Latin American Evangelical Pentecostal Commission
(Comisión Evangélica Pentecostal Latinoamericana, CEPLA)
The process of Pentecostal unity and cooperation in Latin America goes back to the 1960s in Chile when, after the earthquake, some Chilean Pentecostal churches began working with other churches in caring for the victims. A first Latin American Pentecostal encounter with Pentecostal leaders from various countries took place in 1971 in Buenos Aires, Argentina. In 1978, on the occasion of the assembly of Protestant churches from Latin America in Oaxtapec, Mexico, where the idea of setting up a Latin American Council of Churches took shape, Pentecostal participants continued the conversation and took part in the formation of CLAI. A decade later, in 1988, a Latin American Pentecostal consultation convened by the WCC was held in Salvador de Bahia, Brazil, which led to another encounter in Buenos Aires in 1989. This event was followed by an encounter in Santiago, Chile, in 1990, where it was decided to constitute a Latin American Evangelical Pentecostal Commission (CEPLA), with the purpose to carry on the dialogue, cooperation, reflection and solidarity among the Pentecostals of the continent. From its inception, CEPLA has focused its work on fundamental challenges facing the Pentecostal movement in Latin America, e.g. the study of the historical roots of the Pentecostal faith, the response to the increasing demand for Christian and ministerial formation, exploring the experience of the unity of the Spirit (or ecumenism of the Spirit), the creation of spaces for exchange and communication, the analysis of the impact of mass TV and radio evangelism which affect the rich communal experience of Pentecostalism, the systemization of research and study of Latin American Pentecostalism, and the continuation of the process of unity and cooperation through Pentecostal encounters.
Since 1990, CEPLA has organized or facilitated Pentecostal meetings at the national level (e.g. in Venezuela, Bolivia, Chile, Costa Rica, Mexico etc.) and regionally. Some of the regional consultations were held in cooperation with CLAI and the WCC, in 1992 in Sao Paolo (Brazil), in 1994 in Lima (Peru), and in 1998 in Cuba. Of particular importance have been the meetings of Pentecostal women, such as the one in Costa Rica in 1992, in 1995 in Lima (Peru) and in 2002 in Chile. CEPLA has also participated together with CLAI in the Catholic-Pentecostal dialogue in Latin America, and in the process of the international dialogue between the WCC and Pentecostals.
In 2001, CEPLA convened a meeting of Pentecostal bishops and presidents from Latin America and the Caribbean, in Barquisimeto, Venezuela. This event brought together delegates from Argentina, Brazil, Chile, Colombia, Costa Rica, Nicaragua, Peru and Venezuela. The group issued a statement calling for the creation of a Council of Pentecostal Churches of Latin America and the Caribbean. The main objective of this council should be the critical and constructive reflection of the Latin American and Caribbean Pentecostal experience, in order to contribute to the enrichment of the Pentecostal identity and its contribution to the ecumenical movement and the mission of the world-wide church, by providing space for discussing the problems and challenges of Pentecostalism and the particular context in which the Pentecostal churches in Latin America and the Caribbean carry out their pastoral, healing and prophetic ministry.
The process of formation of the proposed council will take time. Meanwhile, CEPLA continues to be actively engaged in activities of training and accompaniment of the local churches. It has launched a proposal to set up a Pentecostal training and study centre. Two areas in which CEPLA wishes to extend its activities are the role and involvement of women in the church and society, and liturgical development and renewal.