Bishop Emeritus Nélida Ritchie, from the Evangelical Methodist Church of Argentina (IEMA), passed away on 22 December. She served as vice-moderator of the World Council of Churches (WCC) Central Committee between 1991 and 1998.
“We lost a faithful witness of the word and work for justice and peace shared by our Lord Jesus Christ”, said Rev. Dr Olav Fykse Tveit, WCC general secretary.
“She left a valuable legacy in the history of the WCC”, he said. “In her ecumenical engagement, she always called our fellowship to be loving, welcoming and prophetic churches at the service of the people”, added Tveit.
Born in 1946, in Dolavon, Argentina, Nelly, as she was best known, joined the work of the Methodist church as a volunteer in Trevelín, in the province of Chubut. A few years later, encouraged by Pastor Aldo Etchegoyen, Superintendent of the Patagonian Region, she joined the theological seminary ISEDET, in Buenos Aires, in 1973.
In 1976, she went to Costa Rica, to complete her studies at the Latin American Biblical Seminary. She often described the experience in Central America as "a second conversion".
A year later, she started to serve in the church of Bernal and soon was invited by Bishop Federico Pagura to work in Salta.
During those years, Nelly also worked at CELADEC, the Latin American Evangelical Commission of Christian Education, where she learned to see her pastoral ministry also as an educational task.
From Salta, she moved to Córdoba, where she served at historical Ecumenical Christian Center of Cordoba, in charge of the Department of Studies.
In 1985, the General Assembly of IEMA appointed her as Superintendent of the Patagonian Region. She spent the first two years in the area of the Chubut Valley, and the next two in Carmen de Patagones.
At the end of that period, she was granted a scholarship in England, at Selly Oak College, from September 1989 to July 1990. And there she received the invitation to be a pastor in the city of Rosario.
Back to Córdoba, she served as the pastor of the Central Church, and after 7 years she was elected bishop.
In 1989, Nelly was appointed by IEMA as a delegate to the 7thAssembly of the WCC, held in Canberra, Australia, in 1991. At the end of the Canberra Assembly, she was appointed to be vice-moderator of the WCC Central Committee.
In this period, she accepted an invitation of the Presbyterian Church of the United States to pursue doctorate studies on feminist theology.
Nelly was elected bishop of IEMA at its 17thGeneral Assembly, in 2001, and reelected in 2005.
“WCC honors the legacy of Aldo Etchegoyen” – WCC news release 5 November 2015
“WCC mourns the death of Federico Pagura” – WCC news release 9 June 2016