In the period following the 7th Assembly of the World Council of Churches in Canberra in 1991, staff of the WCC Office of Church and Ecumenical Relations began to establish informal, personal contacts with leaders and scholars from Pentecostal and Holiness churches in North America. Pentecostalism as it is known in this century originated in the USA which has played a major role in its missionary spread to all parts of the world. Even today the US Pentecostal churches continue to be key actors in the world-wide pentecostal movement, both with regard to theological as well as human and financial resources.
The Office of Church and Ecumenical Relations was not alone in this effort to develop new relationships. Other parts of the WCC, such as Faith and Order, took initiatives inviting Pentecostals to participate in their activities, among them from North America. In the USA Pentecostal scholars had already been taking part in Faith and Order work at the national level since a longer time.
In the second half of 1995 it was felt that a sufficient basis had been laid to build upon for a new stage in the process. With the help of Pentecostal friends plans were made for a consultative meeting, and a list of persons to be invited was drawn up. It was decided to also make use of the planned meeting for a dialogue between Pentecostals from North and South America which the consultation with Latin American Pentecostals in 1994 in Lima had asked the WCC to promote. Quite naturally Costa Rica as a midpoint of the Western hemisphere was chosen as venue.Following the pattern of earlier encounters of this kind, the Pentecostal participants were joined by members of some of the WCC member denominations in the region. Nations represented at the meeting included Canada, Chile, Costa Rica, Ecuador, India, the Netherlands, Peru, the United States and Venezuela. Within the United States, theological positions ranged from Pentecostal and evangelical to Orthodox and mainline Protestantism. Within Latin America, some of the Pentecostal groups represented were members of the WCC and others were not. And among the men and women hailing from Pentecostal groups in the U.S. and Latin America, there was a noticeably wide range of theological differences and social attitudes -- perhaps even wider than the range that existed between WCC members and Pentecostals.
This report offers a reflection of the richness of the encounter that took place in San José, and it offers ample material for the continuing dialogue between christian sisters and brothers from the Pentecostal tradition and the fellowship of the World Council of Churches.
We remember with gratitude our brother Eugene Stockwell. This consultation was the last ecumenical gathering at which he helped with the communication between people from the two parts of the world he loved most: Latin America and the USA, his home country. We knew he was ill and prayed with him in the true Pentecostal way. He passed away on October 11, 1996. Gene and Margret's presence among us was a blessing for all of us.