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The Church and Poverty in Asia is an excellent resource on the theology and practice of ministry among the poor. The whole book is a gem — thoughtful, practical contributions from seasoned theologians, cultural exegetes, Bible teachers, and urban poor workers. Together they give shape to a much- needed integrated, holistic perspective on ministry with the poor in our midst.

Bishop Efraim M. Tendero, DD National Director, Philippine Council of Evangelical Churches (PCEC)

The Church and Poverty in Asia is a unique resource for those searching for creative and innovative approaches to filling the hungry with good things. These scholars and practitioners provide biblical, theological, economic, cultural, psychological, educational, practical and historical reflections on demonstrating God’s compassionate care, tempered justice and wise counsel in transforming the face of the vulnerable. I enthusiastically recommend this book to all who want to gain a balanced perspective in following Jesus by demonstrating the Good News to the poor.

Dr Corrie De Boer Chairperson, Mission Ministries Philippines (MMP)

Jesus zealously engaged poverty. He ministered to its victims and spoke against its causes. But up to now, poverty still chains millions of people to hunger, illness, ignorance and personal underdevelopment. How should this disturbing reality figure in Christian theology and work? Informed by solid biblical scholarship and sensitive social awareness, this book articulates many voices of poverty and proposes exciting challenges.

Pastor Ed Lapiz Day By Day Christian Ministries


Lee Wanak, General Editor


Bina Agong, George Capaque, Timoteo Gener, Ian Hibionada, and Adonis Parian Patty Sison-Arroyo Edna P. Bacus and Lely-Beth Cagulada Violeta Villaroman-Bautista Larry W. Caldwell Ruth S. Callanta Adonis Abelard Gorospe Athena Evelyn Gorospe Samuel Jayakumar Grace Shangkuan Koo Jonathan Nambu Charles Ringma Lee Wanak



Nambu Charles Ringma Lee Wanak 1969-2009 A SIAN T HEOLOGICAL S EMINARY OMF L ITERATURE I


Manila, Philippines

The articles in this text were presented at The Fourth ATS Theological Forum “He Has Filled the Hungry with Good Things: The Church and Poverty in Asia” sponsored by Asian Theological Seminary and held at the Union Church of Manila February 2008

The lyrics of the song “Bahay” and its English translation quoted in pages 143–144 are by Gary Granada. Copyright © by Gary Granada, Used by permission. All rights reserved.

The painting found in the insert between pages 142 and 143 is a reproduction of “Hapag ng Pag-asa” by Joey Velasco. Copyright © by Joey Velasco, Used by permission. All rights reserved.

Scripture quotations are taken from

Holy Bible: English Standard Version TM . ESV TM . Copyright © 2001 by Crossway Bibles, a division of Good News Publishers. Used by permission. All rights reserved.

Holy Bible: New International Version ® . NIV ® . Copyright © 1973, 1978, 1984 by the International Bible Society. Used by permission of Zondervan. All rights reserved.

Holy Bible: New Revised Standard Version. NRSV. Copyright © 1989 by the Division of the Christian Education of the National Council of the Churches of Christ in the United States of the America. Used by permission. All rights reserved.

New American Standard Bible ® . Updated edition. NASB ® . Copyright © 1960, 1962, 1963, 1968, 1971, 1972, 1973, 1975, 1977, 1995 by The Lockman Foundation. Used by permission. All rights reserved.

The Church and Poverty in Asia

Copyright © 2008 by OMF Literature Inc. (Authors hold copyright to individual chapters)

Published jointly (2008) by OMF Literature Inc. 776 Boni Avenue Mandaluyong City, Metro Manila and Asian Theological Seminary 54 Scout Madriñan St., Quezon City

Cover design by Nixon Na using elements from the ATS brochure designed by Jan Barrera and Glevy Baybayon

ISBN 978-971-0495-83-2

Printed in the Philippines









A Theology and Praxis of Serving the Poor Charles Ringma



The Story of Gideon Athena Evelyn Gorospe



The Church’s Solidarity with the Poor Samuel Jayakumar



What Affluent Churches Can Do Grace Shangkuan Koo



Lessons on Being a Church Among the Poor Bina Agong, George Capaque, Timoteo Gener, Ian Hibionada, and Adonis Parian



Reflections on Seeing the Poor and Vulnerable Jonathan Nambu





Toward Filling the Hungry with Good Things Ruth S. Callanta





A Witness of Courage in a Suffering World Patty Sison-Arroyo





Larry W. Caldwell





AND POWERS Among Street Level-Peripheral Communities Edna P. Bacus and Lely-Beth Cagulada




Bringing Wellness and Wholeness to Communities Under Crisis Violeta Villaroman-Bautista





Paradigms for Incarnating Christ as Communities of God Among the Poor Adonis Abelard Gorospe





Workshop and Survey Results Lee Wanak


Faculty of Asian Theological Seminary


About the Contributors 251 Glossary, Abbreviations and Acronyms 256 Index 259




It was in 2005 that the First ATS Theological Forum was held. The subject was “Doing Theology in the Philippine Context.” In 2006, the second forum addressed the issue of inter-faith dialogue. Last year the subject was powers and principalities. This year, we look at the Asian Church and the challenge of poverty in many of its various manifestations. The convening of the Fourth Theological Forum involved more people than I can list here by name. Therefore, I acknowledge them by groups. May I thank the following for their participation and contribution: Union Church of Manila, 702 DZAS (Far East Broad- casting Corporation), OMF Literature, Philippine Council of Evangel- ical Churches (PCEC), our donors and sponsors, the plenary session speakers and the break-out session presenters, the session moderators and the technical staff, the ATS Alumni Association, the many friends and supporters of ATS, the team from our Communications and Development Department, the hardworking ATS faculty and staff, the many dedicated volunteers as well as all who participated in this year’s Theological Forum. I am also grateful to Larry Caldwell, Timoteo Gener and the organizing committee for their zealous efforts in putting the Forum together. The present volume is a selection from the many papers presented at the Forum. May I thank Lee Wanak who undertook the laborious task of editing the entire collection despite his many duties as ATS faculty and Director of the ATS Center for Transformational Urban

Leadership (CTUL). May I also thank OMF Literature for their continuing partnership in making our Forum materials available to a wider audience. Most importantly, may all honor and glory be unto the Lord. In closing, I share three thoughts:

If you want to help the poor, you must disciple the rich. If you want to help the rich, you must understand their poverty. If you want to help both poor and rich, you must believe in the abundance of Christ.

May we His people proclaim and reflect His abundance.


President Asian Theological Seminary




Everyone agrees that poverty, especially urban poverty, is a growing problem, but few have concrete answers. This book is a result of the Fourth Annual Asian Theological Seminary Forum which addressed

the theme, “He Has Filled the Hungry with Good Things

and Poverty in Asia. The purpose of the Forum was to address not only the theoretical and theological issues tied to poverty, but also to tackle best practices in ministries among the poor— practices rooted in both evangelical theology and the social sciences. Mary sang of God’s Kingdom intentions, “He has filled the hungry with good things,” (Luke 1:53). If the people of God are co-participants in His work, we must ask, “What is to be our theology of poverty and how are we to make our theology actionable in a fallen world filled with need?” For some, this requires a shift in thinking, which is the focus of Part I. Others are looking for concrete ways to serve among the poor. The articles in Part II provide some of the answers practitioners have found in the Philippine context.

?: The Church


Charles Ringma’s article, Liberation Theologians Speak to Evangelicals:

A Theology and Praxis of Serving the Poor, brings two often opposing groups into dialogue. He goes where few evangelical theologians are willing to go — identifying how we can learn from liberation theo- logians regarding the poor. Evangelicals regained a sense of solidarity with the poor at Lausanne, but Ringma challenges us to go beyond these commitments by engaging the Scripture from a transformational perspective. He identifies service to the poor as central to our calling as the people of God.

Athena Evelyn Gorospe masterfully tells a biblical story of liberation and relates that story to community organizing. A Biblical Model of Empowerment: The Story of Gideon contains many lessons for Christian community development organizers. She uses the interplay of the Lord God with Gideon, his family, the oppressed Israelites, and the oppressive Midianites to tease out valuable principles for ministry among the marginalized. She also addresses one of the pitfalls of empowerment:

the oppressed become the oppressors. Samuel Jayakumar ties together two horizons: the world of the poor in biblical times and the oppressed and marginalized of today’s world. His article, He Has Filled the Hungry with Good Things: The Church’s Solidarity with the Poor, weaves together God’s concern and preference for the poor and our responsibility as the world’s largest organization to demonstrate the love of God. Jayakumar identifies consumerism and greed in the wealthy church as the source of stunted compassion leading to tokenism in bringing relief and structural change. There are psychological implications to what we think is the cause of poverty. Grace Shangkuan Koo in her article, Attributions of Poverty:

What Affluent Churches Can Do, addresses views of the non-poor and the poor regarding the locus of control of poverty. She discusses five perspectives on poverty, wrestles with three approaches Christians can take regarding poverty, and identifies actions affluent churches can take in alleviating poverty. Bina Agong, George Capaque, Timoteo Gener, Ian Hibionada, and Adonis Parian explore the connections between popular religiosity and poverty in the Philippine context. Popular religiosity is visual, tactile and need-oriented, whereas evangelicalism tends to be word- oriented. Their article, Poverty, Religion and Culture in the Devotion to the Black Nazarene: Lessons on Being a Church Among the Poor, identifies the need for concrete demonstrations of faith and God’s love among the poor. Jonathan Nambu examines the psyche of the non-poor in their inability to look into the face of poverty. Looking in the Eyes of the Hidden Among Us: Reflections on Seeing the Poor and Vulnerable is a challenge to gain a God-shaped awareness of the poverty that surrounds us. Relations of the non-poor with the poor are superficial at best, but

God knows the depth of our being. Reflecting on the God who sees helps us see the poor with new eyes.


Implementing a theory and theology of ministry among the poor requires a study of best practices. Ruth Callanta’s A Transformational Strategy Toward Filling the Hungry with Good Things moves beyond theologizing toward shaping best practices. Reaching out to approxim- ately 130,000 poor people, her organization, the Center for Community Transformation (CCT), is a model of holistic ministry. Callanta shares her journey from conventional development practices to a develop- mental model that addresses both the physical and the spiritual in transforming lives. Seek Justice: A Witness of Courage in a Suffering World, by Patty Sison-Arroyo, connects the work of the International Justice Mission (IJM) to the justice of God. She gives us a concrete example of how, in one case of child sexual abuse, the Christian community sought justice and was successful in prosecution. The implication is clear: as Christians we are to seek justice for the powerless, giving them a voice in the legal system and holding that system accountable to its God-given role. Larry W. Caldwell encourages us to rethink how we read the Scriptures. His Interpreting the Bible With the Poor makes two significant contributions to developing a hermeneutic with the poor. First, he identifies a two-step process of exegesis that puts equal emphasis on text and cultural context. Second, he identifies a hierarchy of three approaches for reading and relating the text that allows for appropriate strategies in understanding and applying the Scriptures to the context of the poor. In A Frontline View of the Effects of Principalities and Powers Among Street-Level Peripheral Communities , Edna P. Bacus and Lely-Beth Cagulada share four insightful stories from their ministry among the marginalized of Davao City. They remind us about the corrupting force of power, including power misused by Christians. Some Christian ministries among the poor can be oppressive rather than empowering.

Bacus and Cagulada encourage reflection and evaluation of our outreach with the poor, especially regarding our use of power. Holistic ministry among the marginalized deals with more than just physical needs. Urabayan: Bringing Wellness and Wholeness to Communities Under Crisis by Violeta Villaroman-Bautista underscores the need to address the psychosocial needs of communities in crisis. This is an empowering model utilizing the training of kaurabays, the natural nurturers in the community, as counselors among the distressed. All too often, Evangelicals skip over the vast history of Christianity in finding answers to today’s problems. Adonis Abelard Gorospe’s article, Methodist Societies: Paradigms for Incarnating Christ as Com- munities of God Among the Poor, demonstrates how the Methodist class meetings were training grounds to empower the poor. The class meetings were building blocks in creating communities of the Kingdom that changed people and the societies in which they lived. My own article, Designing Training for Urban Transformation, is based on forum workshops that identified appropriate formal and non-formal training for urban poor churches and communities, urban poor lay pastors and community leaders; urban poor pastoral and NGO staff; and urban poor senior pastors and NGO leaders. The participants recognized that theological education that is sensitive to the socio- economic conditions of the poor looks significantly different than seminaries operating with middle-class assumptions. An example of this is the Transformational Urban Leadership program at Asian Theological Seminary. Finally, I want to express my deep appreciation for all our speakers and seminar leaders, especially those serving directly among marginalized peoples. I am also thankful for our ATS editorial team members, Ms Bubbles Lactaoen, Dr Tim Gener, and the OMF Literature editorial staff for their efforts in helping prepare for publication this contribution to the shaping of an appropriate theology and practice of ministry among the poor. May the “mustard seeds” herein be useful for the growing of the Kingdom among the poor.


General Editor

Part I

Developing a Theory and Theology of Ministry Among the Poor

1 LIBERATION THEOLOGIANS SPEAK TO EVANGELICALS A Theology and Praxis of Serving the Poor 1
A Theology and Praxis
of Serving the Poor 1
Charles Ringma

A number of interrelated themes form the heart of this article. But the heartbeat has to do with God’s love and passion for the poor and our invitation to enter into that passion and to live that out in a costly discipleship marked by grace and joy. Primarily, I wish to bring some Latin American Liberation theologians into critical dialogue with a major section of Evangelicalism, namely the Lausanne movement. 2 The reason for this is that I believe that these theologians can help us, as Evangelicals, to deepen our understanding of and commitment to the poor. Thus this article is a constructive enterprise.

1 This article is the substance of a presentation given at the Fourth ATS Theological Forum, The Church and Poverty in Asia, February 7–8, 2008 at the Union Church of Manila, Philippines. 2 John Stott, ed., Making Christ Known: Historic Documents from the Lausanne Movement, 1974–1989, Grand Rapids: Eerdmans, 1997.



This kind of dialogue will not be easy, however. Many Evangelicals view Liberation theology with grave concern and often with deep suspicion. It is, therefore, possible that the voice and witness of the Liberation theologians will be prematurely dismissed, 3 just as a Muslim Indonesian rice farmer might not readily be heard by a Protestant Canadian wheat farmer, particularly if the former should raise concerns in relation to the latter. It must be recognized that my overall purpose is not to defend Liberation theology generally as a system or as a whole. I am all too aware of the many critics who have raised all sorts of concerns about this theology. 4 My purpose is more narrow and specific. I wish to suggest that Evangelical theologians, pastors, urban poor workers and community development personnel can learn from the theology and praxis of some of the Liberation theologians 5 regarding a more deeply biblically informed vision of serving the poor and a more grounded commitment in the work of justice and social transformation on behalf of the poor. In order to ground this dialogue between the Liberation theologians and Evangelicals, I seek to do two things. First, I want to restate the biblical vision regarding God’s concern for the poor. This, after all, should be fundamentally normative for the Christian community. And in the light of that witness, we can see to what extent both groups reflect the power and the challenges that the biblical witness brings.

3 The major, but largely unfounded, criticisms of Latin American Liberation theology are: the Gospel is de-emphasized; faith is cast in too-political terms; Marxist social theories are used; and concepts of violence to bring about social change are present in some of their writings, D. W. Ferm, Third World Liberation Theologies, Maryknoll: Orbis Books, 1988, 100–116. 4 A. F. McGovern, Liberation Theology and Its Critics: Towards an Assessment, Quezon City:

Claretian Publications, 1991; D. M. Bell, Liberation Theology After the End of History:

The Refusal to Cease Suffering, London: Routledge, 2001. 5 I will not be drawing on global Liberation theologies (C. Rowland, ed., The Cambridge Companion to Liberation Theology, Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 1999) or on Third world Liberation theologies in general (Ferm, Third World Liberation Theologies). I am only engaging some of the key Latin American Liberation theologians.



Second, I seek to listen to the witness of the Church’s long march in history. Throughout this history, Christians have always served the poor. 6 This long history demonstrates both the faithfulness and creativity of the faith community and the failure of the Church in living out the biblical witness regarding service to the poor. This will thus further situate both Evangelicals and the Liberation theologians regarding this long witness. That this history of the Church has been an uneven, potted and flawed history will not surprise us. The Church has been a passionate institution when it has been revitalized and renewed theologically, spiritually and missionally. It has also been a moribund community when it has become introspective, formalized and lacking in missional purpose. While all the larger denominational groupings within the Christian Church reflect this faithfulness/failure movement—and Evangelicals at times have served the poor well, 7 especially in times of renewal such as the Wesleyan revival 8 —I believe that, overall, Evangelicals have not fared well. The reasons for this are fourfold: Evangelicals do not seem to have developed a robust theology of the poor. Further- more, their focus has always tended to be more spiritual than social. Moreover, their response to the poor has often been driven more by pragmatics than by a biblical–theological vision. And finally, in the Evangelical documents of the Lausanne movement, service to the poor is more incidental and often peripheral. In contrast, as we shall see in the substance of this article, the Liberation theologians have a much richer theology of the poor, reflect the biblical vision more faithfully and, in the Church’s missional service

6 E. Troeltsch, The Social Teaching of the Christian Churches, vols I & II, New York: Harper & Row, 1960. 7 For some of the responses in the UK in the nineteenth and tw entieth centuries, see F. Coutts, Bread for my Neighbour: The Social Influence of William Booth, London: Hodder and Stoughton, 1978; G. Himmelfarb, Poverty and Compassion: The Moral Imagination of the Late Victorians, New York: Vintage Books, 1991; D. M. Lewis, Lighten Their Darkness:

The Evangelical Mission to Working-Class London, 1828–1860, New York: Greenwood Press, 2001.



to the poor, reflect a richer tradition than is captured in the Lausanne documents. This centrality regarding the poor in the writings of some of the Liberation theologians is articulated around the following themes:

1 Hermeneutically—the Bible is read from the perspective of God’s passion for the poor and, as such, it is read not as a book of com- fort for the middle classes but from the underside of history and the vision of God’s upside-down Kingdom.

2 Theologically — theology is structured by seriously engaging God’s preferential option for the poor, the Exodus motif and the incarnational mission of Jesus in bringing good news to the poor (Luke 7:22), producing a theology that is fundamentally missional in its basic orientation.

3 Spiritually—this hermeneutic and its theology move us from head to heart to embrace a spirituality of descent following that of the great hymn in Philippians 2 which expresses itself in “evangelical” poverty. This means that Christian theologians, pastors, facilitators, and urban poor workers are willing, for the sake of the Gospel, to move to the side of the poor through radical identification. This becomes the central motif for an incarnational spirituality.

4 Ecclesiastically —in the Base Ecclesial Communities (BECs) of South America we have seen the formation of the church of the poor, among the poor and for the poor. This is not a poor church primarily on its way to becoming a middle-class church, but a second form of being the people of God that has its own integrity and its own peculiar witness to the Global Church. 9

8 E. H. Oliver, The Social Achievements of the Christian Church, Toronto: Board of Evangelism and Social Service of the United Church of Canada, 1930; L. O. Hynson, To Reform the Nation: Theological Foundations of Wesley’s Ethics, Grand Rapids: Francis Asbury Press, 1984; H. A. Snyder, The Radical Wesley and Patterns for Church Renewal, Downers Grove: InterVarsity Press, 1980. 9 While Pope Paul VI was very concerned that the Base Ecclesial Communities “remain firmly attached to the local Church,” he nevertheless saw them as “hope for the universal Church” (Evangelii Nuntiandi 1989, 68).



5 Missiologically—the Liberation theologians do not move from abstract theological thinking to praxis. Instead, they move from the praxis of love of God and love of neighbor in service of the poor to theological reflection. Theology is, therefore, a second move, and not the first. The praxis of love and service is the first move and from this praxis a missional theology is constructed.

Clearly these themes pose a challenge to Evangelical thinking and mission. They comprise challenge worth engaging, so that our own Evangelical theology and praxis may be enriched and deepened and God’s heart for the poor may find a deeper resonance in our lives. 10 A comment needs to be made about the title of this article. This article is not based on the writings of Liberation theologians directly addressing Evangelicals. The Liberation theologians have tended to bring their main debate to bear on other Roman Catholic scholars and mainstream Protestant theologians. See for example, Juan Luis Segundo who engages J. Moltmann, J. Metz, R. Niebuhr, and Ruben Alves among others. 11 Interestingly, a brief critique is given of C. Peter Wagner’s writings. 12 The dialogue in the other direction has not been very significant either. Vinay Samuel’s and Chris Sugden’s extensive work: Mission as Transformation: A Theology of the Whole Gospel 13 has only scant

10 I am in no way suggesting that the Liberation theologians cannot learn from Evangelicals. Evangelical clarity in presenting the Gospel with its call to embrace the salvific work of God in Christ through the power of the Spirit is one challenge to the Liberation theologians. However, I am not suggesting either that they don’t preach the Gospel. Leonardo and Clodovis Boff are clear: “Jesus, the Son of God, took on oppression to set us free.” L. Boff & C. Boff, Introducing Liberation Theology, Maryknoll: Orbis Books, 1987, 53.

11 Juan Luis Segundo, Liberation of Theology, Maryknoll: Orbis Books, 1976, 125–153.

12 Segundo, Liberation of Theology, 134–135.

13 Vinay Samuel & Chris Sugden, eds., Mission as Transformation: A Theology of the Whole Gospel, Oxford: Regnum, 1999, 132, 164, 204.



references to a number of Liberation theologians, and no extensive discussion and debate is found in its pages. 14 So what this article seeks to do is provide a fuller listening to the challenges that the Liberation theologians bring, particularly to us as Evangelicals, 15 as we pass through the windows of the biblical narrative and the Church’s praxis in history.

A Brief Synopsis of the Biblical Perspectives Regarding the Poor

The point that first and foremost needs to be made is that God’s love and concern is for the whole of humanity (1 Timothy 2:3–4; Titus 2:11). In fact, God’s concern is for the whole created order and its full liberation (Romans 8:21) so that all things will find its full culmination in Christ (Colossians 1:20). Thus, God desires the salvation both of the Pharaohs of this world and of those who have been oppressed by the powerful. 16 The conversion of both to the heart and purposes of God has interesting and challenging implications. For the powerful, conversion

14 There are some Evangelical scholars who form an exception and have engaged Liberation theology, J. A. Kirk, Liberation Theology: An Evangelical View from the Third World, Basingstoke: Marshall Morgan & Scott, 1985; Ross Langmead, The Word Made Flesh: Towards an Incarnational Missiology, New York: University Press of America, 2004; O. E. Costas, Liberating News: A Theology of Contextual Evangelism, Grand Rapids:

Eerdmans, 1989. 15 I recognize that the term “Evangelical” is not without its problems. It can range from people adhering to a narrow fundamentalism to more radical positions. I place myself in the broad Evangelical tradition well set out by my former colleague, Stanley Grenz, Theology for the Community of God, Grand Rapids: Eerdmans, 2000. 16 While Martin Luther King Jr. believed that “we are called to speak for the weak, for the voiceless” (Charles Ringma, Let My People Go: with Martin Luther King Jr., Colorado Springs:

Pinon Press. 2004, reflection 112), he also emphasized that both the oppressed and the oppressor needed conversion and transformation. He writes, “We are all caught in an

inescapable network of mutuality “(J. M. Washington, ed., A Testament of Hope: The Essential Writings and Speeches of Martin Luther King Jr., New York: Harper San Francisco, 1991, 254). He went on to say that “God is interested in the freedom of the whole human race

and in the creation of a society where all

can live together

.” (215).