The new president of the Evangelical Lutheran Church in Venezuela (Iglesia Evangélica Luterana en Venezuela – IELV) Rev. Guillermina Chaparro says her election as the head of the church is an indication of the IELV’s steady growth, especially in the rural areas.
The first woman to head the church, Chaparro was elected and installed on 6 February at the IELV’s 12th general assembly in Caracas, Venezuela. She said her election was the “culmination of a process that has been in gestation within the church.” She succeeds Rev. Akos Puky who has served as church president since 2002.
The Lutheran church is growing steadily in communities in the provinces, “thus it is logical that leaders emerge in these areas to contribute to church leadership,” Chaparro explained in an interview with Lutheran World Information (LWI). “I come from a grassroots community in a poor part of the (western) State of Barinas,” she said.
Prior to her election, she had served as a member of the IELV council, and coordinated the church’s scholarship program and national youth camps. She also helped to establish a Lutheran women’s committee.
Chaparro said one of her priorities is to strengthen the focus of the church council’s work, so that more attention is accorded to meeting the urgent needs of the IELV. She said it is important to support the emerging, indigenous church, with its different conception of being church and its varying activities and challenges. Such an approach is important “so that not only the capital city of Caracas benefits but also the poor neighborhoods of Venezuela’s other major cities,” she explained. This also includes accompanying the ethnic or migrant communities who laid IELV’s foundation.
On relations with other churches in the Latin American region and globally, she underlined the need to deepen and improve ecumenical relations and communication with the Latin American Council of Churches, the Lutheran World Federation (LWF) and other partners such as the Protestant Gustav Adolf Werk (GAW), which supports church ministry in minority situations. She said she envisions a church that also speaks out and acts prophetically in the face of the challenges and realities being experienced in Venezuela and Latin American.
Chaparro , a mother of two, pursued her postgraduate studies at the theological college Escola Superior de Teologia (EST) in São Leopoldo, Brazil. She studied sociology at the University of Barinas in western Venezuela.
The IELV has 1,950 members and has been a member church of the LWF since 1986. Venezuela is predominantly Roman Catholic, with Protestants comprising around 2 percent of the national population of 26 million people. (436 words)