This month in my church (New Life Baptist Church, Guildford) I introduced ‘Theologian of the Month’. This will be a regular feature of our life together as an experiment for a few months. It is hoped that it will help members of all ages think about their personal faith as well as learn something the world Church or Church history. This month we launched it as part of an all-age part of the service. This included seeing Gustavo Gutiérrez as a spoon character.
We also invited two young members of the church to the front to see if they agreed with some of Gustavo Gutiérrez’s beliefs. During the discussion that resulted we emphasised that we are all theologians and that not all theologians are deceased.
In this week’s church bulletin we followed this up a little more information. See below.
Who is Gustavo Gutiérrez?
Gustavo Gutiérrez was born in Lima, Peru on the 8th June 1928. He experienced socio-economic hardship in his childhood. His father had a subsistence level income and the young Gustavo suffered discrimination because of his mixed European and Amerindian ancestry. He was also bed-ridden for six years as a result of osteomyelitis.
He decided to become a Dominican priest in 1950. His education, which followed this decision, was a broad one; including psychology, philosophy and theology. He benefited from studying in some prestigious European institutions from 1951 to 1959 including the Catholic University of Leuven and the Catholic University of Lyon.
On his return to Lima in 1959 he consistently demonstrated a commitment to the poor, living in Rímac one of the poorest parts of Lima. He founded an Institute in 1974 which aims to promote social justice for the marginalised in Peru.
Gutiérrez is often known as the father of Liberation Theology. Liberation Theology is a movement which has challenged the established Church regarding its frequent tolerance and acceptance of the gulf between rich and poor. In particular, proponents of Liberation Theology argue that the Church should challenge social structures which continually marginalise and disadvantage the poor. The movement started in Latin America but has found support in many contexts. Responses to the movement have been mixed. On the one hand it has been recognised that the organised Church has often been complicit in social injustice, despite Scripture’s strong opposition to such injustice. Some proponents of Liberation Theology, however, identify with Communism. This brings with it the dangers of supporting political revolution, or at least questions as to how the gospel can fit with an atheistic ideology.
Gutiérrez’s two most accessible books are A Theology of Liberation (1973) and We Drink from Our Own Wells (1984). I recommend these books, not because I, or you, will agree with everything written there. Rather, in reading his work you will be challenged to come to your own richer appreciation of the gospel of Jesus Christ. For an evaluation of his theology and spirituality, see psaltermark.wordpress.com.
I would love to hear from anyone else who has tried something similar. Next month I am planning to choose Karl Barth and the month after Paul Gooder.