QUITO, Ecuador

The Board of Directors of the Latin American Council of Churches (CLAI) has decided that the continental ecumenical organization’s next General Assembly will be held in Havana, Cuba, from Feb. 19-25, 2013.

The General Assembly is the highest organism of CLAI. It elects its Board of Directors and establishes priorities and goals for the following six year period.

The theme for the 2013 Assembly is “Affirming an Ecumenism of Concrete Gestures.”

CLAI came about in 1978 given the need to respond to a context marked by misery, violence and oppression. The misery of the Latin American people ― the product of the social sin ― is in contradiction with the creating plan of God.

For this reason, the option for the excluded is a matter of principle for CLAI.   

“The theme, ‘Affirming an Ecumenism of Concrete Gestures,’ arose out of a process of consultation with each of CLAI’s national tables, during 2009 and 2010,” said CLAI General Secretary, the Rev. Nilton Giese.

“The national tables emphasized that the practical challenges are essentially ‘ecumenical.’ Violence, the destruction of the environment, unemployment, etc. affect all alike,” he added. “Thus, the ‘preferential option for the poor’ has been an important ecumenical catalyst in the past, and CLAI is born out of a common yearning of the churches in Latin America and the Caribbean for a society whose inspiration is that of the values of the Kingdom. And so, an ecumenism of concrete gestures is what characterizes CLAI in the ecumenical movement.”  

The choosing of Havana as the site for the sixth General Assembly is in response to the invitation by the Cuban churches that have witnessed an extraordinary growth over the past years. “We want to meet the churches in Cuba and listen to each other with the conviction that faith and praxis condition each other, and should be distinguished, but never separated,” said Giese.   

The process of preparation for the General Assembly will take place in the 20 CLAI “national tables” over a period of 12 months, and will look at specific issues such as: 

  • Peace in Creation and the eradication of poverty;
  • Gender justice in pastoral formation;
  • Accompaniment of the victims of violence;
  • The church and sexual and reproductive rights; and
  • Land and indigenous peoples.

“The purpose of this preparatory process is the organizing of teaching materials that emphasize the Gospel call to concrete gestures in response to the specific issues that the national tables will be considering,” concluded Giese. “For the ecumenical churches and organisms that are a part of CLAI to carry out ‘the defense of God’s cause in this world,’ social action is so very essential for the ecumenical movement, as is love for the faith.