Academic journal article International Review of Mission

Together in Mission - Questions and Outlook for Ecumenism in Brazil

Academic journal article International Review of Mission

Together in Mission - Questions and Outlook for Ecumenism in Brazil

Article excerpt


The aim of this article is to make an investigation: does there exist in the national context an ecumenical missionary experience? Lamentably, the reply can only be negative. Despite undeniable advances, the ecumenical performance of the ecclesiastical groups has not yet reached a stage of joint missionary action.

It is should be emphasized that the Brazilian examples of the international ecumenical movement, in line with the theological-political aims of the World Council of Churches (WCC), right from the beginning showed a clear option in favour of fundamental human rights, of justice, of peace, and of the desires of the poor majorities.

Also from the beginning, these options caused a kind of preoccupation within the Protestant ecclesiastical institutions, even those that were formally affiliated with the WCC. Therefore, since the 1950s there has been a curious inversion of roles. The churches that in the first place should have seized the theological and ethical banner that governs the work of the WCC did not do so adequately and thus this job was left to the Ecumenical Service Groups (EES).(1)

This situation does not relate only to the political dimension of the vanguard position that the WCC took during the active period of the national security regimes in Brazil and in the southern part of South America. Even in relation to the dissemination of ideas and circulation of information relevant to ecumenism, especially in Brazil, the churches played a secondary role.

In addition, the repression, censorship and darkness that has fallen over the official institutions of theological teaching since the time of the authoritarian regime has created another phenomenon: i.e., that the EES converted themselves also into centres of production and reproduction of biblical and theological knowledge.

This situation does not mean that the international ecumenical movement has not had substantial influence on the churches. However, we should take note of an undeniable fact: that in our latitudes, the ecclesiastical institutions never fulfilled the role of protagonists in respect to what we call the expansion and consolidation of the ecumenical movement.

In this way, the bearers and defenders of the ecumenical proposal have been ecclesiastical groups, ecclesial movements, organisms, entities and Christians from different confessional backgrounds. These people and organizations form a minority community under constant suspicion from their respective denominations and/or local churches.

The existence and presence of national and continental ecumenical articulations (for example, CLAI - Latin American Council of Churches and CONIC - National Council of Christian Churches), eases but does not solve the problem.

It is worth underlining that all those segments that adhere to the ecumenical proposal of the WCC understand it as having three interdependent dimensions: the unity of Christians; serving your neighbour; and dialogue with non-Christians engaged in the fight for life in its fullness.

These aspects, among many others, are strategic in relation to the spirit of the forthcoming conference on mission and evangelism. Looking at this question from the conference's point of view, we see at least two possibilities:

* In the light of a very broad concept of ecumenism, try to juxtapose social movements and popular religions; churches that are officially ecumenical and the non-ecumenical; the Catholic Church and organizations; and co-relations; with the intention of emphasizing the inclusiveness of the ecumenical proposal. This alternative, looking at the example of other similar and recent attempts, runs the risk of incurring artificiality.

* Without excluding those segments of all churches, religions, movements and organizations that have taken ecumenism seriously, make clear that ecumenism is a daring and utopian Christian proposal.

The choice of the second alternative could transform the conference into a symbolic-prophetic occasion causing minor interest. …

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