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PhD Story

Rainer Siemens

I am Rainer Siemens, 39 years old, and belong to a Mennonite community in Paraguay, South America. The “Virgin Mary” caught my interest because she is a constant presence in Paraguayan and Latin American religiosity.

The study “Mary in Latin America” presents a theological approach to Mary from an Evangelical-Mennonite perspective in the context of Latin America. Mary, the mother of Jesus Christ, as a theological research topic fills a significant gap left in Evangelical theology since the Reformation, as Mary has rarely been the subject of in-depth theological reflection in the Evangelical/Protestant sphere. This deficit is particularly noticeable in Latin America, where Marian devotion has a strongly unique embodiment and is part of the lived faith of the majority of the Catholic faithful. Evangelical/Free Church theology has, thus far, mostly omitted this topic. In order to fill this void, the present study examines the research topic through religious-historical, systematic-theological, ecumenical and intercultural approaches.

This decidedly Evangelical/Mennonite approach is founded upon an initial exploration of Mary’s religious-historical inculturation in Latin America. This basis makes it possible, first of all, to approach the issue of popular Catholic devotion to Mary. It then analyzes the existing interconfessional controversies that address Mary’s prominent position in theology, worship and piety. In this context, the present study examines the official Catholic doctrinal exhortations since Vatican II (in particular Lumen Gentium VIII) and the Catechism of the Catholic Church in order to understand the foundations of the Catholic perspective of Mary.

Moreover, the Catholic-Mariological contributions from Latin America are highlighted.

The Catholic substantiations are then methodologically subjected to the existing Evangelical criticism of Mary. This approach makes it possible to avoid polemical assertions and to identify fundamental divergences in the Marian question.

The insights elaborated in this study make it possible to present a distinctly Latin American approach to Mary, taking into account the Anabaptist/Mennonite theological tradition. The primary deliberation focuses on a critical appreciation of popular religiosity, Mary's significance for the church liturgy, the relevance of Mary's "divine motherhood" for Christ's doctrine of two natures, as well as its effects on topoi such as the history of salvation, the Trinity, ecclesiology, and her place within the "cloud of witnesses". Accordingly, the implications for an ethic based on the “discipleship of Christ” in the context of Latin America are presented. As a result, it becomes evident that Mary is not only "Roman Catholic", she is also "Mennonite" because she is of Christ.


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