Reports of torture of political prisoners prompted the Lutheran World Federation to move the site of its Fifth Assembly. The meeting will take place July 14–24, not in Porto Alegre, Brazil, where it was originally scheduled, but in the small French town of Evian-les-Bains, near Geneva, Switzerland.

LWF officials said they “regretfully concluded that conditions for a strictly working assembly no longer exist in Porto Alegre where the meeting was planned.… The declarations made by several delegations that they would refuse to participate in an assembly in Porto Alegre and the reaction in Brazil to the LWF’s decision that it would refrain from extending an invitation to the federal government representatives is indicative of the tensions which would impair the intended working character of the assembly.”

The statement was issued just four days after the Geneva-based LWF had reaffirmed a decision to meet in Brazil but said that no representatives from the Brazilian government would be invited to attend. The Evangelical Church of the Lutheran Confession in Brazil, host to the Porto Alegre conference, wanted to have President Emilio Medici on hand.

The shift represents a major victory for religious liberals who have been in the forefront of a campaign that seeks to establish that the military government of Brazil is conducting a “reign of terror” against leftists.

The LWF has no legislative power over its member churches, which together make up the largest Protestant communion in the world. Its recommendations and study documents, however, have considerable weight, and its relief and rehabilitation programs are among the most extensive conducted by religious agencies. The LWF meets only once every six years.

The controversy seems to ...

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