with the sacred speaks into a void in the academic setting.

Michael Shepherd is the editor of He is a graduate of Fuller Theological Seminary and Hope International University in southern California, USA, where he lives with his wife and son.

The World Cup of Theologians is a blog series that coincides with the 2014 World Cup Tournament. Each team in the round of 16 has an entry with the biography of a noteworthy theologian or leader from that same country.

Consuelo Vélez is professor of Theology at the Pontificia Universidad Xaveriana in Bogota, Colombia. She has earned a PhD in Theology from the Pontifical Catholic University of Rio de Janeiro, Brazil, with post-doctoral studies at Boston College.velez

She writes about the issues facing women in the Roman Catholic Church and what Pope Francis is doing to bring awareness to this issue. Here is an excerpt from an interview with Biblioteca Amerindia, translated to English by Barefoot Voices.

In [theological] topics, the feminine face of God –so often forgotten — and God’s saving message for men and women concretely and according to their specific reality, are reclaimed. For example, it’s not the same to speak of gift and sacrifice to women as to men. In a patriarchal society such as the one that still persists, that argument has led some women to the “servitude” that Pope Francis is criticizing, denying their dignity and suffering the tragedy of domestic violence, among others. Women’s theology works to regain the dignity of women so often denied by patriarchal society and supported in some ways by a “distorted” religious view, and it substantiates that this is not God’s will but that, on the contrary, God’s plan of salvation proposes a “community of equals” where gender differences would not be the reason for the subordination of either of the genders to the other one.

It has always been said that change comes from the grassroots. But in this case it seems that the roots of the Church are very passive and that it’s the will of a leader — the Pope — that is raising awareness and making us see that things could be different. In any case, change will come from working together and that’s why we have to be responsible in the face of these challenges and ask ourselves sincerely: What is the effective participation of women in decision-making positions in our local communities? How much credibility are they granted? Are the theological works of women taught in the seminaries and schools of theology? Is there enough humility to acknowledge the difference between what ought to be and the reality of women in the Church? Will we review our praxis and correct the mistakes?

This is a task we have pending in this Church we love and that needs to be renewed according to the will of God, in this specific case, seeking to make effective that in Christ Jesus “there is neither Jew nor Greek, slave nor free person, there is not male and female.”(Gal 3: 28)

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David Horsey / Los Angeles Times (March 13, 2013)

There is still much to come in the tenure of Pope Francis, but already in his short time there is much that has caused the world (non-Catholics included) to take notice and consider the impact of this pontiff at this moment in history.

Let’s take a look at Five Reasons Why Pope Francis Matters… (Click to Tweet)

1. Recognition of the population shift of Christianity to the Global South

Much has already been written in missiological circles about the growing demographics of Christianity in Africa, Asia, and South America after a historical majority in Europe and North America. Despite the swelling numbers, the influence of these regions is still largely untapped.

Within World Christianity, there is no position more high-profile that Pope and few institutions wielding as much influence as the Vatican. The recent papal election was dynamic in the fact that cardinals from Africa, Canada, and the United States were considered as possible candidates (although their actual viability as candidates may be questioned).

With this appointment, Pope Francis opens the doors for other thought-leaders to emerge from the non-Western world. The perspectives that they inhabit will inevitably change the dynamics of the theological education, training, and implementation in ways that will impact our diverse and changing communities and world.

2. Pastoral experience among a growing (and practicing) Roman Catholic Church Continue reading

“Que mi sangre sea semilla de libertad y la señal de que la esperanza será pronto una realidad.”

(Let my blood be a seed of freedom and the sign that hope will soon be reality.)

- Archbishop Óscar Romero

On March 24, 1980, Archbishop Óscar Romero of El Salvador was assassinated while he was celebrating the mass.

Romero had become an advocate and champion of the poor in El Salvador and Latin America, which brought him into opposition with the right-wing military government. Following his assassination, he has been recognized as a candidate for canonization and is currently revered as a Servant of God.

The following music video was produced as part of The Project: Martyrs Prayers. Accompanying this is a three-part podcast examining the life and message of Father Romero by Bishop Christopher Coyne of the Archdiocese of Indianapolis. The podcasts are available here (Part 1: Introduction, Part 2: Present Reality of Martyrdom, Part 3: Ancient/Modern Understanding of Martyrdom).


Musician- Michael Glen Bell

Film Maker- Owen Thomas
More information on The Project: Martyrs Prayers.

Acodar Discipleship

Jesus had an affinity for agricultural metaphors. In reading through John’s gospel, two stand out in particular. In chapter 15, Jesus says, “I am the true vine; my Father is the vineyard keeper…I am the vine; you are the branches. If you remain in me and I in you, then you will produce much fruit…My father is glorified when you produce much fruit and in this way prove that you are my disciples.

The ability to bear much fruit is elevated to be a primary marker of bringing glory to God. It is good that previously in chapter 12 that Jesus says how a disciple is able to bear much fruit. In chapter 12, Jesus says, “I assure you, unless a grain of wheat falls into the earth and dies, it can only be a single seed. But if it dies, it bears much fruit”.

The vine and branch metaphor in chapter 15 is significant as it speaks to the need to remain connected to the vine of Christ and exhibit the nature of his life. Missing from this interpretation, however, is the experience of the cross. In chapter 12, we can read foreshadowing of the cross and the approaching suffering and death of Christ. John presents this metaphor for the disciples to see their suffering and death as following in the pattern modeled by Christ.

The process of acodar

The process of acodar

The term acodar, in Spanish, conveys the combination of these two concepts. This is the verb for when a vine is bent or cut and then planted alongside the branch.  The cutting grows to become a offshoot of the branch, which then grows its own branches.  The true vine, put to death and buried in the ground, gives ways to new life and the multiplication of new branches which bear much fruit. We can understand our own discipleship by these same metaphors: we are simultaneously in the vine and being put to death as we identify with the cruciform call of Christ to die to ourselves, join him in his suffering, and by doing so bring life to the world around us.

Jesus’ use of these metaphors, to live as extensions of the true vine yet to die in order to produce fruit, are not exclusive to each other. By utilizing acodar discipleship in imagining our response to the call of Christ, we can enter into new and deeper identification with the suffering death and resurrected new life in the kingdom of God.

What metaphors help you or your community understanding your life of faith?

From the last decade of the 15th century, Europe would welcome the discovery of a new continent, and with it the opportunity for the expansion of empire and Christendom. Those nations most immediately suited to seize this opportunity were the naval empires of the Iberian Peninsula, Spain and Portugal. Both royal houses were firmly aligned with the Roman Catholic Church and assumed an imperial mandate to expand the authority of the church along with political and economic growth. The missionary endeavors which the Roman Catholic Church would embark upon in the formative years of European global exploration would set in place the foundation for overseas evangelization strategy and reverberate in the methods of other European nations and leave an indelible impact on global Christianity. Understanding the social context for this initial push in overseas missions can put into perspective the successive waves of zealous missionaries and their understandings of Christendom, imperial authority, and the sanctified use of military force which would come to mark the interaction of the church with the newly colonized lands.

An examination of this history can shed light onto a region still affected by these actions as well as insight into the colonial political power structure still affecting the life of the global Church.

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La Familia

How do you experience love, acceptance, and belonging? We may not express ourselves as well as these men, but our need for community is the same.

This is a poignant and intimate look into the lives of men in Central America who have found identity among each other.

Is your church community honest and inclusive enough to respond to the human need for intimacy and belonging? (Click to Tweet)

What associations exist in your community, besides the church, that respond to the need for identity and belonging?

Foundation University is sponsoring a new scholarly journal project called the Journal of Global Theology. See below for information about the inaugural volume :

Global theology in the internet era: an examination of the importance of the internet as a tool for the promulgation of Christian theology

The Journal of Global Theology (Foundation University) seeks to provide insight into the study of Christian Theology from a decidedly Global perspective. We offer readers an opportunity to view theology from various viewpoints while at the same time maintaining both an orthodox Christian viewpoint and an openness to differing Christian traditions. We seek contributions from every corner of the globe and encourage especially contributions from Asia, the Pacific Rim, the African continent, and the Middle East. Nonetheless, contributions from North and South America and Europe are also welcome.

Journal of Global Theology is aiming to promote scholarly discussions, contributions and dialogue in the following fields:

  1. •Contextual Theology
  2. •Intercultural Theology
  3. •Inter-religious Dialogue
  4. •Theology and Internet
  5. •Peace and Justice

The Journal of Global Theology accepts submissions in English, French, German, and Spanish.

If you would like to contribute, please send your essay to our Editor, Dr. Jim West, at and note in the subject line ‘submission for the Journal of Global Theology’. All submissions will be subjected to ‘blind peer review’ and those accepted will be notified accordingly.

Mark Roncace is seeking contributors for two volumes, Global Perspectives on the Old Testament and Global Perspectives on the New Testament. Pearson Prentice Hall is publishing Global Perspectives on the Bible this year. Next, separate OT and NT volumes, also to be published by Prentice Hall, will be produced. Both books will feature much of the same material as the original Bible volume, but with added essays.

The books—designed as entry level college textbooks—gather four different essays around one biblical text. The essays are brief (about 1,000 words and need not be “scholarly”) and articulate insights from a particular geographical, social, cultural, economic, religious, or ideological context/location. Here is the list of texts/books for which he need essays.

  • Genesis 6-9
  • Numbers 22-24
  • Leviticus
  • Judges
  • 1-2 Kings
  • Jeremiah
  • Ezekiel 1-25
  • Esther
  • Ecclesiastes
  • Daniel
  • Crucifixion narratives
  • Acts (other than chapter 2)
  • Corinthians
  • Galatians
  • 1-2 Thessalonians
  • James
  • Pastorals (1-2 Timothy, Titus)
  • 1-3 John
  • 1-2 Peter

Please let Mark know if you are interested ( in writing an essay on one (or two) of these texts and he will forward specific guidelines and a sample. In addition to scholars, Mark is particularly interested in gathering perspectives from non-professional readers. He is trying to run on a tight schedule: final OT essays are due April 1 and final NT essays are due June 1 (but remember they are only about 1,000 words).

As we approach a well-known season in many churches liturgical calendars, we are starting a blog series focusing on different perspectives of characters in the Christmas story, holiday practices, and advent themes.

African Christmas: A Wise Man Sees a Star in the East

We are requesting submissions of pieces, 500-1500 words expressing the significance of Christmas or Advent within a distinct cultural perspective.

We request posts from primary sources serving in a Non-Western context as well as secondary sources with the ability to give voice to another perspective.

Some possible prompts:

Which characters of the story appear in your context? (shepherds, wise men, travelers, etc.)

What significant elements are present in your church to prepare for or celebrate the holiday?

Which scriptures are most meaningful for your community to understand the incarnation of Christ, and why?

What sermons are written in this time of year for your community?

By sharing together our perspectives of the holiday, we look forward to hearing a familiar story with fresh ears and seeing the advent of God in Christ with new eyes, initiating a kingdom that brings all people together as the children of God.

Please see our Write Page for information about contributing.

Questions or submissions can be directed by email to

A Pilgrimage of Hope

In my work with immigrants, there are certain stories that stick with me because they reveal some aspect of God. Usually, the stories of the poor are too similar to those in the Bible to ignore. They are almost literal, revealing the ways in which God actually identified with the poor and the oppressed. As we observe advent, I’d like to share with you the story of a hardworking family that came from Mexico 22 years ago.

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