The annual Synod meeting of the Evangelical National Presbyterian Church of Guatemala (IENPG) was held this past week, May 21-25, on the campus of the Presbyterian Evangelical Seminary. About 400 pastors and elders gathered, with the theme being “For All Nations, One Lord, One Baptism, One Faith.” (See photo) It was a diverse group from all 22 presbyteries, except that women were vastly underrepresented as is usual here. As PC(USA) mission co-workers, Amanda Craft and I attended as corresponding members. As you’d expect, much of the agenda dealt with usual church business, committee and presbytery reports, budget, disciplinary cases, and legal actions.
The IENPG commemorated the 50th anniversary of its “integration” as a national church that’s not governed from abroad. From 1882-1962, the various missions boards of the PC(USA) held authority over major decisions, institutions, and the work of missionaries. On one evening there was a celebration concert and recognition of a select group of retired pastors for their long-time service. (See photos of the “Trio Elim” and one of the honored pastors) On a different night a Thanksgiving service was held. I delivered the sermon, titled “Integrated and Always Integrating,” which applied the biblical concept of jubilee to the Guatemalan Church. There also was a soccer tournament of teams from different presbyteries. (See photo of winning team from Central Presbytery)
Following are some other actions that might be of interest to PC(USA) folks:
- A new moderator was elected, Miguel Ortega, a young teacher from the Pacífico Presbytery.
- The body gave enthusiastic recognition to “La Patria Sur,” a new K-12 school that opened this year on the seminary campus. The school’s orchestra performed, and its students served as volunteer staff throughout the meeting.
- It was decided that the campus for the future Presbyterian University will be at the site of the current Maya Quiche’ Biblical Institute, which has struggled to be viable in recent years.
- Plans were made for an organizational event for theological training for Q’eqchi’ pastors, with representatives from each Q’eqchi’ presbytery, the seminary and the national church.
- There was a power-point presentation about the Walton funds, which have been suspended since 2006. There was optimism that dialogue with the PC(USA) will lead to the restoration of the funds, which are designated for theological education for pastors and church leaders from indigenous presbyteries.
- Out of a concern over deforestation, the plenary agreed to issue a pronouncement to the Guatemalan government that sugar cane growers should be required to plant one hectare of trees for every 10 hectares of sugar cane.
- The plenary approved the formation of a peace and justice department whose role will be to raise a prophetic voice about social concerns.
- I was privileged to lead the Bible studies during the morning devotions on the topic of the mission of the Church.
- It was reiterated that copies of covenants between PC(USA) and IENPG presbyteries and churches should be sent to the Synod as well as the International Relations Committee.
- The International Relations Committee reported that it mailed 55 letters to PC(USA) presbyteries without international partnerships, but has received little response to their invitation.
- There was a debate about whether a female pastor should administer Holy Communion at the annual meeting of Sinódica, the Presbyterian women’s organization, which was to take place in a presbytery that doesn’t allow female pastors. The body affirmed Sinódica, while agreeing that the position of the host presbytery should be respected.
- As is normally the case in church meetings, time ran out and unfinished business was referred to the IENPG executive committee.
- Next year’s meeting will take place in May 2013 at the Monte Sion Campground, beside Lake Amatitlán.
Here’s the IENPG’s latest vision statement: We want to be a united Christian Church, involved in Guatemalan society, that develops and participates equitably and holistically, and whose work is effective and transformative.
And, here’s the IENPG’s latest mission statement: To follow our vision, increasing discipleship among all current members, using the values of God’s Kingdom, and adding members to the IENPG in an effective and pro-active way.