A few weeks ago I was browsing the June edition of Christianity Today when a photo grabbed my attention. “Hey!” I almost said out loud, “I know those people!” My friends Norberto and Carmen Saracco stood out in a photo of pastors in Buenos Aires, and the article, “Something Better than Revival,” by CT news editor Jeremy Weber, told the story of the Council of Pastors in Argentina’s capital city.
The article also mentions church historian, Pablo Deiros. Norberto and Pablo are teaching colleagues of ours on the academic council of PRODOLA, a Latin American graduate program in theology. Norberto had shared about the unity movement of churches in Buenos Aires, so the information was not new, but I gained a new sense of the scope and the significance of what CT is calling “perhaps the most remarkable experiment in citywide church unity today.” The story is fascinating, and I encourage you to read the article for yourselves.
It’s interesting to note how the movement has evolved from friendships between pastors across denominational lines, to friendships between churches, and now to united missional efforts in the center of Buenos Aires. One of their latest endeavors was the joint sending of a missionary couple to North Africa, a model that gives hope for carrying out the Great Commission in spite of the economic realities of Latin America.
This kind of unity has not been easy to achieve, especially given some of the differences between the more liberal mainline churches and the evangelical churches. Pastors have adopted certain basic theological elements and agreed to differ on the rest. It seems to be working. One of the founders, Juan Pablo Bongarrá, says, “Today the mainline churches are helping the evangelical churches do social work, and the evangelical churches are helping the mainline churches do evangelism work.” The article goes on to state that “Christians now enjoy greater leverage in the public square because they can present a united front when confronting the government.”
Something the article does not mention is the unity movement in Argentina between Protestants and Catholics, especially those that identify with the charismatic/Pentecostal emphasis. Norberto is also a leader in this movement.
I think of my own faith community, that of the Quakers, with all our divisions and differences. I’m encouraged by the convergent Friends movement, but I wish we as Friends could also make more intentional moves toward the greater unity of the whole body of Christ. Perhaps this is something better carried out locally than globally.