Two continental congresses, scheduled within four months of each other, highlight the dilemma of Latin American Protestants in 1969. They symbolize the tensions building between extremists to the left and right within the evangelical church. They highlight the growing gap between Protestant leaders of North and South America. And they reveal the degree of polarization already present within the Latin American Protestant community.
July was the time and Buenos Aires the place of CELA III, the third Latin American Congress of Evangelicals (see August 22 issue, page 36). The Latin American Congress on Evangelism will be the other one. This will be held in Bogota in November, an evangelically sponsored follow-up to the World Congress on Evangelism in Berlin.
The first of the ecumenically oriented CELA congresses was convened in Buenos Aires in 1949, the second in Lima, Peru, in 1961. Five years later, the Evangelical Federation of Brazil was to sponsor CELA III. But problems of relationship and confidence developed and CELA III was several times postponed until finally the Brazilian committee tossed the ball to the River Plate church federations (Argentina, Uruguay, and Paraguay).
With a strong assist from UNELAM (an ecumenically financed committee for the promotion of evangelical unity in Latin America), the congress finally came to birth in July, suffering from a fundamentalist boycott in some quarters. It is unfortunate that its leaders postponed it to within four months of the Latin American Congress on Evangelism. Many people who might have desired to be present at both have perhaps been forced to choose between the two. Nevertheless, attendance at CELA III was good, and representation—both geographical and denominational—was ...1
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