From the Worldwide Faith News archives www.wfn.org
Ecuador: CELAM and CLAI emphasise
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
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,"
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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