THE EVANGELICAL CHURCH IN HISTORICAL PERSPECTIVE: In the Latin American evangelical community a missionary concern for other continents has been awakened. New generations of evangelicals, however, generally do not know their own historical roots and Protestant heritage. The knowledge of our own history is essential in order to avoid the errors of the past, to recuperate distinctive characteristics of our heritage, and to fulﬁl our missionary mandate. In Latin America and in the Caribbean, Protestantism has historical roots that
date from the 16th century. It is an integral part of the history of Latin America,
not simply an alienating foreign element at the service of the advance of present-day imperialism. This affirmation does not excuse the evangelical church for its historical errors and for the deformations of the gospel as it was introduced and established on this continent. It is essential, therefore, to examine the positive and negative contributions of European and North American missiology as well as those of Latin American missiology.
GOSPEL AND CULTURE: The gospel is relevant to all of human reality, including culture through which humankind transforms creation. The capacity for cultural creation is a gift granted by God, in whose image human beings were created. Thus, it is important that culture occupy the place it deserves in our logical reﬂection and practice. During these 500 years, our continent has witnessed contempt for the autochthonous cultures and their systematic destruction in the name of evangelization. The subjection and the abuse which the indigenous peoples suffered must be condemned. Thus it is absolutely essential to seek reconciliation between our peoples. At the same time we must recognize that every culture can be an adequate vehicle for the faithful communication of the gospel. From this perspective every culture should be understood, respected and promoted without presupposing the superiority of one culture over others. It should be pointed out as well that every culture is affected by sin, which introduced corruption, conﬂicts, egotism, and the breaking of relations between God and all of creation. Therefore, all cultures are under the judgment of the Word. The Creator may not be identified with his creation nor with any particular culture. The revelation of God in Christ transcends both and at the same time enters into a relationship with both creation and culture to redeem them.
Evangelical missiology should function in two ways. First, it should recognize,
respect and dignify peoples and their cultures; second, it should evaluate them in the light of the judgment of the Word, offering the hope of the gospel for their
transformation. The faithfulness of the church to the purposes of God demands a contextual hermeneutic which permits the faithful communication of the gospel in open dialogue with culture. The church should fulfill its mission of announcing integral salvation to the whole human being in the reality in which he or she is rooted.
EVANGELICAL IDENTITY: As evangelicals, we need to reevaluate our indigenous, African, mestizo, European, Asian, and creole roots, and consider the plurality of cultures and races that have contributed to our enrichment. As the Latin American church, we confess that we have identified more with foreign cultural values than with those authentically our own. By God’s grace, because of our cultural identity and our evangelical identity we can face the world without a sense of inferiority or shame.
The aﬂirmation of our evangelical identity involves reaffirming our commitment to our Reformation heritage. It does not mean assuming a noncritical position
with respect to our tradition, doctrines, or missiology. As a church we are called to consistent reformation in the light of the Scriptures as our final authority.
We must evaluate the models of mission we inherited from the past or import
in the present, and seek new models. This requires forging a missiology from Latin America that takes into account the experiences and contributions of the churches from the different ethnic and cultural groups of the continent. Nevertheless, the search for new models must not lead us to make concessions with respect to the truth of Jesus Christ.
We thank God for progress in the unity of the evangelical church in Latin
America and for the new forms of cooperation which have arisen in the fulfillment of its mission. However, we must recognize that individualism and denominationalism have created divisions in the Latin American church. To confess the unity of the church in Christ means to overcome ideological, cultural, social, economic, and denominational barriers. We need to open ourselves to constructive dialogue, to value each contribution, to strengthen communion, and to cooperate in mission. It is not honest on our part to proclaim a gospel that reconciles the world if we still have not become reconciled among ourselves.
SOCIO-POLITICAL CONTEXT: Latin America at present can be characterized as a continent in crisis. Various countries have suffered under repressive military regimes which committed grave violations of human rights. In others, many years of civil war have caused enormous human and economic loss. The persistence of male dominance in our culture has made women the victims of different kinds of discrimination which limit their full participation in social and civil roles. Profound social and racial divisions in the country and in the city place millions of men, women, youth, and children in conditions of extreme poverty, denying them the employment, adequate food, housing, health, and education that make possible equality of life that is truly human.
Purely formal democracy, corruption of state institutions, and inadequate neo-
liberal economic measures show that power does not serve the whole of society,
least of all the impoverished majority. The problems of corruption, the external
debt, drug trafficking, terrorism, moral degradation in its different forms, and the disintegration of the family also lacerate our peoples.
THE RESPONSIBILITY OF THE CHURCH: In the face of this situation, our Christian conscience cannot close its eyes. The gospel of the kingdom of God exhorts us to practice justice, which is the essential consequence of forgiveness and reconciliation in Jesus Christ. Our faithfulness to the call of the gospel demands that we assume Christian responsibility in the conﬂictive situations of our continent. The church must affirm and promise the life denied by all sin, by unjust structures, and by avaricious interest groups. Within its community, the different forms of discrimination predominant in society on the basis of sex, educational level, age, nationality, and race must be ended. The church
fulfills its mission as it follows Jesus’ example and takes seriously God’s question
to Cain, “Where is your brother?”
We recognize that the Latin American evangelical church generally has not
assumed this responsibility faithfully. It has confused the world, into which it was sent to serve, with worldliness and sin and has isolated itself from social and political processes. In some cases, it even justiﬁed violent dictatorial regimes. This explains why some evangelicals who have participated in the public arena have achieved little or nothing in favor of the majority of the people; on the contrary, they have limited their political participation to satisfying personal interests and to obtaining certain privileges for the evangelical church.
At the same time, we celebrate the growing awareness of the evangelical church
with respect to its social and political responsibility and its increasing participation in society. Different evangelical entities, churches, and individual believers participate in development projects, in public administration, and in institutions that defend human rights.
THE RESPONSIBILITY OF THE CHRISTIAN: The proclamation of the whole gospel commits us to the creative work of developing more and better ways of participation in society. The certainty of the ﬁnal triumph of Jesus Christ, guaranteed by his resurrection, impels us to make constructive contributions, even though they may not achieve definite results. Our commitment to Jesus Christ as the only mediator of the peace of God provides the foundation for the conviction that his redemptive work is relevant for every conﬂict and for all human suffering.
Responsible participation in civil life requires the preparation of leaders motivated by the Christian call to service. The church should affirm that every aspect of national life is an area of legitimate action for Christian service. It must provide formative help and pastoral accompaniment for those who have a political calling.At the same time it is necessary that the church assume its prophetic function to denounce, among other matters, the abuse of sex, the manipulation of the communications media, and the deification of the state, money, and violence, whatever its origin. It does so legitimately when it manifests in its own existence the life of love, justice, and peace which is possible through obedience to the Word and the power of the Spirit of God. The exercise of leadership in the life of the local churches should be marked by the model of the suffering servant and show a contrast with the political demagoguery and other deformations caused by the abuse of power.
Practice is demonstrating that local churches can respond to the needs of their
communities according to the extent of their resources. They are developing
projects that show the possibility of transformation, beginning with local initiatives and resources that promote appreciation for the dignity of persons and of peoples; we see here a challenge that should be taken seriously by the entire evangelical community. The power of the gospel and consistent action on the part of evangelical churches can permeate and transform the conditions of injustice and inequality that prevail today in Latin America.