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Jorge Lara-Braud, former director of NCC Faith and Order,
by Jerry L. Van Marter
LOUISVILLE — Jorge Lara-Braud, 77, former Executive Director of the National Council of Churches for Faith and Order, died June 22 after a fall near his home in Austin, Texas.
His health had been deteriorating steadily in recent years due to Parkinson’s disease.
A Presbyterian lay pastor, theologian and social activist, Lara-Braud devoted his life to improving the lot of the marginalized and oppressed.
He was born and raised in Mexico City, came to the United States to attend high school at PC(USA)-related Presbyterian Pan-American School in Kingsville, Texas. It was there that he converted from Catholicism and embarked on a career in the church.
In the mid-60s, Lara-Braud founded the Hispanic-American Institute at Austin Presbyterian Theological Seminary. He later served as the dean of the Presbyterian Seminary of Mexico, taught theology and culture at San Francisco Theological Seminary.
He was elected Associate General Secretary of the NCC for the Commission on Faith and Order in 1972.
During his tenure at the NCC, the Faith and Order office sponsored a wide variety of ecumenical forums, including clusters of laity and theologians for the discussion of pressing ethical issues.
In 1975, he hosted a panel discussion on the Hartford Declaration at The Interchurch Center in New York. The panel included theological luminaries Richard John Neuhaus, then pastor of the Church of Saint John the Evangelist in Brooklyn, William Sloan Coffin, pastor of Riverside Church, and Harvey Cox, writer and professor at Harvard Divinity School.
The Hartford Declaration, carefully studied by the NCC's Faith and Order Commission, sought to identify 13 themes considered "dangerous to the church" because they drew the church away from orthodox theology and traditions.
Lara-Braud's heart was always with the poor and in the communities in which they lived and struggled. For many years he was best known and loved as lay pastor of El Buen Pastor Presbyterian Church in Austin.
The Rev. Clarence Bassett, a former pastor of the church, said Lara-Braud coined a Spanish phrase for the corner on which sits the little church, built by German American Presbyterians at the turn of the 20th century. “He called it ‘Compassion Corner,’” Bassett told the Austin American-Statesman. “That said a lot. Jorge was always very interested in social action on behalf of the poor, the underdog.”
Lara-Braud is survived by his wife, Gretchen Lara Shartle, and a son, Jorge Lara-Marroquin.
A memorial service was held June 25 at El Buen Pastor Presbyterian Church in Austin.
NCC News contact: Philip E. Jenks, 212-870-2228, NCCnews@ncccusa.org
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