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Roots of Latin American/Caribbean Methodism Go Deep

The roots of Methodism in the Latin America/Caribbean region were planted more than 240 years ago in Antigua.

There, in the 1760s, a group of Afro-Caribbean slaves developed the first Methodist congregation outside of England and Ireland.

While British Methodists continued their outreach in the English-speaking Caribbean and in Haiti, mission initiatives in much of Latin America were fostered by the predecessor denominations of The United Methodist Church in the United States.

That work began as early as 1836 in Brazil and Argentina and then spread to Uruguay, 1838; Mexico, 1873; Chile, 1878; Cuba, 1883; Paraguay, 1886; Puerto Rico, 1900; Bolivia; 1906; Panama, 1906; Peru, 1915; Costa Rica, 1918; and the Dominican Republic, 1922.

At the time of its merger with the Methodist Church, the Evangelical United Brethren Church was involved in mission in Brazil, Ecuador and Puerto Rico.

The 1920 Methodist General Conference created the Central Conference of Latin America, which included Argentina, Uruguay, Bolivia, Chile, Peru, Panama, Costa Rica and Mexico. Resident bishops were assigned to Mexico City and Buenos Aires.

The growing Methodist Church of Brazil petitioned both the 1922 and 1926 General Conferences for a resident bishop. Those legislative bodies failed to act and Brazil became an autonomous church in 1930 - the same year that Mexico also decided to become autonomous.

In the 1960s, the General Conference Commission on Structure of Methodism Overseas was formed to address the needs of Latin American Methodists for more self-determination. The 1968 General Conference passed legislation that allowed the churches to choose to become autonomous if they wished.

The Methodist Church of Cuba became autonomous that same year, followed by the churches of Chile, Argentina, Uruguay, Peru and Bolivia in 1969 and Costa Rica and Panama in 1973. Puerto Rico became autonomous in 1992.

The Council of Evangelical Methodist Churches of Latin America and the Caribbean (CIEMAL) was formed in 1969. That organization partners with the United Methodist General Board of Global Ministries and other Methodist agencies and bodies on mission work.

CIEMAL also works in partnership with the Methodist Church of the Caribbean and the Americas (MCCA), an autonomous church composed of former British Methodist churches.


Date posted: Apr 06, 2006