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Tearfund pays tribute to its former international president and ‘father of integral mission’

The Christian development agency Tearfund has expressed its gratitude to former president, theologian René Padilla, who's died aged 88.

As president, Padilla steered Tearfund to replace the concept of 'Christian development' with one linked more closely with Latin American theology: 'integral mission'.  

He had been teaching the idea of integral mission in his home continent since the 1970s and pioneered the theological framework underpinning the concept, through books, conferences and action. Tearfund credits the concept with helping it find a fertile ground when it came to putting theory into practice through project work in Latin American countries and more widely around the world.

Integral mission, as conceived by René Padilla, encourages Christians to show that their beliefs and their lifestyles are fundamentally joined. Taking Jesus as the example, his encouragement was that all Christians, should work to bring God's justice into all spheres of life, to redeem and restore his kingdom.

Padilla, who was born in Ecuador, was international president of Tearfund UK and Ireland (as it was then called) between 1998 and 2010. His family, who had moved to Colombia when he was very young, were evangelical church-planting Christians in a staunchly Catholic country. This brought conflict and Padilla grew up with a personal understanding of the concept of suffering for your faith.

Tearfund Chief Executive, Nigel Harris, said: 'Tearfund is deeply grateful to René Padilla for helping us understand our position in the spaces occupied by secular and faith-based approaches to development. His legacy, as so often with those whose thinking is ground breaking, is that his ideas are now not only widely accepted but appear mainstream.' 

Ruth Valerio, Global Advocacy and Influencing Director for Tearfund, added 'René Padilla's work has had a profound impact on prompting - even galvanising - many Christians to work in practical ways to address injustice. His thinking and action has helped us understand that mission is more than just verbal evangelism plus social action. It does not just bring two types of missional activity together. Rather he helped us see that we participate in God's mission to redeem and restore the world, seeking the kingdom and its justice in all spheres of life.'

Padilla lived with his wife Cathy in Argentina and had five children.

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