JESUS' Helpers' Office


Helpers’ Office

Recommended additional reading (with Holy Ghost's presence (as read)):

 That is, additional to Scripture (Old and New Testaments), King James preferred

Pilgrims Progress (parts 1 & 2)

The Imitation of Christ.

Purpose Driven Life

Power in Praise

God Calling


Liberated Theology





Basic Ecclesial Communities (BECs) are the product of a combination of social and religious events in Latin America. This resulted in outcomes that demonstrate the application of Biblical principles in Christian communities that were not structured or supported as is the case in most modern Western church denominations. They are a study in producing insights, into relatively modern concepts, regarding similar possibilities for any Christian community.  We could say, in them we see a demonstration of how all Christians can be part of the gospel in their lives and their community’s liberation, regardless of access to usual church structures or organizations. This all presents itself in settings that are not too dissimilar to many Christian community environments today, globally.


In BEC’s we look at the liberating dynamic of the Christian life that is often left un-addressed in normal, comfortable church settings. This Christian lifestyle is demonstrated throughout Latin America, particularly in the Catholic churches there. The usual communal settings in the period from post World War II to the present experiencing much suffering. This period has included phases of political and economic oppression that were inhumane on the vulnerable. This had been inflicted by the powerful.


Liberation Theology is presented as the foundational theology underpinning BEC’s. It develops in response to the political and economic difficulties facing Christian people void of their usual church support systems. It was used here in a context of controversy and contention.  It then developed and found that it is useful to many other in many settings with similar needs


Thus, we (in the West) can find that we have a lot to learn as there presents no limits to the applications and possibilities concerning Liberation Theology and the demonstration of its life in and through BEC’s.  In fact, with humility we may see this as a truer form of living the gospel than we currently experience. To be fair, we may need to acknowledge the type of oppression in Latin America is not occurring in the West (largely), at present. While also acknowledging the presence of such oppression’s existence, in different forms.



What is Liberation Theology?



Liberation Theology is where there are situations where Christian principles are applied to daily experiences. The applying of basic Christian values to them. In one’s individual and communal life. Void of the direct controls of any institutional church organizational structures.  That’s Liberation Theology.  The recognition of the Bible in our life-experiences (Rowland, 2007). It could be summed up in the concept of following Jesus, being his ‘disciple’ (Gutierrez, 2007, p. 27).  Just as Jesus covered all life’s dimensions, so too does Liberation Theology (Kärkkäinen 2021).


Gutierrez (2007) declares Liberation Theology to be the presence of the workings of Jesus: “a way to understand the grace and salvation of Jesus” (Gutierrez, 2007, p.19).  This (he says) from the context of an under-privileged, marginalized people. He goes on to say that “God and God’s love are, ultimately, its only theme” (Gutierrez, 2007, p. 19).  A high call accompanied by an acknowledgment that its high standard(s) are not always adhered to.


Thus, Gutierrez (2007) would tell us that God and his love are the foundation themes of Liberation Theology.  He goes on (Gutierrez, 2007, p 25) to point to the consequences of a “savage’ capitalism that removes people’s ‘dignity’, particularly the underprivileged.  Pattel-Gray (1998) makes very clear that there’s a need for Liberation Theology for the Aboriginal peoples in Australia.  That is, Liberation Theology is not foreign but needed wherever there is a sense of injustice that connects with theological endeavour.  This theological endeavour does not demand academic standing.


Kärkkäinen (2021) says Liberation Theology is theology with a political mind-set.  One that makes connections between faith and social circumstances.  One that includes God as liberator and faithful and just. In practical terms! A God interested in economics and culture.  One not separating the earthly and spiritual. Rather seeing their inter-connectedness. Not divorcing them, as tends to occur in ‘classical theology’ (Kärkkäinen, 2021, p 103). Rather, it presents them as is more seen in the integrated Christology demonstrated in the New Testament.


Gutierrez (2007, p 25) would open our eyes to the ‘idolatry’ in capitalism that ‘crushes the dignity of human beings’. This leads to an analysis that demonstrates the need for liberation from that. A liberation that is ‘ultimately to be found in the salvation of Christ’ (Gutierrez, 2007, p. 27).  That is, we find ourselves with a theology, even a Christology that joins economics, politics, and theology.  All within the idea of liberation of the down-trodden human person. In short, telling such people they are, in spirit and in truth, children of God. This counter-concept dilemma presents itself as a Latin American theological ‘key question’ (Gutierrez, 2007, p 28).


However, Gutierrez (2007, p 28) would say this is universal and foundational to all Christian endeavour.  In that, where there is a ‘veneration of God’ there needs to be the accompanying doing of his will. In fact, he says theology comes from being the church, its practical living.  It is in fact a way of life, the act of ‘becoming a disciple of Jesus’ (Gutierrez, 2007, p.29).  Not just theoretical.  In fact, as we follow ‘in the footsteps of Jesus’, the theological reflection arises from that (Gutierrez, 2007, p.30).  Not the other way around.  We further become ‘agents’ (Gutierrez, 2007, p. 30) of that reflection.


In fact, we have ‘a gospel of liberation’ (Gutierrez, 2007, p 32).  The gospel is practical. It’s good news. It brings in a new kingdom, one without oppression. A clean community. This involves ‘a prophetic and mystical language about God’ (Gutierrez, 2007, p 36) that applies itself to real world problems. For its healing. For the connecting with the realities of ‘human suffering’ (Gutierrez, 2007, p 37). In practical, helpful terms. In short, a theology that connects the Word to action: ‘totally devoted to the service of all’ (Gutierrez, 1970, p 244).  Gutierrez says, that’s Liberation Theology.


The spirit of God, says Gutierrez (1970), finds itself activated through Liberation Theological reflections. This includes the addressing of inhumane economics (Gutierrez, 1970, p 246). The term liberation, he says (Gutierrez, 1970, p 247) thus best fits this theology. However, in work for a more just society, there is the risk of this enterprise replacing ‘interest in the kingdom’ of God (Gutierrez, 1970, p 251). The reverse logic is also risky:  priests (and others), working for the kingdom (of God) being classified troublemakers and worse (Gutierrez, 1970). This is further added to by an exegesis that ignores the perspectives of the ‘poor and oppressed’ (Kärkkäinen, 2021, p 104) While also needing to not overlook the call to ‘flourishing’ for humanity (Kärkkäinen, 2021) and its associated responsibilities (for disciples) to share this good news.  This possibly includes the ‘prophetic role’ of the church (Gutierrez, 1970, p 251), part of its ordained functionality.


That is, the Catholic church at the time was immersed in dogmatic teaching based on ‘colonial’ traditions (Kärkkäinen, 2021, p 105). This was not helped by lack of local clergy and no openness to new insights regarding local theological reflection and perspectives. There comes across a sense that additionally, the church had lost its perspective on ‘redemption’ and the liberation of humanity (Kärkkäinen, 2021, p 106) The 1968 CELAM meeting (with Pope Paul VI) possibly started to address some of these issues (Kärkkäinen, 2021, p 106). However, the changing of formal policies needed ‘authentic’ conversion to the new values (Kärkkäinen, 2021, p 106): a call of fidelity to the gospel’ (Gutierrez, 1970, p 252). 


To be ‘in the system but not of the system’ is a useful key phrase to breaking conflicts within Christianity concerning Liberation Theology’s applications (Gutierrez, 1970, p 253).  This may call all Christians for lives less associated with comfort and more inclined to suffer on behalf of the oppressed, in their hurts, by the powerful.  A call to action, even politically, economically, sociologically.



What are Base Communities?



They are the result of events over a period of history of the church in Latin America (Dawson, 2007). Kärkkäinen (2021) says they are the product of insufficient local priest and religious in the established Catholic church’s structures in Latin America.  Dawson (2007) sees Brazil as a focal point historically and conceptually for this trend’s developments as they occurred:  largely within Catholicism.


Dawson (2007) divides the development of these communities (in Brazil) into 4 stages.  The initial phase, pre-1962 starts post World War II.  This is seen as a result of the impacts of the coming of industrialized lifestyles and urbanization. With the added involvements of increased Communism and Protestant denominational institutions, in formerly purely Catholic communities.  Kärkkäinen (2021, p 109) adds the ‘Pentecostalization of Latin America Christianity’ and the increased influences of Pentecostalism throughout all denominational settings. These factors are significantly added to by a decline in Catholic clergy, to the point that the people are largely left alone.  The priest’s visits become occasional, and their role is largely only for the performing of the formalities of the sacraments.  Further, there were developments of communal halls where religious and secular gatherings took place.  These, combined with increasing lay involvements blurred religious/non-religious classifications.


The next phase was 1962 -1968. Here, Vatican II influences commenced, whereby the church became seen as an inter dependent organism needing all to function, including laity.  In fact, emphasis also occurred that acknowledged the validity of smaller communal functions under a larger church oversight.  The formal acceptance of the more intimate communal small group function took place at the Medellin conference of Latin American Bishops in 1968.


From 1969 to 1974 another phase of development occurs.  Here, military dictatorship in Brazil caused oppressive unhuman sufferings, needing local intimate supportive responses.  At this time Gustavo Gutiérrez, in Peru (Dawson, 2007, p. 146) came to be known for, not just spiritual counsel, but intimate physical help.  The meeting of basic human necessities of parishioners began. This period presents as a time of vital inclusion of scripture by lay people into reflection and even its connecting with and even addressing intimate heart-felt necessities of the time. This was termed “See-Judge-Act’ (Dawson, 2007, p. 148) as parishioners acted on reflective insights accompanied by scriptural exhortations.  Largely overseen in a lay environment.


In the next phase, from 1975 to the present (2007) there comes across a sense of victory with dramatic changes occurring.  That change in some ways caused a lessening of the BEC’s community involvements. In essence, in this period, military dictatorships decline, while democratic government increases.  However, non-assistance to the marginalised or underprivileged continues, but now in a more capitalist style. Dawson (2007) expresses his opinion that it wasn’t until the development of national conferences for BEC’s that they were ‘born’, in 1975.  These conferences included attendance of academics and a presentation of a formality of acknowledgment not previously present.


In summary, BEC’s were born from strife, hostility and oppression combined with inadequate church supports.  This left local church communities in poorer districts, to provide communal or base supportive mechanisms from among themselves.  Essential for personal survival in such contexts.  Yet still under that minimal church oversight.  When the formal dictatorship ended, the informal more subtle oppression of abuses from capitalism took their place.  The church remained distant from local or base needs, so that in short, the locals took on the role of the priests (in minimal supply) and scripture took on increased significance.


Kärkkäinen (2021, p 107) notes that while changes occurred with the Vatican II implementations, a hierarchical style of administration continued, void of needed ‘sensitivity to local needs.’  While the BEC’s convey the gospel of good news to the poor.  Not rivalling the traditional church (the Catholic church) but rather complimenting it. Incorporating the priests but functioning foundationally as a community.  Kärkkäinen (2021, p 109) says that ‘the BEC’s ecclesiology is still in the making’, an exciting prospect, not only for Latin American Catholics, but the whole world and all denominations.



What can we learn from this?



Academic, mind-focused theology can miss the foundational concepts essential for Christian life (Rowland 2007).  Scripture is practical in its exhortations. Scripture has capacity to speak for itself to any context. Being the church is not necessarily a formal act.  It can develop naturally where circumstances allow. All can find a part to play, a contribution to make, a work to do.


In BEC’s we can see possibilities for all Christians everywhere, in all societies and of all religious backgrounds.  Where the basic principles of the gospel focus on the meeting of needs as shown in Jesus’ life, amazing things happen. All establishments of Christianity, to varying degrees have contribution to the redemption of humanity from its ongoing imprisonment to old harmful ways.  Yet we are not to remain bound to the limits of their insights and capacities.  But rather, to be liberated to becoming more fully, the embodiments (incarnation) of that that we read in scripture.


This may include tensions and contentions even within and between Christian establishments, as recorded here.  Such scenarios will call for mercy gentleness and patience.  In short, the doing of what comes to hand, in the right (Christ-like) spirit. Becoming truly Christian even if it conflicts with current institutional mind-sets and expectations.  Particularly when they are unsupportive, either intentionally or otherwise, of beckoning needs-addressing(s).






This learning from BEC’s will need humility and contrition.  An ecclesiology from below is a counter to established church (denominational) systems, that are often hierarchical. The potential results for being a church, is that it is likely to cause a destabilizing or perhaps even removal of the current hierarchy’s established and institutionalized (secure) bodies. This may be too disturbing for some. They may in fact see themselves as doing God a service in inhibiting such unconventional developments. This will call for forgiveness on the part of any reacted to in this manner.


In short, to see BEC’s as a new ‘order’ to be adhered to will just create another problematic venture (eventually).  That is, there needs to be a reality of liberation.  The allowance of the spirit to address needs in ways scripture intends.  To fulfill, embody the Word in the spirit of its intentions. With the liberty of the body of believers to fill their diverse contributions, in that spirit intended.






Dawson A., (2021) The origins and character of the base ecclesial community:  a Brazilian perspective. In C. Rowland, (Ed), (2007). The Cambridge Companion to Liberation Theology (pp. 139 – 158). (2nd ed., Cambridge Companions to Religion). Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, doi.10.1017/CCOL0521868831


Gutierrez M., (2007) translated by JUDITH CONDOR The task and content of liberation theology. In C. Rowland, (Ed), (2007). The Cambridge Companion to Liberation Theology (pp. 139 – 158). (2nd ed., Cambridge Companions to Religion). Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, doi.10.1017/CCOL0521868831


Gutierrez M., (1970) Notes for a Theology of Liberation Gustavo Theological Studies, 31 no 2 Jun 1970, p 243-261


Kärkkäinen V., (2021) An Introduction to Ecclesiology: Ecumenical, Historical & Global

Perspectives. Downers Grove: Intervarsity Press, 2021.


Pattel-Gray, A. (1998) The Great White Flood, Racism in Australia:  Critically Appraised from an Aboriginal Historic-Theological Viewpoint.  Scholars Press Atlanta 1998


ROWLAND, C., (2007) Introduction: the theology of liberation. In C. Rowland, (Ed), (2007). The Cambridge Companion to Liberation Theology (pp. 139 – 158). (2nd ed., Cambridge Companions to Religion). Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, doi.10.1017/CCOL0521868831

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