United Presbyterian Church of Brazil
(Igreja Presbiteriana Unida do Brasil, IPU)
The formation of the United Presbyterian Church of Brazil goes back to the period of military dictatorship (1964-1984) in Brazil, when some pastors, churches and even presbyteries, were pursued for being critical of the regime and for participating in ecumenical groups and movements devoted to the search for social justice. Expelled by the denomination they belonged to, these communities and pastors had a painful period of isolation and dispersion until 1978, when they founded the National Federation of Presbyterian Churches which, from 1983 on was named the United Presbyterian Church of Brazil (IPU).
The IPU is a communion of communities and presbyteries which profess the faith in Jesus Christ their Lord and share a Reformed heritage, engaged in the ecumenical march and the struggle for social change. Practically all the congregations of the IPU hold together the preaching and teaching of God's word and the promotion of social programmes. Nurseries, sewing workshops, health centres, psychological services, literacy courses, support to rural workers, are some examples of integrated activities developed by IPU communities. Partnerships with ecumenical services and sister churches have been important instruments for the viability of these projects. For example, the Presbyterian Church (USA), the main partner of the IPU, has helped to maintain a joinery school for young people in the Amazon region, a nursery for low income families in Bahia, and missionary expansion in Minas Gerais.
With the understanding that the calling of Jesus Christ does not make any discrimination of gender, the IPU was the first Presbyterian church in Brazil to ordain women to the deaconship, presbyterate and pastoral leadership. The church faces the challenge of providing the theological basis and formation which will sustain the continuation of its initial proposal and the renovation of its leadership. In this regard, the creation of the Richard Schaull Theological College has been an important step. At the same time, the IPU is searching for methods of evangelization that do not proselytize and favour the expansion of the church of Jesus Christ, without losing the characteristics of its message and the purpose of its community life. The IPU brings an expression of the Christian faith which was born in a context of political and social oppression. It intends to set forth the "abundant life" in Jesus Christ for the peoples of the South. The church believes that God has given it the company of the Holy Spirit as it marches on towards a "new way of being church" in its Brazilian home.