Pastoral Letter to the Churches: Consultation on Faith, Healing and Mission Santiago, Chile, 28-30 October 2003

Article excerpt

On each side of the river stood the tree of life, bearing twelve crops of fruit, yielding its fruit every month. And the leaves of the tree are for the healing of the nations (Rev. 22:2).

We are fifty representatives and delegates from evangelical churches with very different traditions and theological backgrounds in Latin America, together with others invited from the Caribbean, the United States, Europe, Africa and Asia, and have gathered at the San Jose Retreat House in Santiago, Chile, at the invitation of the World Council of Churches (WCC) and the Latin American Council of Churches (CLAI) to participate in a Consultation on Faith, Healing and Mission, from 28 to 30 October 2003. Together we acknowledge and celebrate the ministry of healing exercised by our congregations, thus anticipating the abundant life offered us by Jesus.

This consultation forms part of a process begun in London, England, and continued in Ghana, Africa, in 2002. We associate ourselves with the statement made in London on the healing community: "The church, as a healing community, should be a safe place. It should be a place to tell stories of need and healing, and problems and pains without being judged; a place to request prayers for healing as well as strength to endure; a place to debate and claim a theology of healing; a place to seek help, where neither money nor the embrace of particular rituals is demanded as a prerequisite. (1)"

Out of our present situation in Latin America of a broken and afflicted world, we have come together with our wealth of differences and diversity to be healed as we listen to one another. Out of the day-to-day experience of our congregations, we are seeking a deeper understanding of the ministry of healing as an integral part of the mission of the Church and of the challenge to promote the development of healing communities in our local situations. Our worship, our biblical studies and the presence of representatives from Pentecostal churches in the consultation have encouraged us to rediscover the central role of healing in Jesus' ministry in the gospels, and his commission to his disciples and his Church. The presence of Bishop Francisco Anabalon, moderator of the Committee of Evangelical Organizations in Chile, and our conversations with Chilean participants in the consultation, have enabled us to have a vision of the healing ministry in local churches. We give thanks to God that that ministry has made possible a process of healing of the wounds that in recent history have created deep divisions in the Chilean churches.

The testimonies from healing communities that we have heard in this consultation confirm our belief that God's activity is not limited to the body but has to do with the salvation of people as whole persons and with transforming relationships in the family and in society. These real-life stories have encouraged us to continue in prayer for divine healing in the broken bodies of men and women suffering from various diseases and even in extreme situations. These testimonies have thus inspired us to encourage those with various gifts in our congregations to be involved in all these healing processes through a combination of medical care, pastoral psychological support and the ministry of prayer.

We know that in the ministry of healing we encounter difficulties in becoming healing communities ...

In our reading and interpretation of the Bible we frequently do not connect the concept of healing with salvation in all its aspects in the perspective of the kingdom of God. There are rationalistic prejudices against spiritual and supernatural phenomena. The ministry of healing is dismissed as being associated with excesses and negative practices by some churches and religious movements. …