Bonino was raised in the Methodist Church , and participated actively in this denomination since his youth. He worked in church ministries in Bolivia , and after obtaining his degree he was a pastor in Mendoza. In , he became a professor of dogmatic theology in Buenos Aires. In , he left teaching to pursue further study at Union Theological Seminary in New York , where he obtained his doctorate in with a thesis on ecumenism. He was also executive secretary of the South American Association of Theological Institutions between and
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He also offered a critical perspective on the ecumenical movement and its ideal of unity and its practice of mission and service. His was one of the first Protestant voices in the movement, and his work La fe en busca de eficacia Faith in search of effectiveness contained his characteristic emphases on contextual analysis, engaged faith, and political involvement.
His convictions were tested in the period of Argentinian dictatorship, following his cofounding in of the Permanent Assembly for Human Rights. He helped create key ecumenical structures in Latin America; was a delegate to the New Delhi, Uppsala, Nairobi assemblies; and served from to on the Faith and Order Commission.
His liberation perspective on the option for the poor dramatically reframed the classic ecumenical search for unity. As he framed it in a Watson lecture at the University of San Francisco:. Whatever produces unity is good; whatever destroys or threatens it is bad. In some areas of the world and some sectors of society, however, experience has taught us to ask questions about the frequent calls to unity that are addressed to us - who calls for unity?
Such questions may sound impertinent, even narrow-minded and ungenerous. But such people - young people and women in the family, workers in industry, minorities in societies, dependent nations in the world, lay people in the churches, in general the poor and marginal, have so frequently discovered that such unity was simply co-option, for the sake of the economy, the authority, the comfort of the powerful, that they have become convinced that as often as not "unity" is a tool of oppression rather than of liberation.
The traditional Western answers, as articulated in the idea of "the responsible society" proved unsatisfactory. The questions of radical change, ideology, political involvement could not be postponed They touch the very essence of the Church: the God we worship, the Christ we confess, the nature and task of the community of faith.
With a commitment to liberation, he argued, a kind of theological colonialism is overcome and a powerful new vision of ecumenism emerges:. The unity that is created among Christians and non-Christians engaged in a common task in the world. There - in the struggle for human rights, for social transformation, for political participation - Christians of different confessions participate with women and men of different ideologies, without claiming any special privilege, without hiding or watering down their own Christian convictions, and discover both their common humanity and their Christian identity as an unexpected gift.
When the Church engages herself in this mission, she finds unity in her struggle for liberation and that unity strengthens and deepens her commitment to freedom.
Such unity and such liberation, we claim, the Church can find today when she identifies with her Lord by committing herself to and participating with the poor in their own struggle for a new day for the whole of humankind.
We honour at his death a man of great impact and inspiration for the World Council of Churches, Prof. He has a very special place in the work of integrating contextual theology and liberation theology into ecumenical theology, and for the coherence and integrity of the WCC. He also had a significant influence on my own personal ecumenical journey and ecumenical theological positions. I met him first in Oslo in , when I was the responsible staff person for a consultation on contextual theology in the ecumenical movement, March It was a significant event for the discussions on ecumenical theology in the Church of Norway.
He reflected on the theme that later became the theme for my dissertation: Mutual Accountability. In my work for the ecumenical movement it has become a programmatic point for me, carrying the legacy and vision of the ecumenical tradition to which he contributed so much. I would like to express my condolences and offer my prayers for his family and his church, and express my thanks to God for the gifts we share from this remarkable theologian and ecumenist.
Tribute expressing admiration for the life and work of the renowned liberation theologian. Responding to news of Dr. Filed under: Bonino, J.
WCC praises life and work of José Miguez Bonino
José Míguez Bonino