SANTIAGO, Chile — The sanctuary at Unión Cristiana Presbyterian Church in Santiago, Chile was full the evening of Sunday, July 21, as representatives of all four presbyteries of the Evangelical Presbyterian Church in Chile (IEPeCh) gathered to give thanks to God for 150 years of mission partnership with the Presbyterian Church (U.S.A.).
The message was brought by Rev. Dr. Jan DeVries, General Presbyter of Grace Presbytery in Texas. Grace Presbytery’s Director of Ministry Services, Joanna Kim, accompanied DeVries to explore possible future avenues of mission partnership with the IEPeCh.
In her sermon, DeVries focused on Ephesians 4:1-16, emphasizing that the unity of the church is a gift we receive from Jesus Christ, not some accommodation that we cobble together through our own partisan efforts. In this text, she observed, Paul was seeking “how to enable a diverse group of people, all equally zealous in their faith, to stand in the unity they had in Jesus Christ instead of giving in to their differences.”
The key leadership roles assumed by women in this denomination was eloquently illustrated as IEPeCh Executive Secretary Rev. Jaqueline Troncoso led communion and the elements were distributed by four women elders. Chilean Presbyterians began ordaining women as ruling elders back in the 1930s.
Presbyterian World Mission was represented by Rev. Dr. Valdir França, Area Coordinator for Latin America and the Caribbean, and by the author, who’s the regional liaison for South America. Smith brought greetings from the Presbyterian Church of Venezuela (IPV), where he visited earlier in the month, affirming the warm and supportive welcome given to IPV members, recent immigrants to Chile, by the IEPeCh.
At the annual pastors retreat that preceded the anniversary celebration, França led the group as they identified key pastoral challenges facing the IEPeCh today. Participants highlighted four current issues:
Rev. Dr. Jorge Cárdenas, moderator of the IEPeCh, noted that although the Chilean church is a small denomination, it has a long tradition of speaking truth to power, even during the difficult years of Chile’s military dictatorship. For years, he said, the IEPeCh leadership has shared pastoral letters with members that have been unafraid to tackle the difficult issues facing Chilean society, including corruption and increasing social polarization as wealth and opportunity have accrued mostly to the elites.
“Continuing to partner with the PC(USA),” concluded Cárdenas, “gives us the gift of walking together and learning from one another as we proclaim the Gospel of Jesus Christ in word and deed.”
Dennis Smith is Presbyterian World Mission’s regional liaison for South America.
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