An interview with the first woman to head Brazil's National Council of Christian Churches
"A signifcant number of people claim to be religious but do not claim an institutional religious affiliation"
In the Spring 2012 issue of Mission Crossroads magazine:
Expanding mission sending: Tim Carriker helps Brazilians work across cultures
A sermon in 1859 in the chapel of Princeton Seminary inspired the first Presbyterian missionary to come to Brazil, the largest Roman Catholic country in the world. As a result Brazil today has religious diversity, freedom and tolerance, and it is home to nearly 1,000,000 Brazilian Presbyterians in several denominations. The Presbyterian Church (U.S.A.) works in partnership with two of them, mainly through mission personnel working in the areas of theological education, mission training and social action projects.
While ecumenism is a challenge in Brazil, the PC(USA) and our partner churches participate actively in regional ecumenical bodies, especially the Alliance of Reformed and Presbyterian Churches in Latin America (AIPRAL) and the Latin American Council of Churches (CLAI). We learn much from their interpretation of Scripture and from their bold prophetic voice against social and economic injustices.
Read a brief history of Brazil
Presbyterian Church of Brazil (IPB)
The first Presbyterian missionary to Brazil was the Rev. Ashbel Green Simonton, who arrived in 1859 and founded the first Presbyterian church in Rio de Janeiro in 1862. Out of that church grew the Presbyterian Church of Brazil (IPB), by far the largest of the Presbyterian denominations in Brazil today. During the early 1970s, tension arose between the IPB and the former UPC(USA) over theological divergences and the appropriate response to the political repression. All issues came to a head in 1973, when the IPB severed relations for a number of reasons, including disagreements about properties, social justice issues, confessional standards and ecumenical stances. The IPB did maintain relations with the Presbyterian Church in the U.S. (PCUS). After unification of the U.S. churches in 1983, the IPB unilaterally ended the official relationship with the PC(USA).
Independent Presbyterian Church of Brazil (IPIB)
The second-oldest Presbyterian body in Brazil is the Independent Presbyterian Church (IPIB), which split from the Presbyterian Church of Brazil in 1903. The IPIB was born on July 31, 1903, when a group of pastors and elders walked out of a meeting over an issue that is now almost forgotten. For some time their ambition had been to evangelize their beloved country with Brazilian resources and without the help of North American missionaries. The “miracle of the loaves and fishes” took place, nay-sayers were refuted and the new denomination grew. A strong emphasis on tithing has helped to maintain the independence of the IPIB. Partnership with a precursor of the PC(USA) was restored in the 1970s when the IPIB received several of our missionaries who no longer had a place in the IPB. The partnership with the PC(USA) has grown ever since, as both partners understand that the IPIB “came of age” long ago. Its independence is not in doubt. The IPIB has a strong missionary spirit. It evangelizes both in urban areas and in distant areas considered “unreached,” and has sent mission workers to other countries (Africa and the United States). A strong network of social programs is coordinated by the IPIB’s national social action agency, Diaconia. The IPIB is an active member of AIPRAL, the Association of Latin American Reformed Presbyterian Churches. The president of AIPRAL is an IPIB pastor. The church also reaches out to smaller Presbyterian bodies in Brazil who are not necessarily affiliated with PC(USA) and has covenant relationships with several Presbyterian denominations outside Brazil (including Taiwan and the Waldensians in Argentina and Uruguay). The IPIB is also a member of CLAI, the Latin American Council of Churches, and has recently joined the World Council of Churches.
The IPIB has a long history of ordaining women as deacons. In 1999 the denomination changed its constitution to permit the ordination of women elders and ministers. Eleven PC(USA) mission workers are serving with the IPIB.
United Presbyterian Church of Brazil (IPU)
The newest and smallest partner denomination is the United Presbyterian Church of Brazil. The church developed from whole presbyteries that were expelled from the IPB. After working hard for reconciliation for many years, these presbyteries decided to found the IPU in 1978. From the beginning the IPU committed to be rooted in the Brazilian context, to engage in social transformation, to ordain women, and to relate ecumenically to other Protestants and the Roman Catholic Church. The IPU has a strong ecumenical profile and social witness, including its project CEDITER, which addresses agrarian reform and land rights. The Richard Shaull Theological Faculty in Vitoria, ES, is one of the newest ecumenical ventures of the denomination. The IPU belongs to the World Council of Churches and to the National Council of Christian Churches in Brazil.
Brazil Mission Network
- For information contact Maria Arroyo
The Brazil Mission Network is among more than 40 networks that connect Presbyterians who share a common mission interest. Most participants are involved in mission partnerships through congregations, presbyteries or synods. Network members come together to coordinate efforts, share best practices and develop strategies.