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This is Part II of an interview with David C. Kirkpatrick, author of A Gospel for the Poor: Global Social Christianity and the Latin American Evangelical Left. For Part I, click here.
You appear to be one of the first to highlight women in the development of the Latin American Theological Fraternity. How does the narrative change when Catharine Feser Padilla is included?
Story - North - South - Rest - West
Some have attempted to make this a story of North vs. South or “the Rest vs. the West.” The influence of Catharine Feser Padilla problematizes attempts to weaponize the narrative and use it for tribal vendettas. For post-war global evangelicalism, the story was always multidirectional and diverse—transcending nationalities and borders.
Catharine’s story also confirmed for me the need to interrogate sources. As historians, we cannot uncritically receive narratives and documents that enter established archives—especially within fraught religious, racialized or gendered spaces. Perhaps surprisingly, Catharine, as a female American missionary, actively sought to conceal her own influence in order to expand it. She navigated the expectations and restrictions of conservative evangelical spaces, while working behind the scenes to push social Christian ideas. Her influence was immense, while we may never know its full extent.
Hypothesis - Day - Interviews - René - Padilla
My initial hypothesis was confirmed during my first day of interviews with René Padilla in his Buenos Aires home. He gave a passing comment that Catharine, his spouse of almost 50 years, had edited “nearly everything [he] wrote”, including papers at global gatherings. Translation, of course, is never a neutral exercise but always involves interpretation. I began to ask how her own stamp marked Padilla’s thinking from the outset. At a very basic level, Catharine provided a bridge for a non-native speaker like René Padilla to communicate his ideas fluently. But more importantly, she pushed Padilla leftward politically and theologically. She also gave him the license to accelerate...
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