Evangelical Lutheran Church of Colombia
Who is the Evangelical Lutheran Church of Colombia and what are its ministries?
The Evangelical Lutheran Church of Colombia (Iglesia Evangelica Luterana de Colombia - IELCO)
, a member of the Lutheran World Federation
, has 25 congregations served by 27 pastors, evangelists and lay people. Geographically, the major part of the constituency extends from Bogota, the church headquarters, northwards to the mountains in an arc that includes the old city of Tunja and the towns of Sogamoso, Socota, El Cocuy (birthplace of the church) and Bucaramanga. To the east, congregations are to be found in the lower-lying plateaus in the towns of Paz de Ariporo, El Banco, and Villavicencio.
Indigenous women work in an LWF gardening project in Arauca
The IELCO has traditionally been involved in education. Three of the IELCO's congregations run elementary schools. Under government recognition, the Lutheran secondary school in Sogamoso, CELCO offers the country's official curriculum. Since many of the students are not members of the church, the school is a means of evangelism.
The church has long offered theological training for lay leaders called Selite, which recently became affiliated with the Escuela Luterana de Teologia, a small theology school run by the church.
IELCO has departments in communications, mission and development (diaconal work) and a human rights office called Justice and Life, which provides human rights education to churches and communities of the displaced. It does significant work on land mine issues. ASIVIDA, the church’s program of accompaniment for persons affected by HIV/AIDS, provides psychological counseling and small group opportunities for both persons affected by HIV and AIDS as well as their significant others and church members. Recently, ASIVIDA was invited to represent religious entities in the Ministry of Social Protection’s Coordinating Committee of the Colombian Government.
To respond to the dramatic situation of displaced people in some of the main cities in the country, during the year 2002, the IELCO joined the Action by Churches Together (ACT) Network. Several Churches ACT projects were executed in 10 different communities in five departments of the country. The projects included housing assistance, potable water, small productive projects, risk management and advocacy training, psycho-social services, health, nutritional recovery and food security for these residents. In addition, the Lutheran World Federation Department of Mission and Development has worked with displaced persons in the departments of Caqueta, Santander, Soacha and Tolima.How do the Evangelical Lutheran Church in Colombia and the Evangelical Lutheran Church in America accompany one another in ministry?
Southeast Minnesota synod visit with youth from Prince of Peace church in Tunja
Through the churchwide ELCA Global Mission unit, the ELCA relates to and is in bilateral relationship with over 80 companion churches and institutions. The ELCA Global Mission unit stewards a church-to-church relationship with the Evangelical Lutheran Church in Colombia. This relationship is deepened and extended through IELCO's relationship, through the ELCA Companion Synods program, with the ELCA Southeastern Minnesota and South Carolina Synods.Churchwide funding
through the ELCA Global Mission unit supports key priorities identified by IELCO, including theological education, the Selite institute for lay leadership, the Justice and Life office, and ASIVIDA. In addition, ELCA World Hunger funds also support health and educational services to the Kogi people. One ELCA mission personnel serves in Colombia.
The ELCA also funds significant work through the Lutheran World Federation (LWF), a global communion of 140 churches (including the ELCA) and 68 million people that is grounded in a common Lutheran faith. The LWF provides space for Lutherans from around the world to share joys, challenges, and expertise as they seek the healing of the world. ELCA World Hunger funds help support the Department for World Service (DWS), the LWF’s relief and development arm, and the Department for Mission and Development (DMD), which focuses on holistic ministries through which the church participates in God’s mission to all creation.
In Colombia, ELCA World Hunger funds support LWF Department of World Service in the regions of Choco and Arauca , which works:
- To contribute to the empowerment of communities suffering the effects of the armed conflict and poverty
- To contribute to the fulfilment of human rights for all Colombians
- To support and strengthen peace alternatives
- Increase the visibility of the Colombian situation
The LWF Department for Mission and Development in the region helps to support the area of Leadership Development.
The ELCA also works in Colombia through Lutheran World Relief (LWR). A ministry of the ELCA, LWR is a U.S- based agency that works with community-based partners in 50 countries. ELCA World Hunger funds help to support the work that focuses on seeking:
- A Place to Live for Colombia’s three million internally displaced persons
- A Place at the Negotiating Table for those victimized by war
- A Place in U.S. Policy for Colombian peace and humanitarian leaders
Colombia: the context in which the IELCO serves
Typical Colombian architecture.
Colombia is a republic that gained independence from Spain July 10, 1810. More than 42 million people live in Colombia. Spanish is the official language. Roman Catholics compose the largest religious group (90%).
Colombia has long been noted for its violent political history. In the 19th century there were 9 civil wars. The 20th century saw only one period of relatively long period of peace, from 1902-1935. The division of political beliefs in the mid-nineteenth century into conservative and liberal factions has produced debate as well as civil war. Guerillas, armed forces, right-wing vigilante groups and drug traffickers help ensure Colombia still has the highest death rate in Latin America. Murder is the major cause of death for men between the ages of 15 and 45. Violence resulted in the 250,000 deaths in the 1990's. In addition to deaths due to guerilla warfare, 10% of the homicides have been politically motivated. Since the late 1980's, another 1.5 million have been displaced or have become refugees. High rates of displacement continue today.
For up-to-date information on Colombia, type “Colombia” into an online search engine or visit: