WCC honors legacy of Rev. Norman Bent

Rev. Norman Bent (left) with Rev. Vitalino Similox, of the Ecumenical Christian Council of Guatemala, during a consultation in San Salvador, El Salvador, in 2006, organised by Canadian churches with their Central American partners. Photo: Jim Hodgson/UCC

WCC“It was with sorrow that we received the news about the passing of Rev. Norman Bent,” said Rev. Prof. Dr Ioan Sauca, acting general secretary of the World Council of Churches (WCC). “Through his tireless ministry for reconciliation, justice and peace, Rev. Bent leaves behind an inspiring legacy for the global ecumenical movement.”

Bent, from the Moravian Church in Nicaragua, worked actively to achieve the pacification of the armed conflict on the Atlantic Coast of the country in the 80s. He passed away in the early hours of 17 May and was buried the same day due to the situation with COVID-19. 

He was a member of the Miskitu community and was highly respected by his people and the country’s government, also enjoying wide international recognition and prestige.

Rev. Cora Matamoros, a member of the WCC Executive Committee who is from the same church as Bent, expressed thankfulness for the inspiring ministry and constructive role that he played. 

“It was from his hands that I first received Holy Communion, as he was the pastor of the First Central Church in Bilwi in the mid 70s,” she recalled. 

“Those were challenging times for our nation, with the 1972 earthquake, the Fifi-Orlene hurricane (1974) and the initial overthrow of the Somoza regime in (1978–79),” she said. “Rev. Bent’s prophetic voice helped the church to stay together in mutual solidarity and strong sense of fellowship.” 

In the early 90s, he spent several years with United Church of Canada congregations in Winnipeg, where he is fondly remembered.

In the same decade, Bent served the Latin American Council of Churches as the continental coordinator of the Aboriginal and African Descendent Pastoral Work Against All Discrimination.

For Rev. Dr Walter Altmann, former moderator of the WCC (2006 – 2013), Bent was an outstanding leader who was also “engaged consistently in ecumenical relations and efforts in his country, in Central America, and beyond,” he said. “It was for me a great pleasure and honor to be a companion of his ecumenical journey also in supporting the Latin American Council of Churches the time I was its president. Norman Bent was a great blessing to many people and rests in God´s peace.”

Bent supported the Sandinista Revolution, and also his church’s successful effort to broker the eventual peace agreement with the Miskitu Indigenous Resistance in 1987. 

In the early 2000s, together with Monseñor David Zywiec, Bent formed the Ecumenical Council of the Caribbean Coast, which help to coordinate both humanitarian and advocacy ecumenical work in the region.”The passing of Rev. Norman Bent leaves a vacant space in the Worldwide Moravian Unity”, said Rev. Dr Jorgen Boytler, Unity Board Administrator of the Worldwide Moravian Church. “Brother Bent was engaged in peace, reconciliation and showed his Moravian identity through his active ecumenical work and support. He will continue to be a great inspiration for the Moravian Church and for others”, he added.

In 2005, he was president of the Church’s Development Office, and was also the national ombudsman for indigenous human rights questions. In this role, he won the confidence of many people, and was frequently called upon to mediate in conflicts among diverse sectors in the two Atlantic coast autonomous regions. 

“Prophets of justice and peace are always controversial, and I know some people who never found a way to reconcile their differences with him. But I always found him to be gentle and of good humour about such differences, and always willing to try again,” said Jim Hodgson,  United Church of Canada program coordinator for partnerships in Latin America and the Caribbean.

WCC member churches in Nicaragua

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