This past autumn Confraternidad Latinoamericana De Inglesias Reformadas (CLIR) celebrated its twentieth anniversary by hosting the General Assembly of Reformed Churches in Latin America. URCNA missionaries Rev. Bill Green and Rev. Nick Lamme were joined by several speakers from the western hemisphere.
The theme for the conference was taken from Philippians 1:27b-28a: “Stand firm in one spirit, contending as one man for the faith of the gospel without being frightened in any way by those who oppose you.” Meeting with Rev. Green and Rev. Lamme in Panama were ministers from Bolivia, Brazil, Canada, Chile, Columbia, Costa Rica, Peru, Puerto Rico, and the United States. Attending from the URCNA were Rev. Richard Bout, URCNA Missions Coordinator; Rev. Casey Freswick from Bethany URC in Wyoming, Michigan; and Rev. Wybren Oord from Trinty URC in Lethbridge, Alberta. Also visiting the General Assembly were several ministers of churches along the Gulf of Mexico.
Rev. Alonzo Ramirez from Peru began the conference with a series of lectures that focused on pastoral work in a pagan world. Rev. Ludgero Bonilha from Brazil led a series of lectures on the invasion of feminism and the biblical view of masculinity. Dr. James Wanliss from the United States addressed the issue of climate change in three separate lectures. Rev. David Correa of Mexico spoke on the reign of God and youth ministry. Rev. Wybren Oord gave a lecture on the authority and sufficiency of Scripture.
Although most of the conference was in Spanish mixed with some Portuguese, I was struck by the zeal for the gospel and love for the Lord expressed by the conference speakers and those who attended. Many of the problems they are dealing with in their churches are similar to the ones we have faced in the past, such as feminism and biblical authority. The lectures on ministry to the youth would be beneficial in many of our churches throughout North America.
I have to admit that when Dr. James Wanliss began his first lecture on climate change, I wondered why the conference coordinators wanted him to address the topic three times. He was, however, fascinating as he explained of the dangers of the environmentalist’s world view. Equally interesting was the question-and-answer period after each of his lectures. It became clear that an environmental philosophy and ethics is sweeping through Central America and must be addressed by the church.
Between lectures the CLIR board met to discuss how to address different opportunities for ministry throughout Latin America. Throughout the conference CLIR had tables of resource materials designed for ministry to the Latin American churches. CLIR has translated Calvin’s Institutes, commentaries written by John Calvin, the Life in Christ catechism material distributed by Reformed Fellowship, and many, many other solid Reformed publications.
Frequently when I introduce the Apostles’ Creed during the worship service I mention that it is the creed of the church “throughout the ages and throughout the world.” As those gathered at the conference in Panama sang “When Peace Like a River” in a language I did not understand, I was struck by the truth that statement. Throughout the world there are people singing:
My sin—O the bliss of this glorious thought!—
My sin not in part, but the whole,
Is nailed to the cross and I bear it no more;
Praise the Lord, praise the Lord, O my soul!
As we work together in other parts of the world, may we realize the necessity of the bringing the gospel of Jesus Christ to this dying world!
For more information on CLIR, check out their website at WWW.CLIR.NET or contact them through e-mail at firstname.lastname@example.org
Rev. Wybren Oord is the co-pastor of Trinity United Reformed Church in Lethbridge, AB, and the editor of The Outlook.