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Costa Rica Gets First Lutheran Bishop

May 2, 2008

Costa Rica’s first Lutheran bishop, Melvin Jiménez, was consecrated at the Lutheran Church of Costa Rica in San José on Sunday in a ceremony attended by more than 300 people.

Jiménez, 51, who has two adult children, studied sociology at the University of Costa Rica (UCR) before gaining a master’s degree in theology from the Lutheran School of Theology at Chicago. He was ordained as a minister in 1990, becoming president of the Lutheran Church of Costa Rica in 2000.

Jiménez was consecrated by Medardo Gómez, Lutheran bishop of San Salvador, at a service attended by delegations and Lutheran bishops from the United States, Sweden, Germany, El Salvador and Nicaragua, along with Anglican bishops from El Salvador and Costa Rica. Prominent figures from civil society, such as former President Rodrigo Carazo, were also present.

The Lutheran Church in the country is heavily involved in social programs and claims to have helped 5,000 people, including indigenous communities, those suffering from HIV/AIDS and the poor through various outreach programs “I am very proud to take the post, especially as it is a church that has an extremely strong social commitment,” Jiménez told The Tico Times. “We want to serve the people.”

Tracing its origins to Germany and the teachings of Martin Luther, Lutheranism differs from Roman Catholicism in the belief that humans can access God and his grace directly, without a priest as intermediary.

The church has approximately 70 million followers, and has been active in Costa Rica, where it has 1,500 adherents in more than 30 congregations, since 1988.

 

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