Pastors, evangelists, and scholars gathered recently in Panama City for Latin America 2000, where delegates from two dozen countries brainstormed fresh ways to evangelize Central and South America's 450 million people.
"This conference is completely different from everything that has been done in the history of the evangelical church in Latin America," says Valentin Gonzalez, director of the AD2000 movement in Latin America. Sponsored by Campus Crusade for Christ of Latin America, AD2000, and CONELA (Confraternidad de Evangelicos de Latinoamerica), the year-end conference held at the same time as Urbana in Illinois attracted 3,500 and demonstrated the growing potency of the Latin American evangelical movement.
A NEW IDENTITY: Latin American Protestantism, which has an estimated 51 million adherents and has been widely hailed as a twentieth-century success story for evangelicals, is developing greater independence and a new resourcefulness.
Ruben Proietti, executive secretary of CONELA, says the next generation has been "born not through the preaching of missionaries but through another Latino." He believes this trend has led to greater self-confidence among church leaders.
One expression of this developing identity and confidence took place at Latin America 2000's opening ceremonies. A drama built around Panamanian folk dances demonstrated the imperative to take the gospel to every ethnic group.
"Years ago you would not have seen this," Gonzalez says. "Evangelicals have more confidence to be evangelical and at the same time Latino. They don't have to be American or European."
Along with their enhanced confidence, Latin American evangelicals are taking a sober look at future challenges. "Amidst the growth there is much weakness ...1
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