In November 1994 the World Council of Churches (WCC) invited some fifty representatives from Pentecostal churches in Latin America, together with people from the Latin American Council of Churches (CLAI) to take part in a consultation in Lima, Peru. The consultation was aimed at sharing testimonies and experiences, undertaking joint analysis, and exploring ways to deepen the process of unity and collaboration that had already begun.
Several converging elements led to the decision of the WCC to call this consultation with Pentecostal churches in Latin America. At the occasion of its Assembly in Canberra in 1991, the WCC made explicit its interest in responding to the various voices who expressed the need for the Council to engage in a more systematic process of dialogue and cooperation with non member churches, specially with Independent, Evangelical and Pentecostal churches. That concern became an integral part of the mandate of WCC Office for Church and Ecumenical Relations, an office which was created right after the Assembly.
A first consultation, involving Free Evangelical churches in Latin America, was organized by this Office in close cooperation with CLAI and held in Quito, Ecuador in November of 1993. That consultation was a positive experience which helped to initiate a methodology of mutual listening and learning that was used subsequently in other similar meetings.
Although the first Pentecostal member churches joined the WCC in 1961, it was not until the past recent years that the ecumenical movement embodied in the Council began a closer relationship with the Pentecostal movement. This approach takes place in the framework of a process aiming at comprehending Pentecostalism as an expression of Protestant popular religiosity which is raising new pastoral and ecclesiological challenges to the ecumenical movement.
On the other hand, the process of coming together and cooperation among Pentecostal churches in Latin America has consistently developed. These churches have decided to reflect on their mission amidst the grave problems which affect the entire region, and to do so from their own Pentecostal identity. At the same time, these churches desire to articulate working strategies and cooperation around the diverse ministries of the Church. Having their identity as the point of departure, these Pentecostal churches are endeavoring to deepen their participation in the ecumenical movement.
In 1988, the World Council of Churches sponsored a first Latin American Pentecostal Consultation in Salvador, Bahia, Brazil, which intended to provide a forum for dialogue and analysis among Pentecostals from the region, thereby facilitating the conditions for them to build up a regional process of coordination and cooperation.
The creation of the Latin American Evangelical Pentecostal Commission (CEPLA), in 1990, provided a significant sector of the Latin American Pentecostalism with the opportunity to share their insights and to attempt to jointly respond to the call for unity and cooperation. However, there is still much to be done to incorporate broader sectors of Pentecostalism into this process, sectors which still do not feel the need for dialogue.
This process of unity and cooperation has evolved around some specific issues, such as the challenges that the Latin America reality of extreme poverty, injustice and marginalization poses to Pentecostalism; the question of the Pentecostal identity and its theological roots; ecumenism; and the pastoral work with specific social sectors such as women, youth, indigenous peoples and children.
A number of national meetings were held during 1991 and 1992 in Venezuela, Costa Rica, Chile and Brazil. The first meeting of Pentecostal Women in Latin America took place in August, 1992, with the support of the World Council of Churches. That very year, through the participation of its General Secretary Rev. Emilio Castro - who attended the Latin American Pentecostal Meeting in Sao Paulo, Brazil - the Council showed its interest in Pentecostal witness and search of identity. 53 Pentecostal denominations from 17 countries from Latin America were convened to this large meeting, which assembled over a hundred people.
The Lima Consultation was another step in the process of forging relationships between the WCC and Pentecostal Churches in Latin America. The purpose was to open up new areas of dialogue and cooperation, beyond the support provided to the process of coming together of these churches and the creation of CEPLA. The future perspectives listed in the final document are an expression of what has now become a common agenda.