Report on Visit to Latin America, April 2006
On Saturday, April 8, I met with Eliseo Martinez and Miguel Rivas, and spoke with them for about 2½ hours. I had been in communication with them via e-mails for some time, and they had asked to meet with me.
Eliseo was trained as a pastor in the Central American Mission (CAM) and attended their seminary, and has served for 28 years as a pastor of that church. At the same time, he has been a paid translator for Alcance Mundial (World Outreach?). He is no longer in a pastorate, and is concluding his work with Alcance Mundial. He wishes to start a new congregation, but does not wish to do so with the CAM, since, by his description, they are half-Presbyterian and half-Baptist, and he wishes to have a consistently Presbyterian and Reformed congregation. He wishes to start an OP church in his congregation, beginning by founding a congregation in the capital city, San Salvador. He has various groups in different parts of the city, and tomorrow (April 9) will be their first worship service in a central area. It is his intention to form a pastoral team and plant various OP congregations in his country. He does not want to be independent, but part of a Presbyterian church.
Miguel Rivas is a young man (late 20s) who is associated with Eliseo. He runs a book distributor which distributes reformed titles (especially from Desafío), and teaches at an evangelical seminary, ELIM. He was a member of the CRC of El Salvador, but had a parting of the ways over their failure to exercise discipline (of which I know more, but I would prefer not to discuss unless necessary). He lacks pastoral experience, although trained in seminary, and feels called to a teaching ministry for now, and would like to work with Eliseo.
When asked what they would like to do, they both responded that their hope was to establish an OPC of El Salvador. Eliseo will lead the first congregation, and form a pastoral team, including Miguel [since my visit, he has informed me of progress on both]. The most pressing needs at present are for a central meeting place and setting up a website.
On Saturday, April 8, I met with José Luis Enriquez, pastor of a church in a working class area of San José, Costa Rica. On Sunday, I attended their worship service, which lasted about two hours. They sang choruses and songs, but no hymns as such. Pastor Enriquez preached an expository sermon, and then exhorted the people to faithfulness. Afterward, I had a number of hours of discussion with him, where he indicated his appreciation of the books we had sent him, but he also indicated that he still held to some Pentecostal beliefs. He seems content as he is. On Monday, I visited a meeting of evangelical pastors in San José, and was presented to them, and was well-received. They had a worship service which was much like that of pastor Enriquez’ church. We agreed that their and his beliefs were not fully reformed, and we could not work together as we did in some other countries, but I agreed to continue to send him material.
On Tuesday, April 11, I met with the following:
Ener Sanjuán, pastor of La Paz OP Church in Barranquilla,
José Antonio Ríos, missionary of Emmanuel OP Church in Barranquilla and rector of the San Agustín Seminary there,
Carlos Mario Marín, pastor of San Pablo OP Church in Medellín, and
Marlon Uparela, pastor-elect of Community of Grace OP Church in Cartagena.
I reported informally on my contacts in Central America (and lack thereof in some cases) and discussed the progress of the congregations in Colombia.
It was reported that the church had been approved for the “Personaría Jurídica” of the OPC in Colombia (formal recognition by the government) and were awaiting the arrival of the actual certificate.
On Wednesday, April 12, Hugo Martínez, missionary to Bogotá and seminarian under care of the Presbytery arrived with his wife and child. The Presbytery (of Gran Colombia) met, approved the minutes of the previous meeting, and heard formal reports from each of the above churches and missions, as well as reports from the missions in Sincelejo (pastor Uparela) and Fundación de Magdalena (pastor Sanjuán).
We heard a report from San Agustín Seminary, which is under the Presbytery, with 50 students from 8 countries presently enrolled and receiving instruction directly or by correspondence.
The Presbytery formally adopted the wording of a letter to the General Assembly of the OPC (in North America), asking to be received as a Presbytery of that church (see attached with translation).
The Presbytery considered the adoption of the Form of Government, and will study the Book of Discipline for adoption at the next meeting.
On Thursday, Maurio Jiménez, from Cali arrived. He introduced himself, and gave his personal and spiritual history. The Presbytery decided to consider his reception as a seminarian under care at its July meeting and approving his work in Cali, after securing more testimonies and information about him from pastors and others in the churches where he has worked. He is presently an intern at a Baptist church and student at their seminary. It is his intention to begin a mission work in July under the supervision of the Presbytery, should they give their approval.
The Presbytery decided to have the installation of pastor Uparela (previously ordained) at his church in Cartagena. They decided the next meeting would be there to coordinate with the visit by Douglas Clawson, from the Committee on Foreign Missions, and myself.
Uruguay and Brazil
On Saturday, April 15, I met with pastor Gustavo Mello Guimaraes, pastor of the church there. We went to the church in Mandubí, where Henry Vega, a ruling elder, serves the congregation. There were about 30 people, mostly adults. The service consisted of singing from Celebremeos su Gloria and choruses, prayer, Scripture reading, and sermon by elder Vega from 1 Samuel 17:41-49. He preached on the necessity to trust in the Lord in all circumstances. On Sunday morning, we returned form Sunday School, where there was a group of some 50+ children (some had to stand), with singing, a Bible lesson, and prayer. Refreshments were served after. They have the personnel to teach more classes, but are severely limited by a lack of space. Their meeting place is a wooden building, and with only one main room.
On Sunday evening, I attended the worship service in the central church in Rivera. There was a time of singing from Celebremos su Gloria followed by two special songs, prayer, offering, and I read and preached from Phil. 1:20-30, followed by closing prayer and benediction. There were about 50 people present, mostly adults, and quite enthusiastic and joyful in all the service, and who greeted me warmly after the service.
After the service, I was interviewed by the Presbytery (of South America East). I explained the actions of my Session, our Presbytery, and the Foreign Missions Committee. I also reviewed the progress of the churches in other parts of Latin America. The Presbytery expressed its appreciation for our labours, and its eagerness to meet with other representatives of our church, especially Douglas Clawson, should he be able to come. They informed me that they had applied for their Personaría Jurídica from the country of Uruguay, and were in the process.
On Monday, I went with pastors Gustavo Mello and Mario Cezar da Conceiçao Fagundes and one of their elders to the church in Artigas, about two hours to the northwest of Rivera. We conducted a service in the neighborhood of Pintadita, with about 20 present (mostly adults) and I preached from Ephesians 2:20-30, and was warmly received. The church had suffered a setback in that they had been given a meeting place, but then discovered that the person who had done so was engaged in illicit practices, and so declined to meet there.
We then went to the rural church (half an hour by dirt road) in Piedra Pintada, where there were about 20 people (about half children). I preached from Luke 16.
On Tuesday, I went with pastor Mario Cezar and 2 others to the church in Palomas, a rural church in an area about 20 minutes from Rivera, in Brazil. The church has its own building, quite suitable for worship services, and there were about 20 people present (mostly adults). I preached from Luke 14:15-24, with translation into Portuguese. Pastor Mario Cezar expressed the need for Bibles and hymnals. Portuguese Bibles have already been sent (from the Trinitarian Bible Society in Brazil), and I will make efforts to secure Portuguese hymnals.
In the evening, I met with the Session of the Rivera church, where they had their regular weekly meeting to discuss things such as preaching for the congregation and missions, and other usual matters (there are two ruling elders in addition to those mentioned above).
On Thursday, April 20, I met with Oscar Tenes and a member of his church, Fernando. Oscar attended the seminary of the Central American Mission (CAM) but has served for many years as a Pentecostal minister. He has come to an understanding and conviction of the Gospel as expressed in the reformed faith, and left his previous pastorate in a Pentecostal church out of desire to form a reformed church. We had extensive discussions on Thursday and Friday on the theory and practice of Presbyterian churches, and especially that of the OPC. It is his desire to begin an OP in Guatemala. He has been in contact with our brethren in Colombia and pastor Martínez in El Salvador, and will begin a congregation in the city of Guatemala, the capital. He expressed the desire for Bibles and hymnals, although he has resources and does have the needs of some other pastors. Since his secular employment involves securing the Personaría Jurídica, he is able to obtain it without cost. On Friday evening I had dinner with him and his wife, and I spoke with her about his plans, and she seemed in complete agreement and quite supportive.
Things seem to be going well in all of the churches. Almost in passing I discovered that there had been some problems in some churches, for example, that the church in Santana do Livramento had discontinued meeting, but these did not seem to be major setbacks for the works as a whole. In every place, I emphasized the need for transparency and clarity in everything, both the proclamation of the reformed faith and our own activities in the Gospel. The church in Colombia seems to be making good steady strides towards full organization, and the church in Uruguay is coming to a better understanding of the covenant of grace, although work still needs to be done in that area. I was not able to visit the church in Argentina (Venado Tuerto) but continue to receive reports from them on a regular basis, as well as from brothers who we help in Chile, Venezuela, Perú, Cuba and Sweden. I do hope to visit the brothers in Venezuela soon, depending on the progress of the work there. I continue to receive communications from brothers in Mexico, but I always refer them to the churches there (although we do send material).
I hope to return for another visit in July and August, hopefully accompanied by Douglas Clawson for some of the trip, and want to visit at least the churches in El Salvador, Guatemala, Argentina, Colombia and Uruguay (although the visits with brother Clawson may be limited to the latter two). If brother McHargue or some other brother could accompany me (or us), it would be greatly appreciated.
Yours in Christ,
Iglesia Presbiteriana Ortodoxa en Colombia
Personería Jurídica Especial No 1171 de Agosto 23 de 1996 del
Ministerio del Interior. Nu. 802.006.299-1
El Presbiterio Ortodoxo de la Gran Colombia
De la Iglesia Presbiteriana Ortodoxa en Colombia
Calle 49 No. 5B sur - 124
A la honorable Asamblea General de la Iglesia Presbiteriana Ortodoxa (de los EE.UU. Canadá)
En cargo de Donald Duff: secretario de la Asamblea General
Willow Grove, PA 19090-0920 EE.UU.
Muy estimados hermanos en Cristo, que la gracia y paz de Dios Padre y del Señor y Salvador Jesucristo sean con ustedes.
Y ahora, este 12 de abril de 2006, viene el Presbiterio Ortodoxo de la Iglesia Presbiteriana Ortodoxa en Colombia para pedirles a ustedes, la Iglesia Presbiteriana Ortodoxa en los EE.UU. y Canadá a recibirnos como presbiterio de su Iglesia.
Actualmente formamos unas siete iglesias y misiones. Es nuestro deseo ser integrados como una parte de la Iglesia Presbiteriana Ortodoxa, con todo derecho y responsabilidad.
Deseamos hacer esto porque la Iglesia es el Cuerpo de Cristo, y el deseo de Cristo es que seamos uno como el y el Padre es uno (Juan 17:19-21). Esta unidad debe ser vista tanto en la unidad doctrinal (Juan 17:19 y 1 Corintios 11: 19) así también en práctica (Efesios 4:15). Creemos que esta unidad debe estar manifestada tras las fronteras nacionales, para que todo el cuerpo de Cristo trabaje en unidad (Efesios 4:16). Creemos que las iglesias en Colombia así también las mismas en los EE.UU. puedan edificar el uno al otro en el crecimiento en Cristo, y por eso les pedimos recibirnos como parte de su Iglesia.
Esperamos una respuesta favorable de ustedes, hermanos, con el deseo que nuestro Dios les bendiga en todo.
En el Servicio de Cristo,
José Antonio Ríos
Secretario del Presbiterio
Iglesia Presbiteriana Ortodoxa en Colombia
Personería Jurídica Especial No 1171 de Agosto 23 de 1996 del
Ministerio del lnterior:Nit. 802.006.299-1
The Orthodox Presbytery of Gran Colombia
Of the Orthodox Presbyterian Church in Colombia
Calle 49 No. 5B sur - 124
To the Honorable General Assembly of the Orthodox Presbyterian Church (of the U.S.A. and Canada)
% Donald Duff, stated c1erk of the General Assembly
Willow Grove, PA 19090-0920 U.S.A.
Dear Brethren in Christ,
May the grace and peace of God our Father and our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ be with you.
And now, this 12th day of April of2006, comes the Presbytery of Gran Colombia of the Orthodox Presbyterian Church in Colombia, to ask you, the Orthodox Presbyterian Church in the United States and Canada, to receive us as a part of your church.
We are presently made up of seven churches and missions. It is our desire to be a constituent part of the Orthodox Presbyterian Church, with all of the respective rights and responsibilities.
We wish to do this because the church is the body of Christ, and it is the desire of Christ that we should be one, as He and the Father are one (John 17: 19-21). This unity should be seen both in doctrinal unity (John 17: 19) as well as in practice (Ephesians 4: 15). We believe that this unity should be seen as well across national borders, so that all of the body of Christ might work in unity (Ephesians 4: 16). We believe that the churches in Colombia, as well as the churches in the United States, can build each other up to grow in Christ, and so, we ask you to receive us as a part of your church.
We hope for a favorable response from you, brothers, with the desire that our God will bless you in everything.
José Antonio Ríos
Stated Clerk of the Presbytery