Blog de PROLADES
El propósito de este blog es de crear una
plataforma de discusión para las personas interesadas en dialogar
sobre asuntos de importancia en la vida de la Iglesia Cristiana en Américas Latina, sobre los estudios sociorreligiosos de PROLADES
y de otras organizaciones, y sobre acontecimientos en la sociedad que afecta la credibilidad y la imagen de la Iglesia Cristiana en el medio ambiente.
El moderador es el Director de PROLADES, Clifton L. Holland, en Costa Rica.
Favor de leer, estudiar y reflexionar sobre los
documentos aquí presentados y enviarnos sus comentarios al respecto.
Las opiniones representadas en este Blog no necesariamente reflejan las convicciones y las opiniones de PROLADES.
TEMA: SECULARIZACIÓN – SECULARIZATION
The Influence of Secularization on Religious Desertion in Latin America
By Clifton L. Holland, Director of PROLADES – 9 April 2013
A Definition of Secularization
Secularization refers to the
historical process in which religion loses social and cultural significance. As
a result of secularization the role of religion in modern societies becomes
restricted. In secularized societies faith lacks cultural authority, religious
organizations have little social power, and public life proceeds without
reference to the supernatural. Source: Encyclopedia of Protestantism at: http://www.sociology.emory.edu/flechner/Secularization%20Encyclopedia%20of%20Protestantism%202003.pdf
The process of secularization is often cited as a major cause of Catholic desertion in the context of Latin America, where there has been a progressive decline in the number of Catholic adherents according to public opinion polls on religious affiliation since the early 1980s. However, rather than being a cause of desertion, it is my opinion that secularization is better described as the endresult of institutional and pastoral deficiencies within the Catholic Church (as well as in other Christian traditions and denominations) that have motived a growing number of dissatisfied Catholics (as well as adherents of other religious denominations) to become disassociated from their traditional religious faith.
Message sent on 13 April 2013
Professor of Political Science, Emeritus
University of Michigan
A distinction that should be made between secularism and secularization. The first, as historically embodied in French laicite, Mexico or Uruguay, also Turkey under Attaturk, can be seen as a militant commitment to containing religion and above all limiting its place in the public sphere. Hence the attacks on religious holidays, religious place names, religious displays in public places.
Secularization is quite distinct and is also varied. Secularization is in part an expectation of the decline, privatization, and disappearance of religion, not only as public figure but also as personal belief and practice. This theory has its roots in European experiences of fighting the entrenched Church-State alliances and has its best expression in the very visible decline of religious affiliation, practice, and presence in Europe since the end of World War II.
Diccionario de la lengua española © 2005 Espasa-Calpe:
secularizar conjugar ⇒
1. tr. y prnl. Hacer secular o laico lo que era eclesiástico: secularizar las joyas eclesiales.
2. Conceder permiso a un miembro del clero para que lo abandone.
3. Hacer que se abandonen los principios y comportamientos
religiosos más tradicionales: la sociedad se está
secularizando cada vez más.
TEMA: EL JUICIO DEL GEN. EFRAIN RIOS MONTT EN GUATEMALA
An excerpt from “Religion in Guatemala” from the PROLADES Encyclopedia of Religion in Latin America and the Caribbean, available in English and Spanish at: http://www.prolades.com/encyclopedia/encyclopedia-main-index.htm
By Clifton L. Holland – 15 June 2011
In March 1982, retired General Efraín Ríos Montt came to power as the chairman of a military junta that took over the [Guatemalan] government and began a violent "scorched-earth" counterinsurgency campaign in the indigenous highlands against the URNG [Guatemalan National Revolutionary Unity] and its supporters until he was toppled the following year. By the time a civilian government returned to office in 1986, the URNG recognized that coming to power through armed struggle was out of the question, and they took initiatives to negotiate a political solution. Gradually, between 1986 and 1996, the army and government were drawn into a peace process that was moderated and verified by the United Nations and included other international actors as key players. Both sides made major concessions. Obligations were imposed on the government, including significant constitutional reforms, which were internationally binding and would be verified by the UN.
On 29 December 1996, a formal peace agreement was signed by the Guatemalan Government and the URNG in the presence of U.N. Secretary-General Boutros Boutros-Ghali that officially ended the 36-year civil war (1960-1996), the longest civil war in Latin American history. The Secretary-General of the URNG, Commander Rolando Morán, and President Álvaro Arzú jointly received the UNESCO Peace Prize for their efforts to end the civil war and attaining the peace agreement. Afterward, the URNG became a legitimate political party with the support of other leftist organizations; it later won several legislative seats in national elections in 2003 and 2007.
Gen. Rios Montt took over the reins of government as part of a three-man junta in 1982 with the support of the Guatemalan armed forces, and quickly identified himself as a “born-again” Christian and a member since 1979 of a local evangelical church in Guatemala City, known as Iglesia Cristiana Verbo (The Word Christian Church, related to a US-based missionary organization from Eureka, California, called Gospel Outreach).
For about 18 months, Guatemala was ruled by this Protestant military dictator who gave orders for the army to brutally suppress the nation’s guerrilla movement and its sympathizers, who in growing numbers were Mayans living in rural villages in the central highlands. The government formed local Civilian Defense Patrols (PACs) to counteract the insurgency in the countryside. Participation was in theory voluntary but, in practice, many people, especially in the rural northwest, had no choice but to join either the PACs or the guerrillas. Ríos Montt's conscript army and PACs recaptured essentially all guerrilla-held territory; consequently, guerrilla activity lessened and was largely limited to hit-and-run operations. However, Ríos Montt won this partial victory only at an enormous cost in civilian deaths.
Ríos Montt was deposed in August 1983 by his Minister of Defense, General Óscar Humberto Mejía Victores. Mejía became de facto president and justified the coup, saying that "religious fanatics" were abusing their positions in the government and also because of "official corruption." However, Ríos Montt remained in politics, founded the Guatemalan Republican Front party (FRG), and was elected President of Congress in 1995 and 2000. Mejía Victores served as president of Guatemala from August 1983 to January 1986, during a time of increased repression and death squad activity by government forces.
Marco Vinicio Cerezo Arévalo of the Christian Democratic Party served as president from January 1986 to January 1991. He was followed by Jorge Antonio Serrano Elías (of Lebanese descent), who was president from January 1991 to May 1993, under the banner of the Solidarity Action Movement. Serrano ran against the popular Jorge Carpio who unsuccessfully tried to use Serrano's fundamentalist Protestant beliefs against him as a campaign issue. Serrano was the second Protestant to become a Head of State in Latin America, after Ríos Montt.
The Serrano administration's record was mixed. It had some success in consolidating civilian control over the army, replacing a number of senior officers and persuading the military to participate in peace talks with the URNG. He took the politically unpopular step of recognizing the sovereignty of Belize, which until then had been officially, although unsuccessfully, claimed by Guatemala as a province. Although the Serrano administration reversed the economic slump it inherited by reducing inflation and boosting real economic growth, in May 1993 Serrano illegally suspended the Constitution, dissolved Congress and the Supreme Court, imposed censorship and attempted to restrict civil freedoms, allegedly in a campaign to fight corruption.
However, the attempted self-coup by Serrano against his own government was met with strong protests by broad sectors of Guatemalan society. This, combined with international pressure and the army's enforcement of the decisions of the Constitutional Court that ruled against Serrano’s actions, forced him to resign as president on 1 June 1993 and to flee the country. He remains in exile in Panama, where the Guatemalan government has made numerous unsuccessful attempts to have him extradited to face charges of corruption.
Ramiro de León Carpio was president of Guatemala from June 1993 to January 1996. De León promised to defend public freedoms and the rule of law, as well as to make progress in the negotiations with the guerrillas, and to purge the armed forces of corrupt elements. On 26 August, he demanded that all the deputies in the National Congress and all the members of the Supreme Court resign. This created a crisis that was not resolved until 16 November, resulting in 43 amendments to the 1985 Constitution that were approved in a referendum on 30 January 1994. On 6 January, negotiations began with the main guerrilla group, the URNG, but this time under the auspices of both the United Nations and the Organization of American States, and with a reduced role of the Guatemalan military in comparison with the previous negotiations. On 29 March, he signed the Global Accord on Human Rights, which among other things demanded the disbandment of the PACs that had been accused of perpetrating massacres during the civil war.
Álvaro Enrique Arzú Yrigoyen was president from January 1996 to January 2000, under the banner of the National Advancement Party (PAN). The main achievement of his presidency was to sign a final peace agreement with the URNG that ended Guatemala's 36-year-long civil war in December 1996. In April 1998, the assistant Archbishop of Guatemala City, Bishop Juan José Gerardi, was murdered two days after publishing a report on the suspected involvement of the military in atrocities during the civil war. With suspicions that the President's own security guard had been behind the murder, and amidst mounting national and international pressure, he formed a commission with his most trusted collaborators and members of the Catholic Church to fully investigate the crime.
The Truth Commission (Historical Clarification Commission, created by the Oslo Accords of 1994) stated that Guatemalan military influence over the government passed through different stages during the years of the armed confrontation. It began during the 1960s and 70s with the Army’s domination of the structures of the executive branch. The Army subsequently assumed almost absolute power for half a decade during the 1980s, by penetrating all of the country’s institutions, as well as its political, social and ideological spheres. During the later final stage of the confrontation, it developed a parallel, semi-visible, low profile, but high impact, control of national life. In the military itself, the Guatemalan military intelligence system became the driving force, to control the population, the society, the State and the Army itself.
The Commission’s final report, entitled Guatemala: Memory of Silence, was published in February 1999. The report identified a total of 42,275 named victims; of these, 23,671 were victims of arbitrary executions, and 6,159 were victims of forced disappearances. It found that Mayans accounted for 83 percent of the victims, and that 93 percent of the atrocities committed during the civil war were attributed to the nation’s armed forces and PACs.
Alfonso Antonio Portillo Cabrera served as the nation’s President from 2000 to 2004 in representation of the FRG, the party led former military dictator Efraín Ríos Montt. Portillo, also, was a professed evangelical. On the day of his investiture Portillo said that Guatemala was "on the edge of collapse," and promised a thorough government investigation into corruption. On 9 August 2000 he declared that the governments of the previous two decades had been involved in human rights abuses. While he showed determination to see through his regenerative and progressive program, his government soon became overwhelmed by the reality of the political and mafia corruption in the country. During 2001 his government faced a continuous wave of protests that sapped the credibility of his government. The FRG was accused of bringing corruption on an unprecedented scale to the country. His government has been tainted by accusations of theft, money laundering, money transfers to the army, and the creation of bank accounts in Panama, Mexico and the USA by many members of his staff, which totaled more than $1 billion.
… During the period 1960-1980, Guatemala became a "showcase" for the growth of the Protestant Movement in Latin America, but the enthusiasm of evangelical leaders regarding continued high rates of church growth in Guatemala often exceeded the reality. A series of public opinion polls taken between 1990 and 2001 in Guatemala helped to correct some of the erroneous growth projections made by evangelical leaders: the CID-Gallup company reported that the Protestant population was 26.4 percent in May of 1990 and 25 percent in April of 1996. Early in 2001, SEPAL conducted a public opinion poll in Guatemala that showed Protestants to be 25.3 percent of the national population. Therefore, it seems clear that the size of the Protestant population had not changed in Guatemala in more than a decade, although the number of Protestant congregations had continued to increase: from about 6,450 in 1980, to 9,298 in 1987, to about 18,000 in 2001. It seems logical to assume that if the number of Protestant congregations grew by 258 percent between 1980 and 2001 that the total membership probably increased by a similar rate of growth. So why has the size of the Protestant population remained stable at about 25 percent?
One possible explanation is that there may have been "a great falling away" (desertion or exodus) of Protestant adherents in Guatemala during the 1980s-1990s due to disillusionment and discouragement about the performance of evangelical politicians, such as Gen. Efraín Ríos Montt (military dictator during 1982-1983) and Jorge Serrano (president during 1990-1993), as well as over the financial and sex scandals regarding popular U.S. Evangelical TV personalities, such as Jim and Tammy Bakker (1987) and Jimmy Swaggart (1991). It is easier for "adherents" to desert the church when things go badly than for committed baptized church members to abandon ship during stormy weather, so it may be true there was "a falling away" of the less committed churchgoers during these hard times in Guatemala.
Another major factor that must be considered during the period 1960-1996 was the political and social upheaval caused by a brutal and bloody civil war between the "public security forces" of the Conservative government and a series of Marxist-led revolutionary forces, which at the time of the Peace Talks in late-1996 were led by the URNG. The 36-years of armed conflict caused an estimated 200,000 deaths and the forced exile to Mexico of about 250,000 people from conflictive zones, mainly among Amerindian peoples in the central highlands, and about one million internal refugees. An unknown number of these internal and international refugees were Evangelicals.
During the 1980s, evangelical public opinion was divided for and against support for Gen. Ríos Montt, who offended many people—Catholics and Protestants alike—by his public radio messages that blended anti-Marxist rhetoric with evangelical sermons. The leadership of the Evangelical Alliance of Guatemala, which represents most evangelical organizations in the country, decided to back off from publicly supporting Ríos Montt and to distance themselves from his government to avoid a possible negative backlash and persecution of evangelicals should Gen. Ríos Montt be overthrown.
After alienating business, military and political opposition leaders, as well as the Catholic Church, Ríos Montt was overthrown by Defense Minister Gen. Oscar Humberto Mejía Victores in August 1983 who served as Head of State until January 1986. Although evangelicals were not persecuted after the ousting of Ríos Montt, there is no doubt that the public image of evangelicals did suffer. Consequently, there was a growing erosion of evangelical social strength as the less committed adherents stopped attending evangelical worship services and either drifted back into the Catholic Church or stopped going to church altogether, thereby joining the growing ranks of those with no religious affiliation – the secularized society. At a later date, President Mejía was charged with murder, kidnapping, and genocide in the Spanish court system, along with Ríos Montt.
Ríos Montt: Malos tiempos para el mal
La Nación de Costa Rica, 14 de abril de 2013, Revista Dominical, pp. 16-17.
Escrito por Darío Chinchilla U. – firstname.lastname@example.org
El proceso por genocidio contra el general Efraín Ríos Montt era imposible, pero está sucediendo. Luego de DECENIOS DE IMPUNIDAD, Guatemala da visos de ser un país dispuesto a lavar sus heridas. ¿Cómo sucedió lo imposible?
TEMA: THE CHURCH IN LATIN AMERICA
Summary: Church Trends in Latin America
By Clifton L. Holland – 21 March 2013
I. Introduction: Defining the “full breadth of Christianity in
The first difficulty in discussing “Church Trends in Latin America” is the complex nature of Christianity in the Spanish and Portuguese countries of North, Central and South America, as well as the Caribbean region. I have attempted to give an overview of all known religious groups in each region and country in general and of the different component parts of Christianity in particular in (1) Toward a Classification System of Religious Groups in the Americas by Major Traditions and Denominational Families (latest edition, November 2012), which is available at: http://www.prolades.com/clas-eng.pdf; and in (2) The PROLADES Encyclopedia of Religion in Latin America and the Caribbean (four volumes, about 1,300 pages) in two editions, one in English and the other in Spanish, which are now available on the Internet at: http://www.prolades.com/encyclopedia/encyclopedia-main-index.htm.
Volume I of the latter is my religious classification document cited above, which provides an annotated outline of the various branches of Christianity: the Eastern Orthodox Liturgical Tradition, the Western Catholic Liturgical Tradition, the Protestant Movement Tradition, and the Marginal Christian Traditions. Three of my other recent publications provide a general overview of the component parts of the Protestant Movement among Hispanics in the USA, Canada and Puerto Rico: (1) Historical Profiles of Protestant Denominations with Hispanic Ministry in the USA: http://www.hispanicchurchesusa.net/denominations/hsusa_historical_profiles_15August2012.pdf; (2) Historical Profiles of Protestant Denominations with Hispanic Ministry in the Dominion of Canada: http://www.hispanicchurchesusa.net/AETH/Canada/historical_profiles_hispanic_denoms_canada.pdf; and (3) Historical Profiles of Protestant Denominations in the Commonwealth of Puerto Rico: http://www.hispanicchurchesusa.net/AETH/Puerto%20Rico/pri_historical_profiles_15august2012_final.pdf
Therefore, in the discussion to follow, I will attempt to differentiate between the various trends that exist within the major traditions of Christianity in the context of Latin America (including Hispanics in the USA and Canada) in order to provide a clearer explanation of this complex reality at the beginning of the 21st century.
Executive Summary: Church Trends Revisited - The Vitality of the Church in Latin America
By Clifton L. Holland – 21 March 2013
In this PROLADES Study, Reflection & Discussion Document, I will attempt to make my own SWOT Analysis – Strengths, Weaknesses, Opportunities and Threats – of the Protestant movement in general in Latin America and define a research, evaluation and strategic planning agenda for the next decade for PROLADES. This document builds on information presented in the previous PROLADES Study, Reflection & Discussion Document, entitled “Church Trends in Latin America,” which we produced in December 2012. I would like to begin this discussion with a review of the “Summary and Con-clusions” presented in the previous document.
Church Trends in Latin America: Summary and Conclusions
This document presented a general perspective of CHURCH TRENDS within the major traditions and denominational families of Latin American Christianity.
Each religious tradition and denominational family of Christianity represents a unique configuration of beliefs, attitudes and behaviors that have been culturally conditioned over the past centuries, modified by political, social and religious conflicts in the parent continent and mother country, and transported through immigration and migration to distant lands and transplanted in the native soil of each Latin American nation and within each racial, ethnolinguistic and socioeconomic component of society. Today, all the Latin American nations are considered to be predominantly Christian, with a variety of blends and flavors in a complex mix of competing brands in the modern religious marketplace that an estimated 596 million people call home.
The old religious monopolies are undergoing a process of crisis, conflict, fragmentation, disintegration, reconfiguration (mergers, unions, redefinition and revitalization) or extinction/absorption. The remaining religious monopolies are largely composed of traditionalists who oppose modernization and change because of their firm belief and commitment to a traditional worldview and their fear of an unknown future.
Traditionalists exist within each of the major Christian traditions but are most common in the Eastern Orthodox and Western Roman traditions, and within the Older Liturgical Protestant traditions (Lutheran, Reformed-Presbyterian-Congregational, and Anglican-Episcopal Families of Denominations). However, within the Protestant “Free Church” Tradition that originated among dissenter groups within the Protestant State Churches (Lutheran, Reformed-Presbyterian, and Anglican) of Europe and spread to the Americas (especially North America) prior to 1900, there are a few traditionalist groups of churches (some reject all denominational structures) in modern Latin America. These groups include some of those within the Amish-Mennonite Family of denominations, the Baptist Family, the Pietist Family, the Holiness Family, the Independent Fundamentalist Family, the Restorationist Family, and independent-separatist “Free Church” groups. The Adventist Family of denominations is also largely traditionalist and separatist in their relationships with other Protestant groups and with modern society. Also, the Pentecostal Family of denominations has some groups that are strongly traditionalist, which has led to numerous conflicts and divisions in each country and to the multiplication of splinter movements, new denominations and church associations, as well as independent local churches.
The Marginal Christian Groups represent a large variety of religious traditions and denominational families within Christianity in general, and they are separated and isolated from the Major Christian Traditions that we have described previously. In Latin America, some government organizations that are responsible for monitoring and registering religious associations have used the term “para-Protestant” to describe what we have termed Marginal Christian Groups within the PROLADES Classification System of Religious Groups in the Americas. None of these groups fit within our definition of the “Protestant Movement” because each one deviates in various degrees from the historic Protestant worldview of beliefs, attitudes and behaviors. In the official census reports of Mexico and Brazil, the Adventist Family of denominations is listed as “para-Protestant,” whereas we have opted to include this tradition within our definition of the Protestant Movement.
As we discussed earlier in “Church Trends in Latin America,” the traditionalist groups (authoritarian and dogmatic) tend to lose adherents to the more democratic and moderate groups, such as the defection of Roman Catholic adherents to Evangelical-Protestant mainstream groups and to groups within the Pentecostal movement, or even to some Marginal Christian groups (“para-Protestant”). However, most of the latter groups in Latin America are also authoritarian and dogmatic, and some of them claim to be the “only true path of salvation.” Also, there are defections from these Christian traditions and denominational families to other religions (non-Christian) and to secular society (no religious affiliation, agnostics or atheists).
At some point in time, we are prone to ask ourselves, “where is the True Church of Jesus Christ” in the world today, within all of these competitive and confusing religious alternatives that call themselves “Christian?” “Who are the members of the Universal Christian Church that is composed of all true believers in the Lord Jesus Christ?”
True biblical conversion is to the historical Jesus of Nazareth, the Messiah and only Redeemer and Savior of humanity, and to His teachings as revealed in the New Testament, and never to another religious leader or organization. Attendance, membership or affiliation with a religious organization is neither salvific nor can any religious organization authentically claim to be so. Nor can eternal salvation be earned by good works, but by sola gracia, sola fe y solo Cristo.
Therefore, not everyone who attends, is a member of, or is affiliated with any particular Christian denomination or church body (by choice or by birth) has experienced true conversion, as defined above. Statistics on church membership, attendance and/or affiliation (“community”) as reported in “Church Trends in Latin America” are only an indication of the relative size of a particular denomination in comparison with all other denominations within the various Christian traditions and families of denominations. Such statistics can be used to measure average annual growth rates (AAGR) of those denominations that honestly and fairly issue reports on the same. By comparing such statistics at intervals of 5, 10 or more years, researchers can analyze the data and calculate the AAGR for one or more denominations in a given geographical area, as we did in “Church Trends in Latin America” and in hundreds of other documents produced by PROLADES since 1977, when our organization was founded as a parachurch ministry dedicated to missiological research and information management.
In addition to formal church structures, which we have called “denominations” in our research documents, there are also parachurch organizations within all the various traditions and families of denominations of Christianity. Parachurch organizations are faith-based organizations that work outside of and across denominational boundaries to engage in a variety of Christian ministries, usually independent of direct church oversight. These bodies can be businesses, non-profit corporations, or private associations. Some of these organizations cater to a defined spectrum of beliefs within the various major traditions and families of denominations, but most are self-consciously interdenominational and many are ecumenical. In Catholic and Protestant theology, parachurch organizations are termed sodalities, as distinct from modalities, which is the structure and organization of the local church and of the thousands of denominational bodies within Christianity as we have described above.
If the “True Church of Jesus Christ” is composed of all born-again believers in the Risen Lord throughout the world – regardless of race, gender, age, ethnicity, national origin, socioeconomic variables, political orientation, citizenship, denominational affiliation, etc. – then we should recognize and celebrate the fact that “we are all brothers and sisters in the Lord” and act like we are part of the same Family of God, the Body of Christ, the Church Universal.
The reality is that, although we call ourselves “Christians,” we are seriously divided by artificial, man-made boundaries of church structures (modalities), religious traditions and denominational families of churches in Latin America and worldwide. However, there have been various attempts to create some unity in the midst of diversity among Christian groups, both within the major traditions and within the various denominational families of churches. (See Unity in the Midst of Diversity in the Latin American Church in the Complimentary Documents section, page 33).
The various Ecumenical Councils in the history of the Christian Church prior to the Protestant Reformation were attempts to find “common ground” within the various Eastern Orthodox and Western Catholic traditions in the Middle East, North America and Europe. That same ecumenical dialogue continues today through various international forums that were created by The Vatican (See of the Roman Catholic Church), the Ecumenical Patriarch of the Greek Orthodox Church, and other Eastern Orthodox jurisdictions. The most recent initiatives in this regard were undertaken following the Second Vatican Council (mid-1960s) of the Roman Catholic Church, which renewed its contacts with leaders in the main Eastern Orthodox Churches and in some Protestant denominations and parachurch organizations, such as the World Council of Churches (WCC, founded in 1948).
The WCC is “a worldwide fellowship of churches seeking unity, a common witness and Christian service.” The WCC’s counterpart in Latin America is the Latin American Council of Churches (CLAI, founded in 1978). However, the WCC-CLAI sphere of influence in Latin America is very weak in most countries because of the under-representation of mainline Protestant denominations (liberal and progressive doctrinally, socially and politically).
The World Council of Churches (WCC) is the broadest and most inclusive among the many organized expressions of the modern ecumenical movement, a movement whose goal is Christian unity. The WCC brings together 349 churches, denominations and church fellowships in more than 110 countries and territories throughout the world, representing over 560 million Christians and including most of the world's Orthodox churches, scores of Anglican, Baptist, Lutheran, Methodist and Reformed churches, as well as many United and Independent churches. While the bulk of the WCC's founding churches were European and North American, today most member churches are in Africa, Asia, the Caribbean, Latin America, the Middle East and the Pacific. Source: http://www.oikoumene.org/en/who-are-we.html
The Evangelical-Protestant sphere of influence in Latin America has developed slowly since the late-1900s under the umbrella of the Latin American Fellowship of Evangelicals (CONELA), founded in 1982 in Panama City, Panama, after initial discussions were held among Evangelical leaders who participated in various Lausanne Congress for World Evangelization-sponsored activities with logistical support from the Luis Palau Evangelistic Association (headquarters in Portland, Oregon, USA). CONELA is affiliated inter-nationally with the World Evangelical Fellowship (WEF, founded in 1951), now renamed the World Evangelical Alliance (WEA, 2001).
The World Evangelical Alliance is a global ministry working with local churches around the world to join in common concern to live and proclaim the Good News of Jesus in their communities. WEA is a network of churches in 129 nations that have each formed an evangelical alliance and over 100 international organizations joining together to give a world-wide identity, voice, and platform to more than 600 million evangelical Christians. Seeking holiness, justice and renewal at every level of society -- individual, family, community and culture -- God is glorified and the nations of the earth are forever transformed.
Today … a new day dawns upon a revitalized WEA with its regional and national alliances, commissions (theology, religious liberty, mission, youth, women, and information technology), affiliated specialized ministries, and organizational ministries.
Rather than having a membership composed directly of individual denominational, local church and parachurch leaders, such as is the case with CONELA, the WEF has built a worldwide coalition of national evangelical alliances and federations, which are composed of denominational, local church and parachurch leaders.
Nevertheless, there are many Evangelical-Protestant denominations and church associations in Latin America (as well as worldwide) that have not joined these so-called “ecumenical” organizations, whether those related to the WCC-CLAI sphere of influence or the WEA-CONELA sphere. Most of those denominations and church associations that decline to be involved ecumenically are identified as conservative-separatist Evangelical groups within the Fundamentalist wing of the Protestant movement in Latin America. In addition, the anti-ecumenical stance of most of the groups within the Adventist Family of Churches isolates them from having fraternal relations with most of the Evangelical-Protestant denominations and parachurch organizations. Although it is usually easier for most Pentecostal leaders to have fellowship at various levels with other Pentecostals, not all of them have become associated with non-Pentecostals in regional, national and/or international fellowship organizations, such as the WCC-CLAI and WEA-CONELA networks.
Regarding the Protestant movement in Latin America, there is more unity in the midst of diversity among the various Christian traditions and denominational families of churches in Latin America today than in previous decades when doctrinal differences and denominational idiosyncrasies played a more dominant role in interdenominational relationships. Of course, there are still some major tensions and conflicts within the Evangelical-Protestant spectrum in Latin America due to the principal controversies that we mentioned earlier: the Pentecostal/non-Pentecostal polarization, Liberation Theology, the Charismatic Renewal movement, the Prosperity Gospel, the G12 Vision & Strategy, and the New Apostolic Reformation (and its emphasis on modern-day apostles & prophets, spiritual warfare, territorial spirits, dominion theology, etc.).
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