WEEK OF PRAYER FOR CHRISTIAN UNITY
JANUARY 18–25, 2018
PRAYER / WORSHIP: ECUMENICAL SITUATION IN THE CARIBBEAN
The Caribbean region stretches from the Bahamas in the north to Suriname, Guyana and French Guiana (Cayenne) on the South American mainland, and from Barbados in the east to Belize in Central America in the west. The common identity of the Region is based on geographical considerations as well as on a shared history of colonialism, exploitation and resistance against foreign domination, and on a common cultural awareness.
The presence of some of the churches in the Region – e.g. the Roman Catholic and Anglican churches – coincides with the beginning and early period of the colonial enterprise. Other churches came later as part of the 18th, 19th and early 20th century missionary movement. Even more recently, the evangelical and Pentecostal movements have spread throughout the Caribbean. Consequently, evangelical alliances or fellowships can be found in many countries and territories of the Region.
The Caribbean Conference of Churches (CCC) grew out of a dynamic precursor of ecumenical activity in the 1960s and was formally established during the socio-cultural and political ferment of the early 1970s. This was the immediate post-colonial period of the Region during which many countries gained their political independence. It was a time when the Region as a whole was enveloped in a movement towards self-determination, development and new forms of self-expression.
The thirty three member churches of the CCC represent a vast diversity of people and cultures, spread over many islands and mainland territories of South and Central America and belonging to four major linguistic groupings – Dutch, English, French and Spanish. Included in this grouping are: Cayenne (French Guiana), Cuba, Guadeloupe, Haiti, Martinique and Puerto Rico. The CCC’s member churches share the common conviction that, despite the divisiveness of the long colonial heritage, there is an authentic, unifying Caribbean identity through which Caribbean people must articulate God's will for them and make their response to it.
Over the forty three years of its existence, the CCC’s member churches have together taken many initiatives in the areas of theology, Christian education, integral development, youth and women's concerns, family life, human rights, and communications. In 1983, the CCC’s mandate was re-formulated to read: "promoting ecumenism and social change in obedience to Jesus Christ and in solidarity with the poor." The policy of the CCC is a deeper ecclesial engagement with, and mutual accompaniment of the member churches, through their existing agencies and institutions, and right down to the local congregations.
In recent times, a greater emphasis on the theological basis of Ecumenism is being pursued by the CCC’s Secretariat in conversation with member churches. There has also been a new engagement by the CCC with other ecumenical expressions and configurations such as the Taizé movement and the Caribbean "chapter" of the Global Christian Forum (GCF). The latter is an important means of outreach and dialogue with Evangelical and Pentecostal Christians.
No consideration of the ecumenical situation in the Caribbean would be complete without noting that the Caribbean made a tremendous gift to the wider ecumenical movement in the person of the Rev. Dr. Philip Alford Potter – the celebrated third General Secretary of the World Council of Churches (WCC). Dr. Potter was a Methodist minister and a native of the Commonwealth of Dominica. During his tenure as the General Secretary of the WCC (1972 – 1984), Rev. Potter fought the immoral apartheid regime of South Africa. It was also during his tenure of office that Pope John-Paul II – in response to an invitation of the WCC - made his historic visit to the headquarters of the WCC in Geneva, Switzerland. This was a major milestone in ecumenical relations between the Vatican and the WCC.
It is estimated that there are currently thirteen member churches of the WCC in the Caribbean, representing 1.4 million Christians.