Another excerpt from the speech of the Rev. Israel Batista Guerra, the General Secretary of the Latin American Council of Churches. (For an earlier excerpt click here.

"In 1916, at the Congress of Panama, when Latin America was declared a land of mission, there were a couple thousand evangelicals: 14,500 in 1938, a million in 1950, then 37 million in 1980. At the end of the last millenium between 15 and 20 percent of the Latin American population was evangelical. Of that figure less than 15 percent belong to historic Protestant churches." (an okie gardener again) by "historic Protestant churches" he is referring to Lutheran, Anglican, Methodist, Baptist, etc. Most of the growth of evangelicalism is among pentecostal and neopentecostal groups.

(okie again) The shift I think will have political ramifications. In the past Latin American social upheaval has been associated with communism, socialism, Peronism, and assorted mostly secular movements. Protestantism, world-wide historically, has been associated with unrest and even revolution in the direction of democratic or republican government. Lest you say, 'But Pentecostals never will do that,' read below

Guerra began his address by telling the following story.

"I begin with a story: It was a week of demonstrations throughout Ecuador. The country was paralyzed for five days. On that Sunday we had been invited to preach in a Pentecostal-style independent church in one of the areas of greatest poverty in Quito. The strike had ended the Friday night of that week, but on Sunday in that area of the city the difficult days experienced were still being felt.

I very much appreciate the pastor who had invited me but I did not know the congregation. When my wife and I arrived we were surprised by the liturgy that was taking place. It was a very strong expression of Pentecostalism and one apparently very conservative. The prayers and the songs had nothing to do with what the country was going through.

I did not know how to begin the sermon. I decided to ask them, “What have you being doing during this week of so much conflict?” The answers left me breathless: “Pastor, we opened the doors of the church, we shared food with those who were demonstrating, we accompanied them and prayed.” “We were on the streets, because those who were demonstrating were defending our interests.”

Some of them were neighborhood and social leaders. It was a wonderful and unforgettable experience of faith that we had in that community. At the end I asked the pastor, “Tell me, is your theology different from what your congregation has taught me about Christian witness?” He responded with a smile, “Israel, I do not know that much about theology, but I do know what it is to live together with the people and my congregation.”

On my way home I came across a dear brother from a historic church, who was ecumenical and intelligent. I asked him the same question: “Brother, what did you do during these days of the strike?” He responded, “I had no alternative but to stay at home, catch up with much backed-up reading and work, and closely follow on television what was happening.” He gave a very clear analysis of the situation of the country Ah…, he did not forget to criticize the church for its silence and non-participation in the social reality of the country.

I asked myself and I ask you: What does it mean to confess the faith: true doctrine or a proper practice of love? Who gave a faithful witness to the Gospel? Where is the politically and ecumenically correct, so treasured in the ecumenical world and among the historic churches, to be found?"

to read full address use the link to the pdf file at the bottom of the page