The Geneva-based World Council of Churches (WCC) on July 5 published a tribute to the life and work of liberation theologian Jose Miguez Bonino, who died on July 1 in Buenos Aires, Argentina at the age of 88.
“We honor at his death a man of great impact and inspiration for the WCC,” said the Rev. Olav Fykse Tveit, general secretary of the WCC. Tveit said that Miguez had a “significant influence on my own personal ecumenical journey and ecumenical theological positions,” according to a joint news release from the WCC and the Latin America and Caribbean Communication Agency.
Miguez, a Methodist pastor from Argentina, worked tirelessly for the ecumenical movement, human rights and social change. His contribution to liberation theology had a strong impact in Latin America and beyond.
Miguez served as WCC president from 1975 and 1983, and was one of the editors of the Dictionary of the Ecumenical Movement.
Born on 5 March 1924 in the city of Santa Fe, Argentina, Miguez obtained a doctorate in theology in 1959 from Union Theological Seminary in New York. He was a professor and director of the Instituto Superior Evangelico de Estudios Teologicos (ISEDET).
Tveit stated that Miguez 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.”
Miguez was the only Latin American Protestant to be invited as an observer at the Second Vatican Council, where he had personal encounters with Pope John XXIII and his successor Pope Paul VI. He was also invited as an observer to the Second Latin American Episcopal Conference in Medellin, Colombia, in 1968, the WCC said.
Miguez authored several books, including Doing Theology in a Revolutionary Situation (1975), Toward a Christian Political Ethics (1983) and Faces of Latin American Protestantism (1997). His theological reflections were featured in numerous publications and journals. His work was translated into different languages and remains part of the curriculum for several seminaries and universities, including both Protestant and Catholic.
As a theologian, Miguez made a significant contribution to the traditions of Protestant, Reformed and Evangelical churches in Latin America. Yet his ecumenical engagement had a wider outreach across the Methodist community to which he belonged. His work for the dialogue promoting social justice won him special acclaim.
Through his academic works, Miguez did a comprehensive reading of the Latin American reality, and he combined bold ideas with a gracious manner. Speaking on how Miguez inspired many, Walter Altmann, moderator of the WCC said, “Miguez Bonino inspired a whole generation of ministers, theologians and ecumenists throughout Latin America and beyond.”
“Miguez combined convincingly theological research and spirituality, social commitment and witness to the gospel. His clear theological stances and sensitivity to the beliefs and convictions of others was much respected in all confessional families. His legacy will continue to inspire us,” added Altmann.
Miguez was married to Naomi Nieuwenhuize and had three children.