World Council of Churches

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Caribbean

The Caribbean has taken its place as one of the ecumenical regional groupings and as a WCC region in the late 1960s and early 1970s. It is a very diverse region made up of the island nations and territories in the Caribbean sea and a few countries in South and Central America that border on the Caribbean, i.e. Belize, Gyuana and Suriname. Several churches in the area are organized regionally and at least one is present also in other Central American countries such as Panama and Honduras. The region stretches from the Bahamas in the north to Suriname in the south, and from Barbados in the east to Belize in the west. The common identity of the Caribbean region is based on geographical considerations as well as on a shared history of colonialism, exploitation and resistance against foreign domination, and on a common cultural awareness. The colonizers from England, Holland, France and Spain exterminated the indigenous peoples of the islands and the coastal areas. They imported slaves from Africa as labour force for their sugar plantations and at a later stage brought "indentured" workers from Asia, thus creating an extraordinary mixture of ethnic groups, religions, languages and traditions that have shaped  the distinctive Caribbean culture and identity. Four European languages are spoken in the region, Dutch, English, French and Spanish along with several Creole languages which are characteristic for many of the islands and nations.

Some of the churches in the Caribbean date their origins to the colonial time, e.g. the Catholics and the Anglicans, others came later as part of the 18th and 19th century missionary movement. One of the  marks of the region is the ecumenical involvement of the Catholic Church. Most countries have a national council of churches of which the local Catholic Church is a member. This is not the case in Cuba, Puerto Rico and the Dominican Republic. The Anglican and Protestant churches in these Spanish-speaking countries have a double allegiance to the Caribbean and the Latin American region. In 1973 the churches in the Caribbean formed their regional ecumenical organization, the Caribbean Conference of Churches with the full participation of the Antilles Episcopal Conference (Roman Catholic Church). There are 13 WCC member churches in the region representing close to 1,4 million Christians. The evangelical and pentecostal movements have spread all over the Caribbean and there are evangelical alliances or fellowships in many islands and countries. The main regional church bodies are:

  • Caribbean Conference of Churches (CCC)
  • Antilles Episcopal Conference (which is related to the Latin American Episcopal Conference CELAM)
  • Evangelical Association of the Caribbean (EAC).