12 June 1996
PENTECOSTALS AND WORLD COUNCIL OF CHURCHES AGREE: THE HOLY SPIRIT LEADS US INTO THE TRUTH
SAN JOSE, Costa Rica (WCC) -- Separate statements were issued by Pentecostals from North and South America and by representatives of the World Council of Churches following a joint meeting in San Jose from 4 to 8 June.
More than 30 persons attended the meeting, which was organized by the WCC's Office of Church and Ecumenical Relations. The conferees came from 11 pentecostal groups in the United States and Latin America and from historic Protestant and Orthodox members of the WCC.
The texts of the statements, issued under a common preamble, are as follows:
We are 30 sisters and brothers from North America and Latin America who are members of various Pentecostal churches and of member communions of the World Council of Churches. From 4 to 8 June 1996, we gathered in San Jose, Costa Rica to explore our differences and our concerns about one another. And through the power of the Holy Spirit, we also explored common areas in which our Christian faith is bringing us closer together. We are thankful to our Lord for gathering us in this place, where we prayed and sang, learned the importance of respecting one another and some of us laid hands upon one another and spoke in tongues. We believe the Holy Spirit leads us into the truth and empowers us to share humbly and honestly in a spirit of love. We came to know one another better and we acknowledge that, in spite of our short comings, the Spirit works for our benefit. We affirm that, indeed, the Body of Christ might be shaken and bruised but it is never destroyed. We offer this to the glory of God, the Father, the Son and the Holy Spirit.
In separate statements, participants from WCC member churches and Pentecostal churches thought it good to make the following observations about our meeting:
The response of participants from World Council of Churches member churches:
We conclude this meeting in a spirit of rejoicing, realizing that our time together has changed our views of our pentecostal sisters and brothers and has begun to erase the stereotypes we have held. We earnestly hope pentecostals will be present at future meetings of the World Council of Churches, for without their presence something crucial will be missing. We recognize that there are differences in the experiences, theological views and social outlooks of the persons who gathered here this week. But the WCC has always been a richly diverse fellowship and we regard our diversity as one of God's most precious gifts. We confess that the World Council faces problems and challenges that its members need to discuss. Outside our fellowship, many view us with suspicion because of the way we are perceived. The WCC image is often distorted by secular media, but there are other problems of our own making.
We acknowledge that at times our membership policies imply a certain ecclesiology of historic churches that could exclude newer Christian groups and movements.
We acknowledge that we sometimes speak with "ecumenical jargon" and offer little interpretation to those who do not speak our language.
We acknowledge that we often criticize persons, such as those we accuse of proselytism, without inviting them into our discussions.
We acknowledge that some of our own members and our ecumenical institutions, including colleges and seminaries, do not always reflect the ecumenicity implied by their membership in the WCC.
We pray that we in the World Council of Churches may move closer to our Pentecostal sisters and brothers.
We place many of our hopes and dreams in young adults from all the traditions represented at our meeting. It is our fervent prayer that they will help us move toward increased cooperation and unity.
We encourage our member churches to seek face to face encounters with local Pentecostal congregations.
We urge a continued bilateral dialogue between the WCC's member churches and Pentecostal churches, at every level of leadership, including specifically a dialogue between Pentecostals and Orthodox.
We affirm that future agendas need to be set together and acknowledge the issues that have emerged at this meeting, including evangelism, koinonia, ecclesiology and worship. Our prayer is that we will never lose the spirit and learnings of this meeting. We rejoice in the desire of our Pentecostal sisters and brothers to move more closely to one another as well as to those of us who have been outside their movement. And we recommit ourselves to pursuing the sometimes elusive goal of Christian unity, knowing always that it is the Spirit of God who is bringing us together.
The response of participants from Pentecostal churches from North America and South America:
We are grateful to the World Council of Churches for providing the opportunity to bring many of us together with a number of their own members. We believe that our search for the unity of the Church and the churches is a work of the Holy Spirit. We have been struck by the different ways that the Holy Spirit has been breaking down artificial barriers which have frequently stood between us, such as racial barriers which have stood so long between Black, Hispanic, and White Pentecostals in North America. We believe that we, too, have heard the voice of the Spirit calling us together in these days. From North and South, from different races and cultures, with different histories and with different gifts, the Holy Spirit is calling us to bear witness to what God has been doing in the Pentecostal movement.
We stand in awe before our God, Father, Son and Holy Spirit, coming to the realization that it is not simply our human frailty, or our intellectual openness that brought us together in this meeting. The Spirit of God led us here to converse together with Christians from the World Council of Churches. Some of us have been joyfully surprised to discover the fact that the Holy Spirit has done the same work in bringing our sisters and brothers of the World Council of Churches to San Jose, Costa Rica. Through worship, Bible reading, prayer, singing, sharing our testimonies, and even confrontation, we have experienced a new Koinonia of the Holy Spirit together. This experience has made us thirsty for more such encounters.
Our concern is that the momentum of discovery, encounter, and exchange between Pentecostals and members of the World Council of Churches begun in the 1994 meeting in Lima, Peru, and continued in the present meeting, will not be lost. We believe that this meeting has challenged us to seek greater exchanges between Pentecostals throughout the world, especially between Pentecostals throughout the Americas, North, Central and South, but also between Pentecostals and other people who name the name of Jesus Christ.
We recognize in a new and profound way the breadth and richness of our diversity, which raises new challenges of how we speak about Pentecostalism. We have been made self-conscious about any attempt to describe Pentecostalism as though it were a uniform movement of people and ideas, and have been challenged to think of ourselves with more variety. Nevertheless, we recognize that being together, in unity made real by the Holy Spirit, informs our diversity. In light of this diversity, we are aware of the need to better employ our theologians in assisting us in reflecting upon, interpreting, and articulating our Pentecostal identity and our diversity to the world.
In this meeting with the WCC, we have discussed and debated a number of mutual concerns. We were challenged, for instance, to consider how Pentecostals have sometimes proselytized other Christians. This has brought offense to the Gospel as well as to them. We shared with our conversation partners the ways in which their theological institutions, which claim to support the ecumenical vision of the church, have frequently proselytized through the educational process Pentecostal students who have been drawn to their institutions for theological education. We also discussed the ways in which the World Council of Churches has been represented in media and in print, sometimes portraying an image that is contrary to what the World Council of Churches represents. However, this meeting has been important to begin to dispel our misconceptions of one another. It is our hope that in future interactions that progress will be made in our understanding and appreciation of our Christian faith.
The following persons attended the meeting in Costa Rica:
Anthea D. Butler, (Foursquare International), Nashville, Tenn.; Rev. Bernardo Campos Morante, (Instituto Peruano de Estudios de la Religion), Lima, Peru; Rev. David Cole (Open Bible Standard Churches), Eugene, Ore.; Jeremy Crawford (Orthodox Church in America), San Luis Obispo, Calif.; Dr. David Daniels (Church of God in Christ), McCormick Theological Seminary, Chicago; Dr. Murray Dempster, Southern California College, Costa Mesa, Calif.; and the Rev. I. Douglas Estella (Reformed Church in America), New York, N.Y.
Also, Rev. Phil Hilliard (Assemblies of God), Alhambra, Calif.; Dr. Harold D. Hunter (International Pentecostal Holiness Church), Oklahoma City, Ok.; Dr. Richard Israel (Assemblies of God), San Jose, Calif.; Senora Maritza Leon (Servicio Cristiano Ecumenico "Koinonia") Miranda, Venezuela; Rev. Gamaliel Lugo Morales (Comision Evangelica Pentecostal Latinamericana), Maracaibo-Zulia, Venezuela; and the Rt. Rev. Dr. Zacharias Mar Theophilus, Mar Toma Centre, Richboro, Pa.
Also, Despina D. Prassas (Greek Orthodox Archdiocese of North and South America), Washington, D.C.; Rev. Thomas Pratt (Assemblies of God), Bethany College, Scotts Valley, Calif.; Rev. Raymond M. Pruitt (Church of God of Prophecy), Cleveland, Tenn.; Mrs. Patsy J. Robeck (Assemblies of God), Pasadena, Calif.; Dr. Cecil M. Robeck Jr. (Assemblies of God), Fuller Theological Seminary, Pasadena, Calif.; and Ed Rybarczyk (Assemblies of God), Costa Mesa, Calif.
Also, Pastor Narcisco Sepulveda Barra (Mision Iglesia Pentecostal), Santiago, Chile; Dr. Gerald T. Sheppard (Church of God in Christ; United Church of Canada), Toronto, Ontario; Dr. Richard Waldrop (Church of God), Cleveland, Tenn.; Dr. Samuel Solivan (Asambleas de Dios) Andover Newton Theological School, Newton Centre, Mass.; and Dr. Charles Brockwell (United Methodist Church), Louisville Presbyterian Theological Seminary, Louisville, Ky.
Dr. Eugene Stockwell and Angela Padilla, Quito, Equador, provided simultaneous translation in English and Spanish during the meeting.
World Council of Churches staff at the meeting were Huibert van Beek of the Office of Church and Ecumenical Relations, Geneva, Switzerland; Jean S. Stromberg, director, U.S. Office of the WCC; Garland F. Pierce, Young Adult Intern, U.S. Office of the WCC; and Philip E. Jenks, Communications and Publications Officer, U.S. Office of the WCC.
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For more information contact:
Philip E. Jenks, Communications and Publications Officer, U.S. Office of the WCC 212-870-3193 firstname.lastname@example.org