A PENTECOSTAL MEMBER CHURCH OF THE WCC
Narciso Sepúlveda explained how the Pentecostal Mission Church of Chile had become a member of the WCC and what it meant to them.
Our WCC membership came as a result of an intensive ecumenical activity in the first ten years of the life of our church. It began with membership of the Chile Council of Churches in 1952, and continued with our participation in the largest evangelical campaign in Chilean history in 1953. In 1954 we shared in the creation of a Biblical Seminary, which is now the Sminary of the Church of God. In that decade also we participated in the youth movement across Chile and in the creation of a Protestant women's movement.
The sense of belonging to a larger church was very important. John 17:21 was the model and the chorus of the movement: being one in Christ. It was not just a matter of pentecostal churches. In all of these movements there were the historical churches as well.
In much of this work, especially when we created the Evangelical Development Service, we were able to cooperate with very poor neighborhood groups which struggled for their housing problems and took over private or government land. The church was there to serve the people. In those days we had the surprise of finding in our meetings two or three nuns. There were also a couple of Swedish Assembly of God missionaries. One time a neighborhood priest came. It was a witness to all this ecumenical work in social areas.
Through this work of service we came to know the WCC, which came to our aid because of some of the national disasters that often happen in Chile, including the serious 1960 earthquake. Then, all the protestant churches came together to help. Pastors who wouldn't even say hello to each other became friends. In January 1961 we studied the principles of the WCC and were surprised they coincided with what we ourselves believed in. Every church that confesses Jesus Christ as Lord and Savior and as part of the Trinity was our sister church. When in the New Delhi assembly in 1961 our membership in the WCC was proposed it was accepted unanimously.
In 1971 and 1983 there were other earthquakes and the WCC and the NCCC/USA and CLAI (Latin American Council of Churches) sent us assistance and this impressed us a great deal and helped us for a long time to help the victims of the earthquakes. Members of the councils came to visit us to express solidarity.
Where the solidarity of the WCC was most evident was during the 17 years of dictatorship in my country, especially after the coup. Right after the coup we organized the peace committee which saved many, many lives - hundreds or persons who were hidden in embassies or in our own homes. Until today many of these people are grateful to the WCC for having helped them to go into exile. We will never forget the tremendous support we received from the Council.Our participation in the council brought us some difficulties of course. When it was learned that two pentecostal churches had joined the council a campaign began against us. During the coup, the cost we had to pay was even greater because the campaign was intensified and our members were threatened with jail because they belonged to a church which was a member of the WCC. The propaganda called the WCC a front organisation for international communism. About 30 percent or our members left the church because of these fears. Today the propaganda against us and the tension because of our membership do not exist anymore.
To this day we see the ministry of our church as preaching the gospel of salvation but also, with the same intensity, practicing Christian solidarity as an integral part of its mission. Our membership in the WCC has been a great blessing to us. The interaction with other churches whom we did not know before, for instance the Orthodox churches, has been very important.
In answer to questions Pastor Sepúlveda said his church had never found itself in a conflictual situation because of certain programmes or decisions of the WCC. Its decision to become a member had not been motivated by a desire to strengthen the position of the church vis-à-vis the Roman Catholic Church. The Pentecostal Mission Church practices open communion and accepts with joy invitations to participate in communion celebrated in other churches.