From the Worldwide Faith News archives www.wfn.org
CLAI GENERAL ASSEMBLY MEETS IN CHILE
05 May 1996 08:38:14
95041 CLAI GENERAL ASSEMBLY MEETS IN CHILE
by Jerry L. Van Marter
LOUISVILLE, Ky.--Meeting in Concepcion, Chile, against a backdrop
of shifting political, theological and cultural sands, the Latin
American Council of Churches (CLAI) held its third General Assembly
Jan. 25-Feb. 1.
More than 500 church and lay leaders, theologians, resource
people and observers attended the Assembly. The Rev. Benjamin
Gutierrez, coordinator for South America in the Worldwide
Ministries Division, and the Rev. Gary Campbell, missionary in
Nicaragua, attended the Assembly as invited observers representing
the Presbyterian Church (U.S.A.).
Conspicuously absent were the Roman Catholic and Orthodox
Churches, said Andrea Cano, CLAI press officer. She said a pre-
Assembly letter from CLAI to those churches explained that "the
religious profile of Latin America and the Caribbean has changed
and with that our relationships." The letter ended with an
expression of "hope that this decision will not be more than a
necessary and responsible pause that will deepen our shared
vocation of witness and service."
Assembly delegates spent much time discussing the changing
fabric of religious life in the region, particularly the growth of
Protestant and Pentecostal churches and the social impact of that
According to Ecuadorian theologian C. Rene Padilla, the
"conquest of Latin America by Catholicism was an authentic crusade
... to bring the pagans to Christ." Such an approach has led to
increasing rejection of the Roman Catholic Church, Padilla said,
as Latin American countries have increasingly eliminated vestiges
of colonialism, both political and religious.
Padilla was later challenged by former World Council of
Churches general secretary Emilio Castro, an Uruguayan, who argued
that the sins of Protestants also need to be delineated and that
a movement to a more socially aware Protestant culture "does not
guarantee, as in Puerto Rico (where non-Catholic Christians
comprise 50 percent of the population), a decrease in such social
problems as drug trafficking, crime, violence and all."
Arturo Piedras, a Baptist pastor in Costa Rica, faulted both
Catholic and Protestant theologians for "the lack of impact of
Latin American theology as well as liberation theology to help
constitute a new society." He sparked lively debate with his
indictment of all churches in Latin America "for failure to reach
the poor and marginalized for whom our theologies are intended."
Delegates unanimously approved creation of a secretariat for
youth, the first such separate youth department in the 14-year
history of the organization. The Assembly also took initial steps
toward creating a secretariat for women. The current CLAI
structure combines women, children and family ministry.
The Rev. Walter Altmann from the Igrega Evangelica de
Confessao Luterano do Brazil was elected the second president of
CLAI. He succeeds Federico Pagura, bishop emeritus of the
Methodist Church of Argentina, who has headed CLAI since 1978.
In his farewell message, Pagura called the Council "to be
faithful to its founding call," adding that "on facing the
`religious supermarket,' the unbridled competition of proselytizing
and the ethical crisis of our generation, we must maintain a firm
commitment to the Gospel, to the call for unity, for dialogue, for
pluralistic respect and honest and genuine cooperation in
everything that has to do with life and the fullness of life which
Jesus Christ came to give us."
At the conclusion of the Assembly, CLAI delegates issued a
"Carta de Concepcion." The open letter echoed the Assembly theme,
"Rebirth for a Living Hope," calling for spiritual rebirth in Latin
America at a time when Ecuador and Peru are engaged in a border
conflict, when numerous Latin American and Caribbean countries
continue to combat the effects of colonialism, and when
discrimination and marginalization of the poor still exist for
The letter noted "signs of hope" -- growing churches,
increased participation by young people, women and the poor in the
life of the churches. It declares that "we have been affirmed by
hope and in that hope God has a project for life ... which calls
us to serve faithfully for He who was resurrected to give us life
and life abundantly. ..."
# # #
For more information contact Presbyterian News Service
Presbyterian Church (U.S.A.), Louisville, KY 40202
phone 502-569-5504 fax 502-569-8073
E-mail PCUSA.NEWS@pcusa.org Web page: http://www.pcusa.org
Browse month . . .
Browse month (sort by Source) . . .
Advanced Search & Browse . . .