By all accounts, something dramatic is happening in Latin America. The presence of Protestants in this once-over-whelmingly Catholic region has grown from 15 million in the late 1960s to at least 40 million. Most of the congregations of evangélicos are growing through a simple, unsophisticated proclamation of the gospel. They lack the financial, political, technical, or ideological power we associate with large-scale institutional success. They do not even have the prestige of a clear, historical tradition. What they do have—in abundance—is a conviction and missionary passion that intrigues religious and nonreligious observers alike.
The effects are not limited to swelling Protestant church rolls, but they extend to politics, society, and the entire religious character of the region. While Brazil and Peru, for example, have had some tradition of Protestant participation in politics, the trend in the entire region is now accelerating. Jorge Serrano Elías, an evangelical charismatic, recently became president of Guatemala, and Jaime Ortiz Hurtado, an evangelical lawyer and theological educator, was elected to the Constitutional Assembly of Colombia. Developments like these show the movement of a minority into a new status of visibility at the very time the masses have lost confidence in traditional parties. The Protestant presence is presenting an unexpected political alternative during a time of cultural transition and ideological confusion.
Social effects have been profound as well. Long before Protestants reached their current political visibility, the social impact of their presence was acknowledged by anyone familiar with Latin America. Especially significant was their work with schools, rural ...1
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