Following five ballots, Rev. Felipe Adolf was elected on 24 May as president of the board of the Latin American Council of Churches (CLAI), during the 6th Assembly of this regional council in Havana, Cuba, meeting from 20 to 26 May.
Adolf, aged 67, served as CLAI’s general secretary from 1984 to 1998. A Lutheran pastor from Argentina, he is currently serving at the Spanish-speaking congregation of the Evangelical Lutheran Church of Ecuador (IELE) in Quito, where CLAI has its headquarters.
Sharing his opinion on the relationship between CLAI and the World Council of Churches (WCC), Adolf said, “the WCC is not only a companion, but is the older brother to all of us involved in the global ecumenical movement. It embraces our common challenges in Latin America, such as the support of peace and integration processes and the care for internal changes in the churches.”
“It is important that the WCC continues to lead the relationship with the regional and confessional councils of churches from all continents in order to give the ecumenical movement its overall character,” he added.
After the election, Adolf also stressed the need for better coordination between the work of CLAI and the ACT Alliance in Latin America. “The council cannot duplicate experiences that other organizations are already doing very well. As an ecumenical organism we must work to strengthen these relationships", he affirmed.
The new president of CLAI believes that the ecumenical movement is not limited to institutions but plays a decisive role in the dynamics of the movement. “CLAI and the WCC have common memberships in Latin America and the Caribbean, so we share a common responsibility. These churches are our bridges to the global ecumenical movement, of which the World Council of Churches is the representative and unifying element”, Adolf concluded.
For Martin Coria of Church World Service, one of the ACT Alliance’s largest member organizations, “Latin America and the Caribbean have changed and continue to change. CLAI members and leadership know this reality and must work to make a difference in this broad and diverse scenario,” he said.
Held under the theme “An ecumenism of concrete gestures”, the 6th Assembly offered a wide space of reflections about the role of CLAI in the current ecumenical framework and its challenges in the future.
Rev. Dr Ofelia Ortega Suárez from the Presbyterian Reformed Church of Cuba and WCC’s president for Latin America and the Caribbean, stated that CLAI’s main challenge is to keep finding ways to contribute towards just peace and unity among the churches and peoples in the region. She valued spiritual life within the council which, in her opinion, is expressed through a “renewed and inclusive liturgy”.
The need for better articulation on advocacy work was highlighted by the Anglican bishop from Colombia, Francisco Duque. "Just as many of our governments join political, economic and social forces in their search for a more equitable dialogue with the most powerful nations, we too as churches must unite in prayer and join human resources to serve the societies in their struggle to defend human rights and freedom,” he said.
Jessica Mora Romero, coordinator of CLAI’s youth programme, added that “the council needs to be a tool of empowerment for youth so that they may have voice and participation both in ecumenical and secular spaces.” Her views were echoed by Rev. Juan Abelardo Schvindt from the Evangelical Church of the River Plate (IERP). “CLAI has to be a signal of hope and empowerment to the humble and excluded ones on the continent and to give witness of the Christian faith through the diversity of the region,” said Schvindt.
[Joint release with the Latin American and Caribbean Agency of Communication co-written by Marcelo Schneider and José Aurelio Paz]
Walter Altmann exhorts spiritual bond between the WCC and CLAI (WCC news release of 29 May)
WCC member churches in Latin America
Website of the Latin American Council of Churches
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