ELCA Companions in Chile
Who are the ELCA’s companions in Chile?
Who is the Evangelical Lutheran Church in Chile and what are its ministries?
Children at the Lutheran School in Concepcion
IELCH’s President Pastor Gloria Rojas sings at an ecumenical sending service in a community of displaced people who were finally moving to permanent housing.
The leadership and office staff of the Evangelical Lutheran Church in Chile
The Evangelical Lutheran Church in Chile (Iglesia Evangelica Luterana en Chile - IELCH)
, a member of the Lutheran World Federation
, is a church that carries out its mission in the context of people living in situations of poverty and marginalization. The IELCH is deeply committed to the struggle for human rights, social justice and a life of dignity for all women, men and children. The strength of these commitments was hard-earned during the 17 years that IELCH fought to defend life and dignity under the military dictatorship of Augusto Pinochet.
The IELCH has approximately 3,000 members served by 9 pastors (three women) distributed through 10 congregations and 5 points of mission (2 in Santiago, 2 in Concepción and 1 in Coquimbo). The IELCH has several diaconal projects and schools. The IELCH is led by Pastor President Gloria Rojas.
The IELCH’s ministry is based around 6 guiding principles: 1) Participation of Lay People, 2) Democratic Organization, 3) Gender Equality, 4) Ecumenical Vocation, 5) Commitment to a Prophetic Voice, and 6) Service to One’s Neighbor.
The IELCH’s Youth Ministry is coordinated by young people from the different regions of the country (Santiago, Concepción, Osorno and Punta Arenas) and a pastor who is responsible for accompanying, orienting and walking with the young people of the church. Young people are increasingly participating in church spaces and assuming leadership roles in their communities and congregations, as well as in the activities at the national level such as IELCH assemblies, trainings, and synodical meetings.What is the Popular Education in Health Foundation and what does it do?
Staff from the EPES Santiago office. EPES also has an office and team in Concepcion, Chile
The Popular Education in Health Foundation (Educacion Popular en Salud - EPES)
was founded in 1982 during the military dictatorship of General Augusto Pinochet as a health training project of the IELCH. Inspired by a vision of quality and fairness in health care for the poor, since its inception it has offered training, guidance, and support for community health groups. Over the past twenty years, EPES has grown from a small, emergency-response team to a leader of systematic community mobilizations to improve health services and awareness. In the year 2002, EPES became an independent foundation, receiving its status from the government of Chile. Among the EPES Foundation’s current strategic priorities are:
How do our companions in Chile and the Evangelical Lutheran Church in America accompany one another in ministry?
- Gender-related advocacy in local health, education and social services
- Advocacy, public policy and research related to HIV/AIDS prevention with a gender focus
- Strengthening community-based organizations in order to raise-awareness, provide education and promote the sexual and reproductive rights of women.
- Create a Regional Training Institute for Popular Education in Health
Artwork of women who find community and support in the IELCH’s Safe Refuge for Women
Youth from a IELCH congregation rehearse for their Easter vigil performance of Jesus Christ Superstar
Through the churchwide ELCA Global Mission unit, the ELCA relates to and is in bilateral relationship with over 80 companion churches and institutions and stewards relationships with IELCH and EPES. This relationship is deepened and extended by the IELCH’s relationship, through the ELCA Companion Synods program, with the ELCA Indiana-Kentucky Synod.Churchwide funding
through the ELCA Global Mission unit supports key priorities identified by the Evangelical Lutheran Church in Chile and the Popular Education in Health Foundation. One ELCA mission personnel serves in EPES.
The ELCA provides support to the IELCH for mission outreach, theological education and youth ministry. Some of the specific objectives of the youth ministry project include training youth leaders; organizing national gatherings; motivating youth to integrate into the life and workings of the church; promoting faith in action projects; and advising youth groups in order to obtain their own legal status that permits access to communal and governmental funds.
The ELCA supports EPES with World Hunger funds
and mission personnel for its new Regional Training Institute, which is designed to provide training in methodologies and approaches to health care issues to health professionals, students, and church members and leaders in a context of globalization, privatization and poverty in the region. Chile: the context where our companions serve
Leaders from the ELCA, the Evangelical Lutheran Church in Peru (ILEP), the United Evangelical Lutheran Church in Argentina and Uruguay (IELU) and the IELCH gather for a “Vision and Purpose” workshop in Buenos Aires
Chile is a republic that gained its independence from Spain on September 18, 1810. Over 15.8 million people live in Chile. Spanish is the official language. Chilean religious practices are overwhelmingly (89%) Roman Catholic with about 11% of the population Protestant.
With the overthrow of democratically elected President Salvador Allende by the military government of Augusto Pinochet in 1973, Chile entered into nearly 25 years of life under a dictatorship. Since the years immediately following the dictatorship in the early 1990s, Chile has found itself in a context of increasing inequality. The gap between rich and poor keeps increasing. The challenges Chile must face in order to move forward include reducing inequality, curbing the military, and atoning for past human rights abuses.
For up-to-date information on Chile, type “Chile” into an online search engine or visit: