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Global Vision - Spring 2010

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Meet Guillermo Hansen, Associate Professor of Systematic Theology

by John Klawiter, M.Div. Middler

Professor Guillermo Hansen

Guillermo Hansen joined the Luther Seminary faculty in 2008. Originally from Buenos Aires, Argentina, Hansen has published essays, chapters, and articles extensively in both English and Spanish. His new book Doing Lutheran Theology Inside the Gaps was published in Spanish this March.

What are your areas of specialty?

There are three areas. 

One is contemporary interpretation of Lutheran theology. 

The second is theology and culture, and there are two aspects of this: how culture is re-shaped by globalization and the relation with science—it is having a global effect. The second aspect is deep psychology and its relation between archetypes and biblical symbols.

My third area of specialty is in church and society. I study theology and economics and their importance through Luther's theology. For example, the order of creation and the ways in which God comes to us.  It's important, not only to engage ethically, but to consider and question what is the place of economy in relation with God and God's community. In my writing for Dialog (a theological journal), I approach this topic critically and consider the ramifications of neo-liberalism that is captured around the world.

What was your involvement as an advisor with Lutheran World Federation like?

I was elected in 1996 as a theological advisor to the Council, participating in the standing committee for theology and studies. There we would carry on study projects worldwide.

Our task was not to "provide," but to facilitate, which was an ongoing process of theological reflection testing our common Lutheran theology in face of different pressing issues present in the churches and societies. I contributed as a theological resource, consultant, keynote speaker or by lecturing in churches and seminaries around the world.

What is the Lutheran church like in South America?

In Latin America, the Lutheran church is a minority, but a growing and significant minority. One hundred years ago, there were only Lutheran churches in four to five countries and they were mostly ethnic churches with European descent. 

Today, the Lutheran church is in every major country. The Lutheran church had a role in the '70s and '80s by working for human rights during the dictatorships. You see an attraction to the church because of its reputation. Now, there's a general witness to church in society.

More specifically, can you talk a bit about the church in Argentina—what is it like?

In Argentina, the church has been involved in three main issues. First, the AIDS issue. With it came a host of other issues that were raised by the church through engaging with the other. Mostly, because of gay people, a healthy discussion on sexuality resulted. Working with people who were suffering came back and transformed the church. Also, it evangelized the church and provided a new dimension of the gospel.

Second, the indigenous population. There is a lot of enculturation and how we present the Gospel considering mythical values of indigenous people. An area of missionary concern is to avoid past mistakes.

And third is education, which concerns the well-being of society, culture and the church. In the last 20 years, [education] has deteriorated. For the church, it is serving by having schools. There has been a lot of discussion that education is a state responsibility. But in an emergency, when the state withdraws and you don't have a political servant and there's corruption, what do you do in between? It opens up a presence of the church to large segments of the population and there's an opportunity there because it's a door to the church, but it's also the other way around. 

What do you see as major cultural or missional changes taking place in the world today? 

I see contradictory shifts and movements. On one hand, we are moving into a more international or global culture. On the other hand, there is a renewed stress or emphasis in local churches, and on local cultures and lost traditions. These represent two different languages or levels, culturally speaking.

Also, there is a set of questions regarding our awareness of pluralism and what it entails for the mission of the church and Christian identity.

Topics like climate change will create a lot of economic and social pressure on people worldwide. We'll see a massive movement of populations and the question is how will the global community, and the church, respond with attitudes and structures of hospitality instead of fear and rejection?

Read more about Dr. Guillermo Hansen in his faculty profile and bio