Towards a Liberating Latin American ecclesiology: the local church as a socially and culturally transformative historical project
Gladwin, Ryan Redding
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Because of the drastic changes (political, socio-cultural, and ecclesial) in Latin America since the genesis of Latin American Theology in the 1960s and 70s and the persistent and pernicious presence of poverty and injustice, it is imperative for theology to confront the present socio-cultural and ecclesial context. Through the development of a sociological and historical survey of Argentina during the past half-century, this thesis argues that the present holds little hope for a revitalization of the triumphalist, macro-social historical project of Latin American Liberation Theology, but instead demands an informed theological reflection on the micro-social. It also engages various Latin American theological perspectives (Liberationist, Progressive Evangelical, and Pentecostal/neo-Pentecostal) and argues that community is at the centre of their conceptions of transformation and that, accordingly, the local church is a potential transformative historical project. It examines this transformative potential through ethnographic and theological case studies of two local Baptist churches (Progressive Evangelical and neo-Pentecostal) in Greater Buenos Aires, Argentina, demonstrating that the present ecclesial context is diverse and contentious, but nevertheless a potential location of transformation. It contends that the local church is a fitting historical project for Latin American Theology as it functions as a bridge between the exilic present and the utopia of the Kingdom of God, between individual and social transformation, and between the hermeneutically-focused historical sciences and the emancipatory-focused critical social sciences. It concludes that the local church is a transformative historical project as a gathering community that seeks to be faithful and effective through non-violent confrontation, reconciling unity, and discernment.
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