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To: Participants at the 9th Assembly of the World Council of Churches

From: The Latin American Council of Churches (CLAI)

Dear brothers and sisters in Christ,

As we approach the end of our journey to Porto Alegre, we welcome you with loving and open hearts to the joyful rhythm of our music and in the warmth of our faith. Thank you for choosing Latin America for this WCC assembly, in these times of challenge for the churches and the ecumenical movement.

We were delighted when the WCC chose the theme of "God's grace" for this Assembly and recognized that CLAI's theological work on grace had influenced this decision. Our churches are communities of the Spirit in which we experience the grace of God.

It is in this framework that we want to share with you some of our learnings as churches in this region:

  • Faced with a pragmatism that cares only for efficiency and measures time only in terms of profit, we have learned to create spaces where people can share their life stories, testimonies and aspirations.

  • Where the obsession with wealth and power takes the upper hand, we have learned never to stop affirming the value of community life and the importance of the right to celebration and fulfilment.

  • In response to the imposition of a "single frame of thought" we have learned to encourage a diversity of approaches to life.

  • Where the meaning of life has been lost, we have learned to value the human being, human dignity, self-esteem and hope.

  • In the midst of a political and economic crisis as well as a crisis of ethics and values, we have learned that the churches must become communities of ethical resistance and healing.

We do not want to give a false impression of the situation of our churches. It is true that we have grown in number and we bear witness to our people's faith. But the message from CLAI's 4th assembly at Barranquilla in 2001 reminded us that, although we have been blessed as churches, we are also confronted with challenges and dilemmas, certain theological confusion and the marketing of religion.

Today we live in a world of migrations and displacements, discrimination and cultural blending, communication and exclusion, and local and global identities. Incarnation is about allowing oneself to be displaced so as to meet the other. It is the God who makes himself human by displacing his own divinity. In these times of great mobility "incarnation" for our institutions calls us to move out of our static institutional hierarchies and the limits of the historical ecumenical movement, so that we can recover our pilgrim identity.

Among the expectations of this WCC assembly is the "reconfiguration of the ecumenical movement". In the light of our churches' experience, we hope that, besides reflecting on the importance of reconfiguring the ecumenical movement as a whole, we will also think specifically about the renewal of the WCC. We invite you to discover the ecclesiastic and pastoral face of the ecumenical movement.

There is no denying that we come from very different standpoints, from our ways of being churches to our reading of current realities. There is a geographical "North" that includes many of its churches, and a "North" in our countries of the South who feel that the imposed neo-liberal model simply requires a few adjustments. But most people in Latin America, including the churches, believe that the system that has been imposed is unjust and has to be changed.

We hope that our reflections on ecumenical cooperation in response to the critical problems of poverty and marginalization, will envisage a participatory process as opposed to a imposed set of rules. We are anxious to work towards achieving greater transparency and efficiency, however, we do not distinguish between mission and cooperation, a dualism that has long been banished from our theological thinking. We must work together to find a new framework for international ecumenical cooperation in a globalized world and we hope that the Assembly will contribute to this reflection.

Finally we want to share the following issues which are important for our churches in Latin America:

  • Affirming a spirituality of commitment to mission and service.

  • Imagining a different kind of society based on the common good; a new concept of development that is sustainable and equitable and not limited to economic growth; participatory democracy and sound and credible institutions.

  • Working together to find solutions to problems that affect everyday life including the external debt, integration without exclusion and the scandal of poverty, migration and displacement.

  • Resisting injustice that brings death, with an ethic of life in its fullness.

  • Renewing the leadership of the churches and the ecumenical movement. Young people challenge us with hopes and expectations to which we do not always have an answer.

  • Unceasingly proclaiming the Gospel of peace and healing for this world.

From 19-25 February 2007 we shall be celebrating the 5th assembly of CLAI, in Buenos Aires, with the theme: "God's grace justifies us, God's Spirit frees us for life". There we shall mark the end of the 2006 DOV focus on Latin America which we will inaugurate in Porto Alegre. In Christ's love we invite you to accompany us.

We in the churches of Latin America and in CLAI greet you all with great affection.

Yours in Christ's fellowship,

December 2005

Bishop Julio César Holguín, President of CLAI

Rev. Israel Batista, General Secretary

Dr. Noemí Espinoza, 1st Vice-president

Rev. Juan Abelardo Schvindt, 2nd Vice-president