creation. In her ‘Spiral Method of Action Model’, she concerts that “the spiral of engagement and reflection begins with the commitment to the task of raising up signs of God’s new household with those who are struggling for justice and full humanity” Russell (23). We cannot have the liberating action in the world without first communicating and acknowledging one’s particular faith and socio-historical cultural context. These ingredients allow for reflection that is predicated on the needs of the suffering community. According to Russell and Elizondo, the central commitments may change as the starting point is often no the same, as the starting point of the “table talk” conversation is to address issues that are of pertinence in the realities of the marginalized. Out of this commitment to action in solidarity with the mestizaje – Galilean Jews of society and a sharing of experiences of suffering ruse questions about biblical and ecclesial tradition. A social analysis may illumine a broadened insight of the Gospel in its Good News for the oppressed and marginalized. The reflections that result from these discussions may have to reveal fruitful insights or universal truths. The theological spiral thus continues as we seek conversation with those from a different context, thus in this sense “we speak of ‘doing theology’ of doing table talk because of theology itself is a spiral that connects action and reflection in a continuing process of discovery” (Russell 30) Although the individual locale of the perspectives are particular to the subject, the truths that result from these discussions can be of universal significance.
In journeying and listening to their people—in particular, the cries of the voiceless and insignificant among them—both Elizondo and Russell have developed theologies locating the preferential option of God and calling others to solidarity with those whom God has championed. Rather than succumbing to the derogatory view of mestizaje of the past, Elizondo is able to find the privileged position of his reality through the understanding of God’s revelation. By examining his own reality, Elizondo is able to continue the ecclesial traditions of conveying the Good News in relevant terms. Jesus is the mestizo-type figure who calls those once considered nothing to be something valuable in God’s Kingdom. Elizondo and Russell found particular and universal answers out of their own identity and experience. Knowing and understanding one’s identity allows God’s communication to enter one’s life in a unique, meaningful, and powerful way.
The Christology of Jesus reflects the preferential role of the Church for Russell and Elizondo as one of integration with the lowly and oppressed of society not of separation. According to Elizondo, if the church is to be a “faithful witness to the Master, it must be identified with the poor and the oppressed of the world” (Elizondo 93). Like Jesus united in solidarity with the Galilean – Jews, Elizondo, and Russell believes the Church should exemplify a similar integration with the marginalized in society. The Church betrays the fundamental message of Christ and the Gospel when it refuses to be a Church of the poor and oppressed but caters to the affluent and powerful. For if we are not living in solidarity with those in most need, we are dissolving the “fundamental essence of Church Life.” For Russell, the Church must exude the essence of Christ in its structure and mission of alleviating the plight of the marginalizes persons, men, and women across all boundaries like race, class, and religion (Russell 41). She simply defines the Church as a gathering around the Presence if Christ and rooted in a faith in the proclamation of the Gospel;1 there should be no power or vain conceit but a willingness to freely separate ourselves from what separates us from seeking justice and bearing the new creation “for the needy of the world”, for this is the most powerful proclamation of the Gospel (Elizondo 92).
Although the Church may become increasingly more attentive to serve the impoverished and outcasts among their community, Elizondo and Russell still maintain the opinion that there is no perfect church, but “we must seek to point Beyond ourselves to God’s new household” (Russell 44). Therefore, in the perspective of Russell and Elizondo, the Church must just maintain a strong witness to the love of Christ by seeking to mend and liberate creation. Under this assumption, the Church is not a refuge from the imperfect world, but an established witness to the love of Christ woven into the collective fabric of society.2 Because Christ is viewed as a figure of unity and solidarity with the marginalized and the world at large, this Christology reflects upon the ecclesiological methodology of Russell and Elizondo.
By specifically identifying how God communicates today and who is being addressed, their theologies of a particular locale have unveiled universal tenets of our faith. For example, in the words of Letty Russell, “context is not understood as the opposite of universal the focus on context is intended to bring together both the universal and the particular in a way that respects unity in diversity (Russell 44). Therefore, our contexts can connect us to a larger truth regarding human nature and expand our perspective on biblical or ecclesiological tradition. Like Jesus uses his particular context for the gift of universal salvation, our specific locales may allow for a deepened understanding of what it means to address the plight of the poor and live in solidarity with the oppressed today.
1 Russell’s definition of what the church should look like is consistent with the ecclesiology of Luther, as the Church exists to Luther as a gathering of people in faith around the Eucharist, united by the Holy Spirit.
2 Russell’s and Elizondo’s view of an imperfect Church being of living witness to the Church is inconsistent with that of the Donatists and Pelagians, who believed any “undesirable” or sin within the Church extinguished the light of Christ within. Augustine, however, advocated for a “mixed body” Church not an “ark” away from the world. According to Russell and Elizondo, Augustine’s ecclesiology would not only be more in line with their model of unity for the Church with the world, but would furthermore instill the Light of Christ more abundantly.