C. René Padilla, leading South American Theologian, pastor, author, and friend of Latin Link, died on 27 April 2021, age 88. This is a tribute to René and the transformative legacy he left behind.

Written by Paul Davies, Latin Link

C. René Padilla was one of the most prominent theologians of the 20th and 21st Centuries in the Evangelical mission movement, having deep influence on many movements, such as Lausanne; organisations, such as Tearfund; and people, including another important theologian, John Stott; along with thousands of others.

He coined the phrase, ‘Integral Mission’ [a translation of the Spanish, Misión Integral], adopted by over 500 Christian organisations across the world. He preached, lectured and wrote, constantly appealing for a holistic understanding of the Gospel, of theology and most importantly, mission.

René was born in October 1932 in Quito, Ecuador, and spent 22 years (1959-1981) working in the Evangelical student movement, first as a staff worker and then as General Secretary for Latin America and head of their literature programme. He was a founding member of the Latin American Theological Fraternity, promoting the contextualisation of the Gospel in Latin America.

He was one of a number of young non-Western missionaries and theologians who accused the Lausanne Congress (1974) of propounding a ‘Culture Christianity,’ promoted the American way of life. The Willowbank Report (1978) was a direct result of this event. This provoked John Stott to rethink his approach to the Gospel and his insistence, up to that point, of the ‘Priority of Evangelism.’

René was also instrumental in the drafting of three of the most important documents on Integral Mission: Evangelism and Social Responsibility: An Evangelical Commitment (1982), which was a joint publication of the Lausanne Committee for World Evangelization and the World Evangelical Fellowship;  Transformation: The Church in Response to Human Need (1983) and the Micah Declaration (2001).

Additionally, he was instrumental in forming the International Fellowship of Evangelical Mission Theologians. He served as president of Tearfund UK and Ireland and the Micah Network. He was a strong Evangelical voice in the Ecumenical International Association of Mission Studies.

He organised and participated in innumerable consultations, conferences and congresses and wrote on many different subjects, from theological education to peace, from church unity to the Homogenous Unit Principle.

C. René Padilla was a theologian with an unwavering love of Scripture, a pastor who always returned to Bible study, a church planter, a teacher and a writer, but he was also a loving husband, father and grandfather. His influence will be felt for generations.

René Padilla was instrumental in encouraging the church in Latin America and around the world to apply the whole gospel to the whole of life. As Latin Link we are indebted to René for the way he touched many of our lives individually and for how he influenced our outlook and practise as an organisation. We pray especially for his family at this time as they continue to grieve his loss – Paul Turner, International Team Leader.

Latin Link’s Ian Darke worked with Rene Padilla on the Contemporary Bible Commentary, which launched in 2019. You can read about Rene Padilla’s involvement with this landmark publication here.