Spanish-Speaking Churches Address Mission in Changing World

Post a Comment » Written on February 7th, 2007     
Filed under: News
OAXTEPEC, MEXICO (February 7, 2007) – Rapid emigration to Europe from Latin American countries highlighted the recent triennial meeting of the Confraternidad de Iglesias del Pacto Evangélico (CIPE), says David Mark, who with wife, Wendy, serve as regional coordinators for Latin America within the Department of World Mission of the Evangelical Covenant Church (ECC).

The conference of the Spanish-speaking Covenant churches was held January 21-25 and focused on the theme, “The Mission of the Church in Today’s World.”

CIPE“The energy for that theme clearly came from the remarkable reality of emigration in unprecedented numbers – chiefly but not exclusively to Spain – and the CIPE churches’ response to that movement,” Mark says. “What began as a focused youth mission program to Spain from Ecuador and Sweden with some participation from the United States has ignited a passion to move forward in mission to immigrants and refugees throughout Europe.”

Ecuadorians are the largest immigrant group in Spain, Mark notes. “They are presenting a significant challenge to Spanish Protestant churches with their different culture and exuberant style.”

According to the Associated Press, 500,000 Ecuadorians live in Spain legally, and many more have entered the country illegally.

The effects of that movement are being felt in Ecuador as well as Spain. “Several Covenant churches in Ecuador reported that more than half of their congregations had emigrated to Spain,” Mark says.

Members of CIPE are the Covenant denominations of Mexico, Colombia, Ecuador, Chile and Argentina. Uruguay is slated to become a member. The Hispanic Covenant churches and Spain are associate members. Fraternal churches that serve in CIPE countries also were present: The Evangelical Covenant Church (ECC) and the Swedish Covenant Church.

Denominational leaders, pastors and laity gathered to encourage each other, plan future projects and attend workshops that included mission in the face of ecological crisis, resolution of family conflicts, and sexual identity. Group discussion followed the plenary sessions: “Sent with a Mission,” “Sent with an Identity,” and “Sent with Fire.”

During the business session, Marcus Sobarzo, president of the Chile Covenant, was named president of CIPE. “Sobarzo is a distinguished leader and highly respected for his thoughtfulness, intellectual depth, and integrity,” Mark says.

Passion and theological insight demonstrated at the conference are indicative of why North American and European churches should partner in a reciprocal relationship with the CIPE churches, says Walter Contreras, coordinator of Ministerios Hispanos de la Iglesia del Pacto Evangélico (MHIPE), the Hispanic ministries of the ECC. He attended as an observer.

“This new ‘global reality’ that we see happening in Latin America will become more evident in the coming years,” Contreras says. “This means that we need to empower the national churches in such a way that CIPE and the ECC may serve them graciously.”

He adds, “We must learn to hear them. They have much to teach us. If we are willing to partner with them, we must be willing to be ministered by them. They have much to share about God’s grace.”

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