29 Apr 2021
Theologian René Padilla, widely known as the father of integral mission, and a former international director of Christian development agency Tearfund, has died aged 88.
René Padilla, who was born in Ecuador, was international president of Tearfund UK and Ireland (as it then was) between 1998 and 2010. His family, who had moved to Colombia when he was very young, were evangelical church-planting Christians in a staunchly Catholic country. This brought conflict which was something of a baptism of fire for the young René, who grew up with a personal understanding of the concept of suffering for your faith.
During his time as president, he steered Tearfund to replace the concept of ‘Christian development’ with one linked more closely with Latin American theology: ‘integral mission’. René Padilla had been teaching the idea of integral mission in his home continent since the 1970s. He pioneered the theological framework underpinning the concept, through books, conferences and action. This helped Tearfund find a fertile ground when it came to putting theory into practice through its project work in Latin American countries, and more widely around the world.
Integral mission, as conceived by René Padilla, encourages Christians to show that their beliefs and their lifestyles are fundamentally joined. Taking Jesus as the example, his encouragement was that all Christians - not just a few professionals - should work to bring God’s justice into all spheres of life, to redeem and restore his kingdom. Tearfund’s theology of mission owes a debt to René Padilla’s pioneering work.
Tearfund Chief Executive, Nigel Harris, said: ‘Tearfund is deeply grateful to René Padilla for helping us understand our position in the spaces occupied by secular and faith-based approaches to development. His legacy, as so often with those whose thinking is ground breaking, is that his ideas are now not only widely accepted but appear mainstream.’
Ruth Valerio, Global Advocacy and Influencing Director for Tearfund, added ‘René Padilla’s work has had a profound impact on prompting - even galvanising - many Christians to work in practical ways to address injustice. His thinking and action has helped us understand that mission is more than just verbal evangelism plus social action. It does not just bring two types of missional activity together. Rather he helped us see that we participate in God’s mission to redeem and restore the world, seeking the kingdom and its justice in all spheres of life.’
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Notes to editors:
Tearfund is a Christian relief and development agency and a member of the Disasters’ Emergency Committee. Tearfund has been working around the world for more than 50 years responding to disasters and helping lift communities out of poverty. For more information about the work of Tearfund, please visit www.tearfund.org.
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