Because each Latin American country has its own socio-political, historical and, of course, economic reality, the ecumenical landscape in each is different. Also, the religious context adds its own colour to the ecumenical dynamic. I will talk about this in the context of Mexico City.
Opportunities for cohesion
The situation in my country in 1997 is important. The political changes that came about from the elections that year are especially relevant. It was then that the engineer Cuauhtémoc Cárdenas Solórzano came to power in the city. He was from the Mexican Left and promoted opportunities for cohesion through dialogue that sought unity among the various social and religious sectors of the city. He proposed possibilities for social, economic and political change at the time.
Out of this arose a stronger social movement that learned to be more astute in its interactions with the ruling powers in the country.
It is within this context that ecumenical encounters with people from different religious institutions came about. The intention was to foment an inter-religious dialogue whose voice could be heard in the midst of this social movement.
An Anabaptist theological vision
As an Anabaptist under these circumstances, I always felt sure that our theological vision had something to offer. This was a space where all the men’s and women’s voices were heard. Regardless of what we think about intervening (or not) in social and political issues, contact with others (who are different from ourselves) will always be enriching.
In general, the Christian churches in Mexico tend to reject one another – with adverse consequences for the ecumenical movement. Even so, there are leaders in the denominations who understand ecumenism as a space for dialogue, work and mutual accompaniment in our faith walk.
In this sense, there were a number of encounters for dialogue where Lutherans, Methodists, Presbyterians, Episcopalians/Anglicans, Baptists, Pentecostals and Catholics were present. A number of these leaders continue to be my friends and brothers in the faith and in building the Kingdom here on Earth.
This accompaniment helped us to extend the vision and meaning of ecumenism beyond meetings and incorporate it into the development of service projects and social and political advocacy.
We follow Jesus who is our hope
The ecumenical imperative comes from Jesus’ prayer during the passion vigil in Gethsemane. There, by way of his prayer to God, he declared his irrevocable commitment and will that Christians love one another. Jesus pleaded that his disciples “may all be one so that the world may believe” (John 17:21). This is a timeless prayer that challenges Christianity in general, as well as Anabaptism in particular.
Our response depends upon the intentional way in which we carry out the ministry of the Kingdom of God in this world. The ecumenical dream is not realized through good intentions, but rather through intentionally building paths by acting together with those who are different.
—Fernando Pérez Ventura was a pastor in Mexico City, Mexico, for 34 years. For three years, he has worked with Mennonite Mission Network in several countries in Latin America. Along with his wife Rebeca González Torres, he coordinates CITA (Comunidad de Instituciones Teológicas Anabautistas), an Anabaptist theological network for Latin Americans. He is currently serving with Mountain States Mennonite Conference in the USA.
This article first appeared in Courier/Correo/Courrier April 2020. Click here to read other articles from this issue.