The Father of Integral Mission – C. René Padilla

I am guessing that this theologian will not be too much of a surprise to those who know me.  C. René Padilla was born in 1932 in Quito, Ecuador. He was a IFES student worker for Ecuador and Columbia. He studied at Wheaton Seminary and University of Manchester and has lived for the past 48 years in Buenos Aires, Argentina.

René is a friend as well as a teacher for me. We met in 1995 at the International Seminar at the Kairos Centre in Buenos Aires. This was a month-long orientation that he ran every year for foreign missionaries to Latin America. At that seminar we met some very interesting people such as Peruvian theologian, Samuel Escobar and sociologist Fortunado Mallimaci.

René was a member of the church where we attended and we were on the preaching commission together. I learned a great deal about biblical exegesis and exposition from him. Also I saw a deep humility in René. René is a strong card-carrying evangelical, but when evangelicals depart from biblical standards he will highlight this. When being opposed by somebody, I have heard him say more than once, “show me from the Bible where I am wrong”.

As with Míguez Bonino, René holds to an inaugural eschatology, following more George Eldon Ladd’s line rather than Oscar Cullman, as in Míguez Bonino’s case. The final chapter of his  Mission Between the Times is a good explanation of his position.

René is more of a biblical than a systematic theologian. This is demonstrated throughout his writings. He has done more than most (not John Stott perhaps) to make the Lausanne Movement more biblically founded. He was influential in many Lausanne papers and is most famous for the phrase “integral mission”.

For René integral mission is NOT Christian development work or even social action. Integral mission is the mission of the local church, supported by agencies when necessary. This is his greatest influence on the world church. When we go to Argentina in a few month’s time I hope to see him again.