The ecumenical cause has faced many setbacks in Latin America. The first “Evangelical Congress” was held in Panama City in 1916. The second one was held in Havana in 1929, when delegates expressed a desire for an international and interdenominational federation of evangelical churches. The attempt to form a continuation committee, however, was frustrated by economic and political problems. Another conference—the “First Latin American Evangelical Conference,” often referred to in this part of the world as CELA I—occurred in Buenos Aires in 1949. Again, no permanent organization materialized. CELA II, which met in Lima in 1961, decided to establish an ecumenical structure, but no practical steps were taken until representatives of several national church councils met in Rio de Janeiro in 1963. The “Provisional Commission for Latin American Evangelical Unity” (UNELAM) came into existence in Montevideo in 1964, with a membership of nine national councils and various independent churches. CELA III, held in Buenos Aires in 1969, committed to UNELAM a number of tasks. In the succeeding years (for a time under the able leadership of Emilio Castro, the present-day Director of the WCC Commission on World Mission and Evangelism), UNELAM through a number of conferences and publications actively prepared the ground for a Latin American council of churches. Finally, at the meeting of WCC-related churches, which took place at Huampani (near Lima, Peru) in November, 1977, the delegates decided to convene an “assembly of churches” to be held in Mexico in September, 1978. They wanted to organize this council with the hope that this new body would promote Christian unity, foster discussion, ...1
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