May 23: Gilchrist in Chile, part 6

by Dr. Paul R. Gilchrist.

At a court hearing, the presbytery and the Union Evangelica packed the hearing with false witnesses who told the judge:  “Chile Mission was just a circle of missionaries who met from time to time for mutual inspiration. The Presbytery of Chile was merely a representative of the PCUSA for the purposes of evangelization, education and humanitarian efforts.  The Union Evangelica was an incorporated society for the purpose of holding properties that were loaned to any religious body that cared to ask for their use, — for example, the Salvation Army….the Presbyterian Church used properties in scattered parts of the country.”  A missionary told the judge:  “The Union Evangelica has no relation whatever with the Presbyterian Church USA, nor is it responsible to it.”  Another missionary said:  “It is not true that the Union Evangelica is the legal body that in Chile represents the Presbyterian Church of North America.”  An elder stated: “The Union Evangelica and the Presbytery … have certain things in common in some of their activities, — this is the only relation between them.”

George Gilchrist wrote that in the case of the property of El Divino Redentor of Linares, there is no doubt as to the rightful owners.  “The property was bought by the recently organized congregation on its own initiative and entirely by its own efforts.  … [N]ot a cent was asked for from the Board, nor from the Mission, nor from the missionaries, nor from the churches, nor from members of the churches.  A loan was asked fro from Presbytery’s Building fund, but the loan was denied although Linares had paid its quota to the fund.  All legal documents and fees were paid by the congregation.  The property was merely bought in the name of the Union Evangelica.”
One missionary had assured the congregation that the property was in “friendly hands.”  Another was quoted as saying, “We can afford to be generous.”  The congregation said, “If the Union Evangelica and the Presbytery and the Mission have taken our property, it is because God has something better for us.”  They consoled themselves in Hebrews 10:30:  “For you not only showed sympathy with those who were imprisoned, but you even submitted with joy when your property was taken from you, being well aware that you have in your own selves a more valuable possession and one which will remain.” (Weymouth).


Letters were written to all of the organizations involved but no answer was given, not even an acknowledgement of having received the letters.  Missionary G. B. Dutton was the only one who had the Christian decency to answer that a letter had passed through his hands to the Executive Committee of the Chile Mission.   Gilchrist kept his promise to the congregation that he would guarantee the funds.  He sold his 1937 Ford and gave the amount to the church.

On April 9, 1947 the Union Evangelica sent a delegation from Presbytery of Chile to take over the property.  On hearing they were coming the congregation quickly went and stripped the property of everything movable.  When the delegation arrived, the property was vacated.  The Presbytery’s delegates “were not satisfied with robbing the property from the congregation but even threatened a lawsuit to recover the furnishings.  How proud the powerful and wealthy Presbyterian Church USA must be to have taken away the humble property of a consecrated congregation on the mission field.”  Gilchrist then adds:  “On the 30th of April, [1947] the faithful little congregation moved into a new property that the Lord had wonderfully prepared for them.  Their first act was to inaugurate the new building with a week of special evangelistic meetings.”

Post Script:

At a meeting celebrating the 150th anniversary of the Presbyterian Church of Brazil in Rio de Janeiro in August, 2009 in which the PCA was represented by Dr. Paul R. Gilchrist among others, he met the nephew of elder Horacio Gonzales who was the principle mover in the reorganization of the Presbytery back in the 1930s and all the way through to the infamous May 18, 1944 meeting and beyond, including the disciplinary action against Maufras and Gilchrist.  The nephew, a Clerk of Session of one of the current churches of Chile Presbytery, shared with Paul a son of George Gilchrist that his uncle in later years expressed remorse for that action in 1944, saying “it was the worst decision he had ever made.”  Perhaps even more interesting is that the Iglesia Presbiteriana do Brazil has been loaning several pastors to fill the pulpits of the Chile Presbytery for several years now.  They have had a tremendous influence in restoring biblical preaching in those churches, and hence in the presbytery.

Our story concludes tomorrow with a devotional by Rev. George R.M. Gilchrist.


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