From the Worldwide Faith News archives

Ecuador: CELAM and CLAI emphasise

Date 08 Apr 2000 02:11:08

importance of ecumenism

April 8, 2000
Adventist Press Service (APD)
Christian B. Schaeffler, Editor-in-chief
Fax +41-61-261 61 18
CH-4003 Basel, Switzerland

Ecuador: CELAM and CLAI representatives emphasise 
importance of ecumenism

Quito, Ecuador.    Representatives from the 
Ecumenism Section (SECUM) of the (Roman Catholic) 
Latin American Bishops' Conference (CELAM), which 
represents 22 Latin American national bishops' 
conferences, and the Latin American Council of 
Churches (CLAI), that groups together more than 
120 Protestant Churches, held a joint meeting 
March 20-21, 2000 in Quito.

SECUM president and the Apostolic Vicar of 
Bluefields, Nicaragua, Pablo Schmitz Simon 
declared that work for the unity of the Christian 
Church is not an option but "an imperative of our 
Evangelising action."

At the same time, CLAI President Walter Altmann, 
said that together with the Biblical and 
Evangelical mandate for unity, there are also 
community and social values in our reality that 
demand an effort for ecumenism.

Meetings between these Catholic and Evangelical 
groups have been taking place since May 1977. At 
that time, the then president of SECUM, Bishop 
Jose Luis Lacunza and its executive secretary, 
Presbyterian Juan Carlos Urrea, visited the CLAI 
offices in Quito to re-launch dialogue about 
possible areas of co-operation. CLAI leaders 
visited the CELAM headquarters in Bogota 
(Colombia) in 1998 and 1999.

Schmitz said that the Roman Catholic Church 
considers the division of Christians to be a 
scandal. "Unity is urgent and our presence in 
Quito, in the CLAI headquarters, is a sign of this 
task," he said.

Altmann said that ecumenism is the work of the 
Holy Spirit and a response to the gift of unity 
given to us in Christ. "We can say that it is not 
a human project but rather there is human 
participation in something that comes from God," 
he underlined.

In analysing the reality of the continent, Altmann 
referred to recent growth in Evangelical Churches, 
in particular in Pentecostal and neo-Pentecostal 
Churches, which have produced a growing religious 

"I think we have all the Evangelical, Biblical and 
theological reasons for the Ecumenical command but 
I also think that Latin American reality presents 
us with a challenge: that our Churches not be a 
reflection of fragmentation and competition, but 
rather that they give testimony to unity in 
Christ," said Altmann.

Presbyter Juan Carlos Urrea, SECUM advisor that 
"in these past 3 years we have discovered many 
things that united us, recognised our mistakes and 
silences and have become more aware of the 
division of our Churches and the value of unity."

During the meeting SECUM and CLAI representatives 
analysed the perspectives for collaboration in the 
next few years, in particular in areas of 
ecumenical formation and Latin American religious 
reality studies. They also sought mechanisms to 
activate dialogue between Catholicism and historic 
Reform Churches and Catholicism and Pentecostal 

Catholic participants included Bishop Schmidt and 
Urrea, the current executive SECUM secretary Jaime 
Velez, the secretary of the Ecumenism Department 
of the Ecuadorian Bishops Conference Luis Cabrera 
and Bishop Emeritus Luis Alberto Luna Tobar. Along 
with Altman, CLAI secretary general Israel Batista 
and members of the secretariat participated.

CLAI member churches include Baptist, Brethren, 
Congregational, Disciples, Episcopal, Evangelical, 
Friends, Lutheran, Mennonite, Methodist, Nazarene, 
Orthodox, Pentecostal, Presbyterian, Reformed, 
Salvation Army and Waldensian. (Contribution of 
Agencia Latinoamericana y Caribena de Comunicacion 

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