06 June 2010

Book: Contextual Theology and Revolutionary Transformation in Latin America

Just published: Angel D. Santiago-Vendrell, "Contextual Theology and Revolutionary Transformation in Latin America: The Missiology of M. Richard Shaull" (Pickwick Publications, June 2010):


Publisher's description: "U.S. audiences know Latin American liberation theologies largely through translations of Latin American Catholics from the 1970s and beyond. Most of the few known Protestant authors were students of Richard Shaull, whose critical thinking on social change, prophetic Christianity, and dialogue with Marxism and Christian use of Marxist analysis precedes the emergence of the formal schools of liberation theology by two decades. His own education at Princeton, and the education he provided in Brazil, charts the course of Protestant influences into this stream of theological reflection that became a global phenomenon in the latter decades of the twentieth century. Also, Shaull's career roughly parallels the emergence of the World Council of Churches and the engagement of the Catholic Church – in Latin America and around the world – after the Second Vatican Council. He himself was engaged, and became the flash point, in some of the major conferences, movements, and institutions of the 1960s and beyond.

"Santiago-Vendrell documents the entrance of the ecumenical movement in Brazil, among the most dramatic transformations in Catholic-Protestant relations around the globe, as well as Shaull's role in that development. Along the way he notes Shaull's prophetic and destabilizing role in the worldwide student movement in the 60s and 70s, charting decisions that mark the ecumenical movement. Shaull's contributions are important for an understanding of the ethical debates in the worldwide, ecumenical Protestant and Orthodox communities. Santiago-Vendrell examines primary, secondary, and historical documents that shine a light on Shaull's transformation into a contextual theologian of the poor. He offers a definitive view of this North American Protestant missionary who wrote extensively on Latin American liberation theology, the base Christian communities, and how conversion to solidarity with the poor offers transforming possibilities for the mainline churches' theological identity and practical faith."

Endorsements: "Long before there was such a thing as liberation theology, the 'revolutionary theology' of Presbyterian missionary Richard Shaull was heralding a new and more just world born out of solidarity with the poor and the oppressed. This biography of Shaull fills a gap in understanding a complex man who sought to hold the church accountable while inspiring Christians to a more radical and biblical form of social engagement. A wonderful adventure in contextual theology." (Bryan Stone, Boston University)

"We can be grateful to Dr. Santiago-Vendrell for making available to us a story that has required research in both Spanish language and American resources not widely available to the U.S. reading public. Probably nothing has done more to change perspectives on U.S. foreign policy and journalistic knowledge about the realities of Latin American politics and the plight of its peoples than the presence of U.S. missionaries during the crucial mid-decades of the twentieth century. This theological biography will be as interesting to those concerned about interAmerican politics and economic policy as it will be to theologians and church historians." (Jeffrey Gros, Memphis Theological Seminary)

Angel D. Santiago-Vendrell is Assistant Professor of Mission at Memphis Theological Seminary.

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