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Latin American Evangelicals, Pentecostals promote cooperation

Evangelical and Pentecostal Christians at the 9th Assembly of the World Council of Churches in February at Porto Alegre, Brazil, expressed a much needed solidarity with Protestant and Orthodox Christians in the WCC for deepening engagement to serve the poor.  They said it well.

Michael Ntumy of Ghana, a leader of the World Pentecostal Council, suggested that if the full body of Christ—Orthodox, Catholics, Protestants, Evangelicals and Pentecostals—were together, “we would be a spiritual colossus in the hands of God.  Nothing could hinder what we could accomplish!”

The Rev. Geoff Tunnicliffe

The Rev. Geoff Tunnicliffe, a Canadian leader of the World Evangelical Alliance, said, “If we ignore the world, we betray God’s Word.  In a world of pain, hate and struggle, we affirm that the only solution is God’s transforming grace.”

While ecclesiastical structures and a history of divisions keep the WEA and WCC separate, he believes they can work together on common concerns, such as genocide in Northern Uganda, social justice and the United Nations’ Millennial Goals.

Based on Luke 35’s reference to disciples catching many fish, Michael observed: “Even though we fish in boats—churches—with different labels, we are still partners.  We belong to one family on the same path.

“That Christians are split by distrust is sad,” he said, describing divisions between younger and older churches.  “Now 100 years have passed.  The children have matured.  Pentecostal churches are the fastest growing in the world.  It’s time for churches to extend their hands to each other and drop our acrimony and bitterness.”

Believing that Pentecostals need the social gospel and ecumenical Christians need the Pentecostal emphasis on proclaiming the gospel, he urges Pentecostal and WCC-related churches to meet at the world, national, regional and local levels to bring that vision into reality.

The Rev. Norberto Saracco

The Rev. Norberto Saracco, pastor of the Good News Evangelical Church in Buenos Aires, said as Evangelical and Pentecostal churches have been meeting to deepen unity in Latin America and act on behalf of people who are struggling, they are gaining appreciation for Christians in the ecumenical movement.

He calls for walking hand and hand, recognizing common belief but not glossing over real divisions.  He is concerned that diversity and plurality, values from Protestant history, “drift us toward fragmentation and polarization. For Evangelical churches, unity comes from their faithfulness to God’s Word and mission.”

Norberto hopes Latin American ecumenism  of God’s people walking together will break mainstream ecumenism out of its inertia, because millions of Christians have no understanding of the divisions.

Norberto offers some ways for evangelical and WCC churches to relate: 

• Regard each other with respect;

• Recognize how ecumenical brothers and sisters have risked their lives as witnesses to Jesus Christ’s justice and truth;

• Break down the prejudice of treating others as sects or a threat;

• Realize the religious shift from the Northern to the Southern Hemisphere.  

• See the common challenges as impoverished people, pillaged lands and societies in bondage to sin;

• Accept diversity as an expression of God’s grace, recognizing that there are different ways of being church, and

• Accept one another without reservation, without dividing churches into first- and second-class churches.

He concluded with questions:  “Suppose we give the Spirit a chance? Is this not time for a new Pentecost?”

Norberto believes “only a Spirit-filled church will see racial, sexual, economic and ecclesiastical barriers come down.”