Our World Wide Church Family
The World Methodist Council is made up of 80 Methodist, Wesleyan and related Uniting and United Churches representing over 80.5 million people in 133 countries. To find a member church in your area please use the A-to-Z guide located below. To view a member church’s contact details, click the blue arrow button. * denotes churches under the Central and South Europe Central Conference of the United Methodist Church ** denotes churches under the Northern Europe Central Conference of the United Methodist Church
The African Methodist Episcopal Church grew out of the Free African Society, a mutual aid organization that Richard Allen founded in 1787. Allen, a Philadelphia-born slave who had purchased his freedom in Delaware, had experience as an itinerant Methodist preacher and associate of the famed Francis Asbury. An ugly racial incident at St. George Methodist Church in Philadelphia convinced Allen to start another branch of Methodism which affirmed in practice the equality of all human beings. Though he led his followers in building Bethel African Methodist Episcopal Church in Philadelphia in 1794, white Methodists tried to assert authority over its congregational affairs. In 1801, however, the Supreme Court of Pennsylvania confirmed Bethel’s autonomy. In 1816 Allen convened black Methodists from other middle Atlantic communities to form the African Methodist Episcopal denomination. He was consecrated the first bishop of the church.
The A.M.E. Church rapidly spread during the antebellum period to every section of the United States and into Canada and Haiti. On the slave soil of Delaware, Maryland, Kentucky, Missouri, Louisiana, the District of Columbia, and for a time South Carolina were numerous A.M.E. congregations. During the Civil War A.M.E. ministers recruited soldiers into the Union Army and served themselves as military chaplains. Even before the war ended A.M.E. missionaries traveled into the former Confederacy to draw freedmen into the denomination. As membership swelled to 400,000 by 1880, A.M.E. leaders, both clergy and lay, sat in Reconstruction legislatures, held seats in Congress, and served in scores of other political offices.
Formal entry into West Africa in 1891 and South Africa in 1896 made the denomination a significant black institution beyond the western hemisphere. Reunification in 1884 with the previously dissident British Methodist Episcopal Church brought the denomination back into Canada, and added the Maritime Provinces, Bermuda, and parts of South America. Missionaries also pushed the boundaries of the A.M.E. Church to embrace most areas of the Caribbean including significant attention to Cuba.
Further expansion in Africa culminated in the 1990s. At the 1996 General Conference Bishop McKinley Young of South Africa and Namibia successfully petitioned for recognition of the Angola Annual Conference. Similarly, Bishop Robert V. Webster of Central Africa gained acceptance for a fellowship of congregations in Uganda to become A.M.E.s.
Also by the turn of the 20th century nearly every southern and border state and some in the north and west contained within them A.M.E. supported schools. They ranged from the secondary to the college, university, and seminary levels. Wilberforce University in Ohio, founded in 1856 and A.M.E. sponsored since 1863, was the denomination’s most prominent educational institution. In the Caribbean and Africa the A.M.E. Church similarly started schools with Monrovia College and Industrial Institute in Liberia and Wilberforce Institute in South Africa as the best known.
The two world wars which inaugurated a massive movement of the blacks from the American South to northern and western cities spearheaded another period of A.M.E. development. Numerous churches in Chicago, New York City, Philadelphia and other areas developed a social gospel which redefined the thrust of A.M.E. ministry. Such southern and border state clergy as Joseph DeLaine in Clarendon County, South Carolina and Oliver Brown in Topeka, Kansas, moved to end legalized segregation with court suits they initiated in their respective locales. Culminating with the famous Brown case of 1854 A.M.E. leaders like their predecessors during the Civil War helped to spearhead important changes in American society.
Women have pressed the denomination continuously to recognize their spiritual gifts. Hence, Bishop Richard Allen authorized Jarena Lee to preach in 1817. Bishop Henry M. Turner ordained Sarah A. Hughes as an itinerant deacon in the North Carolina Annual Conference in 1885. Although his successor rescinded this
action, women continued to function as evangelists, even pastoring congregations starting in the late 19th century. The marathon efforts of Martha Jayne Keys and others caused the General Conference of 1960 to authorize the full ordination of women as itinerant elders. Bishop Vashti McKenzie, who leads the 18th Episcopal District, and lived in Lesotho, South Africa, was the first woman bishop elected in the A.M.E. Church. The Woman’s Missionary Society and the Lay Organization serve the church through notable voter education, HIV/AIDS programs, and employment programs and projects.
With more than 2.5 million members in 8,000 congregations on four continents, the A.M.E. Church plays a pivotal role in sustaining the Allen tradition in numerous nations in the Americas, Africa and Europe.
The African Methodist Episcopal Zion Church is an independent denomination that grew out of the original Methodist Episcopal Church. The formal organization of the A.M.E. Zion church was recognized in 1796 in New York City. James Varick was the first Bishop. The A.M.E. Zion Church shares a common heritage with Christians of every age and nation according to the witness and teachings of the Apostles of Jesus Christ.
Zion Methodism grew out of the merciless enslavement of our African forebears. They were kidnapped from their native land, chained and shackled, shipped as beasts in deplorable conditions to a strange and distant land, having no family, no culture and no language. Yet, our fathers and mothers were confronted by the Lord Jesus Christ, in the cotton fields and every place of the humiliation and degradation revealing to them that He would always be with them as He had been with them in the past. When Jesus, upon whom the Spirit of the Lord had descended was preached at John Street Methodist Church, they united with that fellowship. However, bigotry and oppressively cruel barriers confronted them. The spirit of the Lord led them in the establishment of Zion Chapel (which later became the Mother Church of Zion Methodism) where the gospel of His redeeming grace could be purely preached and His vindicating and liberating influences could be experienced. Taking with them the doctrines, discipline, and polity of the Methodist Episcopal Church, they proceeded in the establishment of the African Methodist Episcopal Zion Church. They believed that God had called them out of their bondage and had chosen them to be His people and a channel of His redeeming love for all people.
We believe and understand today that, in the Divine economy, Zion Methodism is to make disciples of all persons throughout the earth, to bring good news to the poor, to proclaim release to the captive, recovery of sight to the blind, to let the oppressed go free and to proclaim the year of the Lord’s favor.
In 1996 we observed our Bicentennial Celebration marking 200 years of our existence. The celebration took place in New York City where we had our beginning. During this celebration, we were invited back to the John Street Methodist Church for a special service. It was indeed a moving moment. To God be the Glory!
The roots of the Methodist mission in Albania go back to the 19th century. In those days, American missionaries (later increasingly replaced by Albanians) not only preached and taught the Gospel, but also provided help in daily life. Their efforts to provide the populace with basic schooling were of especial importance. For many years the “Protestants” ran the only school for girls in Albania, and they also played an important role in the development of a common alphabet to integrate Albania’s various regions and dialects. Unfortunately, this hopeful work was not graced with longevity.
Albanian Communism took a strict and destructive form like no other in Europe, and when the country opened up politically in the early 1990s, it was in ruins. A process of cautious reconstruction followed, and even though it is sometimes overshadowed by unrest and tension, this process is irreversible.
In 1992, dedicated members of the UMC congregation in Wismar, Germany began to support this process by contributing material goods to Albania and rebuilding the school infrastructure in the mountain villages of southeastern Albania. Their dedication has been productive. The people in Bishnica, a poor mountain village of 800, began to take interest in the driving force behind this work, and with the formation of a full-time team of Albanian and German Christians in Bishnica, the next step was taken. The team continued and expanded its charity work and evangelization. Through these efforts, about two dozen people discovered their faith in Jesus Christ and were baptized in July of 1998. This represented the founding of the UMC in Bishnica. Since then, the Church has continued to develop: it now boasts about 100 members in Bishnica and other villages in the vicinity or — because of the migration — in the further neighbourhood.
Most of the people in Albania are still very poor. Shipments of badly needed goods and assistance from abroad are still very welcome, especially in the mountains. By replacing dilapidated furniture, patching leaky roofs, and repairing broken heaters, the aid workers contribute significantly to improving the working conditions in community buildings and schools. A medical/nursing service, a reforestation project, and the founding of a boarding school for children from distant villages where the schools have been closed, all contribute to securing a brighter future for the people in the mountains.
In spite of these improvements, more and more people are leaving Bishnica and the surrounding villages in order to look for work, to study, or simply to seek their fortunes in the larger cities. It is a great challenge to follow them and use the existing Emails to approach more people, but it has, for example, led to the founding of small Methodist groups in Pogradec, Tirana and Korca.
Two young Albanians who began their theological studies in the Graz-Waiern program in Austria in 2004 will return to Albania in Summer 2008 and will take over responsibility. This is an important step towards a new
future, in which the UMC in Albania will be led and shaped by Albanians.
Although there are loose Emails between the Methodists in Albania and in Macedonia (e.g. in the International Youth Camp in Macedonia), structural cooperation is not possible. For this reason, the Methodist work in Albania, which so far has not been officially registered as a Church, is under the direct supervision of the Bishop of the UMC in Central and Southern Europe.
In March 1825 the Missionary Society of the Methodist Episcopal Church of New York proposed the establishment of a mission in South America. This proposal was acted upon favorably by the 1832 General Conference. In 1835 the Rev. F. E. Pitts visited Rio de Janeiro, Buenos Aires and Montevideo and recommended to the 1936 General Conference that work be established in the first two of these cities. Consequently, Dr. John Dempster arrived in Buenos Aires in December of that year to begin work. The work flourished and resulted in the erection of a sanctuary. Because of financial problems, Dr. Dempster was recalled as was Dr. William H. Norris who had opened work in Montevideo. The local congregation, however, received permission to continue the work and underwrite the salary of Dr. Norris who came to Buenos Aires from Montevideo. On January 3, 1843, the first Methodist sanctuary in South America was dedicated.
In 1856 the Missionary Society sent Dr. William Goodfellow to reinitiate the missionary work in South America. Since it was forbidden by local regulations to preach the gospel in Spanish, the work was extended in foreign languages to colonies established in the provinces of Santa Fe and Entre Rios. With more liberal laws obtained in the country, Dr. John F. Thompson, a Scotsman brought up in Argentina, and graduated from Ohio Wesleyan (USA) on the 25th of May, 1867, preached the first public sermon in Spanish. From thence the work of the Methodist Church, followed in the course of time by other denominations, spread throughout the country. The missionary thrust went beyond the borders, and opened work in Peru, Bolivia, Paraguay, Uruguay and southern Brazil. This work including the work, begun by Bishop Taylor in Chile, was organized into the South American Annual Conference.
The Methodist Church in Argentina continued growing in important cities like Rosario, Cordoba, Mendoza, Bahia Blanca, mar de Plata and in many other places. Many local churches organized primary schools, kindergartens and projects to serve poor people. On October 5, 1969, the church became autonomous as Iglesia Evangelica Metodista Argentina (IEMA) and Rev. Carlos T. Gattinoni was elected as its first bishop.
The IEMA had seven regions since that date with seven superintendents. In 1973 the General Assembly approved a document about the strategy of a church. It affirmed: “The Methodist Church today defines its mission in our country as service to the total liberation as carried by Jesus Christ and to which He invites the people and societies of Latin America to participate…” “Liberation: this word involves two concepts which are inseparable, united and mutually dependent; personal salvation and the redemption of society.”
The Iglesia Evangelica Metodista Argentina has more than 115 congregations, 89 ordained ministers, 180 lay preachers, 210 Christian education teachers, 7 primary schools, 5 secondary schools and one university.
There are many kindergartens, several projects that serve children and women. Its ecumenical contribution is very wide; we are a part of 33 ecumenical projects.
The church includes a community of approximately 20,000 baptized persons who hold membership in the church.
The Methodist Church in Singapore and the Methodist Church in Malaysia were established as a result of the Methodist missionary movement during the later part of the eighteenth century. The Lord has indeed blessed the ministry of the Methodist Church in South East Asia. The Sarawak Chinese Annual Conference of the Methodist Church in Malaysia, in particular, was aware of its missionary obligations. Many of the migrants who speak only their mother tongue found it hard to fit into the Australian mainstream churches. Missionaries from East Malaysia were sent to Australia to minister to the migrants. As the numbers grew preaching centres and churches were established.
A Mission Conference was incorporated in 1993. Six years later, at the annual conference which took place in November 1999 held in Perth, a Provisional Annual Conference was established according to the Constitution. There are three districts (East, West, South) with a district superintendent each to oversee the ministries of the local churches. In November 2002, we became a full Annual Conference after having achieved a membership of 10 elders. We now have 15 churches in all the major cities in Australia. The present bishop is Bishop Albert Chiew.
There are presently 13 elders, 4 deacons and 4 pastors on trial. Total registered membership in 2006 was 1482.
The Uniting Church was formed in 1977 by a union of the Congregational, Methodist and Presbyterian churches in Australia. The largest component of its initial membership was Methodist, as sections of the other two churches remained outside of the union.
As indicated by the deliberate choice of its name, the Uniting Church has a strong ecumenical ethos. It is an active participant in world church forums, including the World Council of Churches, the Christian Conference of Asia and the World Alliance of Reformed Churches, and the World Methodist Council. It acts in partnership with 32 churches in Asia and the Pacific, and has long associations with Methodist and United churches in Papua New Guinea, India, Fiji, Tonga and Samoa. In Australia it is in national dialogue with nine other churches, although none of those relationships are expected to result in further union in the near future.
The Uniting Church is the third largest church in Australia with approximately 2,000 congregations and 240,000 members and adherents. In common with other „mainstream‟ Australian churches it is faced with the challenge of diminishing numbers as secularism continues to grow.
Government of the church follows an inter-conciliar model. The national Assembly is headed by the church‟s president, elected to office for a period of three years. Six synods, corresponding largely to the states of Australia, are the largest administrative bodies; they are headed by moderators who are elected for terms of 1-3 years. The Presbyteries, or district bodies, only some of which have their own staff, are headed by elected chairpersons.
Among the main features of the church are: An increasing multi-culturalism, five percent of the membership worships in languages other than English; The “Uniting Aboriginal and Islander Christian Congress” provides for Aboriginal Christians to exercise oversight with respect to ministry with Aboriginal people. The UCA has been in a covenant relationship with Congress since 1985. A vast community service operation, which makes it the largest non-government provider of services in Australia, constant action on social justice matters, including strong stances on Aboriginal rights, disarmament, human rights and economic justice; a growing effort to transform congregations into “outposts of local mission and evangelism” through a ten-year thrust under the banner of “Forward Together;” commitment to the theological scholarship, with a network of six theological colleges, most of which are associated with universities.
A permanent ordained diaconate, established in 1992, plus new ministry orders of community minister and youth worker are now contributing significantly to the church‟s mission.
Methodist work in Austria was begun in Vienna in 1870 by preachers of the Wesleyan Methodist Church from southern Germany. About thirty years later, it was joined with the mission of the Methodist Episcopal Church in Europe. Until 1920 there were severe restrictions by the State bodies; the Methodists only had the right to a “familial practice of religion”. When a mission conference was formed in 1911, it included congregations in Austria (Vienna and Graz), Hungary, and what is today Serbia (Vojvodina). After the First World War, this conference was divided due to the break-up of the Austro-Hungarian Empire. A time of serious unemployment and poverty followed, during which the Methodist Church was able to provide significant aid, mainly through support from abroad. In response to the religious freedom in the new Austrian state, congregations were formed in Vienna, St. Poelten, Krems, and Linz, and a home for children in Türnitz was founded as well. The worship services and Sunday School were full. Czech language services were also held in Vienna. In 1933, the parliament was dissolved by force, and the new religious freedom was rescinded. Oppression under a Catholic-minded Fascist regime followed (“Ständestaat”). This regime was succeeded by the National Socialists in 1938 and by the Anschluss to the Third Reich. Until the end of the Second World War, the Austrian congregations were part of the Southern German Conference of the Methodist Church.
In 1945, the Methodist Church in Austria was reorganized. It was a difficult time. Challenged by their own distress, the Methodists helped countless refugees which had come into the country. As a result of this service, new congregations were formed in the refugee camps in Linz, Ried/Inn, Salzburg, and Bregenz. In 1951, the Methodist Church was recognized by the Austrian state. Pastors from the US, Switzerland, and Germany came to help rebuild the Church. In 1956 Hungarian refugees were accommodated by the congregations in Vienna, Linz and Graz and provided with food and medicines. In Linz a social ministry and a kindergarten were established.
Even today, internationalism and openness toward seekers of all generations are still typical characteristics of the UMC in Austria. Because of this, in practically all congregations, people from many different nations come together, and worship services are sometimes translated into several languages. In Vienna, there is also a lively English-speaking congregation that was founded in 1978. This basic openness is the reason that, slowly but steadily, the Austrian Church is growing.
Although the UMC in Austria is a small Church, it plays an important role in the ecumenical movement and in the organization and support of many international conferences. It is a founding member of the Ecumenical Council of Austria. It maintains close Emails with the Lutheran Church and the Reformed Church (pulpit and table fellowship) and cooperates, among others, in the areas of charities, public relations, and religion lessons in schools.
The “Zentrum Spattstrasse” in Linz provides important social and pedagogical services for children and young people from all over Austria, and is widely known and respected. This institute for social-pedagogical initiatives includes welfare education groups for socially disadvantaged girls, a hospital for children with behavioural problems, a kindergarten, pedagogical training facilities, a day-care clinic, an out-patient clinic, and a shelter in the center of Linz, among other projects.
The Church is also an enormously important bridgehead to the Methodist congregations in Bulgaria, Macedonia, Serbia and Albania. One fruit of these decades-old relationships is the study program in Graz-Waiern, which was developed to provide for the theological education of future leaders in the UMC in southeastern Europe. After learning the German language in Graz (6-12 months), the students take part in a theological study program with internships in charity work at the Diakoniewerk in Waiern. During this entire period, they are members of the UMC congregation in Graz, where the open atmosphere ensures that they will be firmly anchored in the UMC, even though they are far from their homes.
The UMC rounds out its missionary work by running a Protestant bookshop and publishing house in Vienna.
Methodism reached the Caribbean in 1760. Almost a quarter of a century later, devout Methodists migrated from America to the Bahamas as “Loyalists”. By 1786, two fonner slaves, Joseph Paul and Anthony Wallace had gathered Methodists in New Providence for worship. They built a small wooden chapel/schoolroom and worshipped there before going on to Christchurch Anglican Church to receive Holy Communion.
By the late 1790’s Anthony Wallace, the administrator of the early Methodists in The Bahamas, requested Dr. Thomas Coke to appoint a Minister to The Bahamas. Referring to the records of the Methodist Missionary Society in England, Colbert Williams in his book “The Methodist Contribution to… The Bahamas” states: „in 1799 the British Methodist Conference meeting in Manchester decided to station William Turton, a white J3arbadian, in The Bahamas. He landed at Nassau on 22nd October 1800.” (Page 35)
William Turton continued the emphasis on education that Joseph Paul and Anthony Wallace had begun. Education was offered to a wide cross-section of the population. Methodism spread throughout the islands. From 1800 to 1968 The Methodist Church in The Bahamas was an overseas “District” of the British Methodist Church. By 1968 there were 36 Methodist churches in The Bahamas and 4 in the Turks and Caicos Islands Circuit.
In 1967 The Methodist Church in the Caribbean and the Americas was granted autonomy by the British Conference with Headquarters in Antigua. The Bahamas District voted not to join the MCCA in 1967 but did join in 1968. The Bahamas was then joined with the Turks and Caicos Islands.
In 1991 the Abaco Circuit brought a Resolution to the Synod seeking autonomy for the Bahamas/Turks and Caicos Islands District. Following the 1991 historic Synod, held in
Rock Sound, Eleuthera, The Bahamas District of the Methodist Church began to walk the road to becoming an Autonomous Methodist Church.
The years 1991-1993 were years of dialogue and struggle as the Bahamas District worked with the Methodist Church in the Caribbean and the Americas to work out the details for the District to become autonomous. Despite our best efforts it became evident that the path toward Autonomy was headed for a separation between the two groups. The Majority of Methodists in The Bahamas and the majority of the Churches supported the move towards autonomy. 86% of the Methodist people in The Bahamas voted to join the new Conference. 14% voted not to join.
The Bahamas Parliament passed the Methodist Church Bill in July 1993 and the Uniting Conference was held at Ebenezer Methodist Church, Nassau, The Bahamas on 30th July, 1993. Thirty-two participating Methodist Churches signed the Deed of Union thus bringing into being The Methodist Church of The Bahamas.
The Foundation Conference of The Methodist Church of the Bahamas, to be known as (The Bahamas Conference of the Methodist Church) was held on 17th – 18th November, 1993. The first officers of the new Conference were installed and consecrated at a special service on 18th November 1993 at Ebenezer Methodist Church. Rev. Dr. Cohn Archer, President, Mrs. Kenris L. Carey, Vice President; Dr. Reginald W Eldon, Secretary and Mr. Bruno Roberts, Treasurer.
Rev. Charles Sweeting was elected President to succeed Rev. Dr. Cohn Archer. He served until August 2002.
In May 2002, Mrs. Kenris Carey was elected as President. An important milestone for Methodism was reached when Mrs. Carey was elected as the first woman as well as the first lay person to serve as President.
The BCMC is now comprised of 35 member churches, Queens College, (the oldest Educational Institution in
The Bahamas), The Bilney Lane Children’s Home, The Nurse Naomi Christie Home for Older Persons, Camp Symonette, Methodist Habitat and the St. Michael’s Pre-School.
In July 2006, The Bahamas Conference of the Methodist Church became a member of the World Methodist Council at its meeting in Seoul, Korea.
An emphasis on evangelism, spiritual development, education, social outreach and pastoral care continues to guide the BCMC as we meet the challenges of ministry in The Bahamas in the Twenty First Century.
August 12, 1984 Rev. Nibaron Das (Bishop) started a Methodist Church at his Mohakhali residence with 12 believers gathered for worship. Since that day the church has grown with the work expanding to villages and many persons being baptized. There was tremendous financial crisis and traditional opposition very strong, but with patience and endurance the church grew. The priority and desire of the church is to extend the Kingdom of God to all people, languages, cultures and religions, and the commitment made to plant churches and establish the Methodist Church in Bangladesh is at great risk.
Priorities in northern Bangladesh included Dinajpur, Joypurhat, Naogong and Gaibandha where the tribal peoples are majority. Thousands of tribal people including Santal, Mahali, Orao, Mundari, Malo, Pahan live in these areas and they are very receptive to the gospel. Many Hindus live in the southern part, especially the districts of Gopalganj, Khulna, Jessore, Shatkhira, Narail and Faidpur. We asked God to open the door to this area to bring the people into His Kingdom, and now we have over 100 churches within these areas. Other areas where the church has expanded include Dhaka, Gazipur, Tangail and Mymensingh.
The Bangladesh Methodists are grateful to Korean friends who have extended their cordial cooperation. Without their fervent prayers and financial assistance it would have been impossible to continue the growth of the Methodist Church in Bangladesh.
The church has a total of 185 churches, 18,698 members. A theological training center, Kumran Bible School located at Kamalpur, was initiated by Kumran Methodist Church. The school currently named Methodist Theological Seminary has been upgraded and now has a three-story seminary building, which houses classrooms, dormitory, library, staff quarters and guest room. Accommodation capacity of the dormitories is 45 and over 30 courses are offered to students. Since 1992 120 students have graduated with degrees, and have ministered to churches in rural areas under the Bangladesh Methodist Church. Bishop Nibaron Das is honorary principal, with a manager and staff. The school continues to be supported by the Synpoong Methodist Church, Kumran Methodist church and Korean friends. The academic council hopes to offer a Bachelor of Theology curriculum in 2003.
Since 1984 a Church Plantation and Evangelism program was developed, and on July 1, 1997 a four-story Dhaka Central Methodist Church building was consecrated. Only a few years ago Bishop Das was a simple ordinary pastor of a small church but by the grace of God he has been chosen to become a senior pastor of the biggest church, also one of the biggest evangelical denominations throughout the 200 years of Protestantism and first bishop of Bangladesh Methodist Church.
The Belgium Mission of the M.E. Church, South was organized in Brussels in 1922 as the result of moves carried out by the Southern Methodist Centenary Movement (USA) at the close of World War I. Development of the work led to the organization of the Belgium Annual Conference in 1930. After a struggle for existence, Unification of American Methodism in 1939 found Belgian Methodism in a state of promising vitality, as shown by the strong delegation sent to Copenhagen for the European Methodist Uniting Conference in August 1939.
A few days after the close of the gathering, the Second World War broke upon Europe, and Belgium was again invaded, with Methodism suffering serious material and moral devastation.
Bishop Paul N. Garber arrived in June 1945 to inaugurate a successful eight-year reconstruction program, and in June 1946 the Belgium Conference was able to resume its regular annual sessions.
In 1952 the Central and Southern Europe Central Conference was organized, at which time the Belgium Conference reported 21 traveling preachers, eight local preachers, 17 charged with 25 churches, 3,410 members and four institutions.
December 1969 marked the union of the Evangelical Protestant Church and the Methodist Church to form the Protestant Church of Belgium. This replaced, to a large degree, the organizational work of the Belgian Annual Conference–which included Dunkirk, France.
In 1978, a second union took place bringing together the two Reformed churches (the Reformed Church of Belgium and the Reformed Church in Holland–Belgian Section) forming the United Protestant Church of Belgium.
The United Protestant Church of Belgium represents a small minority in a mainly Roman Catholic country of ten million people. With 110 local congregations the church’s contribution to the life of the country far outweighs its minority status, especially through its social and diaconal centers.
The Synod of the church has overall responsibility for the teaching of Protestant religion in schools and also administers chaplaincy programs to prisons, hospitals, army and airport.
The United Protestant Church of Belgium is affiliated with the United Methodist Church in the USA, having the status of a united autonomous church.
The Church was founded in 1843 by Thomas Birch Freeman of the Methodist Missionary Society of London. Freeman, the son of a freed slave, also undertook pioneering missionary work in Ghana and Western Nigeria. The Church maintains its historical links with the Methodist Church of Great Britain. Administratively, the Methodist Church of Benin is organized in 15 regional Synods. It covers the whole of the territory of Benin from the southern coastline to the Niger border in the north. The Church is recognized as playing an active role in the life of the nation; it is involved in agricultural projects, in hospital and prison chaplaincy, in service to refugees; through its strong Union of Methodist Women it is directly concerned with the training of young girls and young women in rural areas, enabling them to have a basic education and to learn income-generating skills.
The Benin Methodist Church plays a leading role in the National Committee to Combat AIDS, but also, at local church level and through the women’s union, it works to promote AIDS awareness and prevention.
Ministerial training is pivotal part of the total mission of the Methodist Church through the Protestant University of West Africa (University Protestante de l’Afrique de l’Ouest -UPAO). Formerly the Institute of Protestant Theology, this centre which traditionally trains candidates for the pastoral ministry not only from Benin but also from Cote d’Ivoire (Ivory Coast), Togo, Cameroon, Senegal and Gabon, acquired university status in 2004. The training of evangelists is undertaken at the Bible School jointly with the Evangelical Presbyterian Church of Togo. The Methodist Church is involved in the study of the traditional Religions and Islam and in dialogue with the Muslim community and other religions.
The Evangelical Methodist Church in Bolivia (IEMB) celebrated 100 years of work in Bolivia in 2006—an important event which served to bring together peoples from within and from outside Bolivia as a testimony to encourage us to continue our work. This work of evangelization started in the year 1906 with programs of education and health through the presence of missionaries from the Methodist Church in the USA. Later on the direction of the IEMB was assumed by national leadership.
At the present time, the IEMB works in an integrated manner in different areas of need with the population of Bolivia, principally with the poorest sectors in the cities and rural areas.
The IEMB is composed of 14 districts, 194 local churches and a membership of 9,190 which is served by a ministerial body of 37 ordained pastors and deacons. The mission, testimony and service of the IEMS is achieved through three distinct areas of responsibility: The National Office of Life and Mission is responsible for activities and programs of evangelization, theological education, Christian Education, Liturgy. Communications and programs with national organizations of women, youth and laypersons; The National Office of Services is responsible for Methodist Educational Service, Methodist Health Service and Rural Development; The National Office of Stewardship and Finances is responsible for the administration and finances of the IEMB.
One very important characteristic of the IEMB is its majority indigenous membership composed of Aymaras, Quechuas, Tupiguarinies, and other indigenous peoples of the Bolivian Amazon. The membership of the IEMB reflects Bolivian society which is made up of some 36 distinct ethnic groups.
In the city of Cochabamba in December 2004, the XVIII General Assembly of the IEMB conferred the responsibility of leadership of the IEMB for the quadrennium 2005-2008 on Rev. Lic. Carlos Poma as Bishop, and for the biennium 2007-2008, on Rev. Filiberto Ramirez as National Secretary Life and Mission, Dr. Rolando Yanapa as National Secretary of Services, and Lic. Javier Rojas, as National Secretary of Stewardship and Finances. One fundamental task with which these leaders have been charged is to produce a process of renovation and projection for the IEMB for a new stage of mission in Bolivia that takes into account the new historic and social challenges.
Another challenge for the IEMB is adapting the gospel theologically, ecclesiastically and pastorally in the socio-cultural context of the Bolivian population and ecclesiastic community. This means putting the Biblical message in a new context, a new understanding of the presence of God among the indigenous people and the search for a new pastoral model that responds to the adapted ministry of the church.
From the perspective of our historic Wesleyan heritage and in the spirit of Methodist connectionalism and ecumenical Christianity, the IEMB expresses its desire to continue developing its ecclesiastic ministry and pastorate. The EMS reaffirms its evangelical vocation of proclamation and criticism and its commitment to social service to the poorest and the marginalized in society. At the same time the IEMS asks for the solidarity and the participation of our sister Methodist churches who are also on the same road of common ministry: the building of the Kingdom of God along with its justice.
In 1835, Rev. Fountain E. Pitts was sent by the Mission Board of the Methodist Church in the United States to visit some of the capital cities on the east coast of South America. Some of these visits resulted in the formation of small groups of Methodists. This was the beginning of Methodism in Latin America as well as in Brazil, as one of these groups was formed in the city of Rio de Janeiro.
In 1836, Rev. Pitts returned to the United States but his successor, Rev. Justin Spaulding, arrived in Rio de Janeiro in the same year. Rev. Spaulding’s ministry was characterized by his ample distribution of the Bible, an unheard of activity in this country, by his stand against slavery, and by the founding of a small school. These were forerunners of the two great emphases of Brazilian Methodists, education and preaching the gospel.
In answer to Rev. Spaulding’s calls for help, Rev. Daniel Parish Kidder was sent to Brazil in 1837. The two returned to the US in 1841, but left the way open for other missionaries who would come to Brazil after the Civil War in the US, a war that lasted from 1861 to 1865.
After the end of the Civil War in 1865, many families from the southern part of the United States immigrated to Santa Barbara do Oeste, in the state of Sao Paulo. Among these was Rev. Junias Eastham Newman who arrived in 1867. But it was only in 1876 that the Methodist Episcopal Church South (USA) sent the first official missionary to Brazil, Rev. John James Ranson. He established Methodist work in Rio de Janeiro. This was 35 years after the first attempt to organize a Methodist group in this city.
Bishop John Cowper Granbery, supervisor of the Brazilian Mission, came to Brazil in 1886 with the purpose of better organizing the work and creating an organization to legalize the properties of the mission. He authorized the transformation of the Brazilian Mission in an annual conference (expression similar to our ecclesiastical region). The work grew and in 1919 there were three annual conferences: the North, the South and the Central Conference.
The Brazilian Methodist Church became autonomous in 1930 and elected its first bishop, William Tarboux, an American. The first Brazilian Bishop, Cesar Dacorso Filho, was elected in 1934. A strong leader, his episcopacy left a profound mark on the church.
The 1938 General Conference approved the founding of a theological school in Sao Paulo. It was 1942 before this school came into being by uniting the theological courses already in existence at Granbery Institute in Juiz de Fora (MG) and at Porto Alegre Institute (RS).
The Methodist Church in Brazil developed the ecumenical spirit of Wesley and therefore became the first church in Latin America to become a member of the World Council of Churches. This organization was formed in 1938, but due to the Second World War, it only was officially recognized in 1948.
The Methodist Church, at the present time is divided into six ecclesiastical regions, one missionary region of the Northeast (REMNE) and one national mission field located in the North and Northwest (CMNN). Today, the church has 144,000 members and approximately 360,000 participants.
The legislative organization is the General Conference. There is an Administrative Board (COGEAM), authorized by the General Conference, to administrate the Church according to the guidelines and orientation contained in the documents of the church. In COGEAM there are bishops, clergy and lay people. Each ecclesiastical region and missionary fields have one bishop. For the first time, there was a woman elected as
bishop. The eight bishops compose the College of Bishops, responsible for pastoral and doctrinal guidance of the church. There are four executive national coordinations: Administrative, Missionary, Educational and Social. The last General Conference was in 2001. For the first time, there was a woman elected as bishop.
These basic documents are Canones (the church Disciplines), the Social Creed, the Plan for Life and Mission of the Church and the National Guidelines for Program. In addition to these, the College of Bishops produces Pastoral Letters to orientate the church on pastoral and doctrinal unity and action.
The first Methodist missionaries came to Bulgaria from the US in the middle of the 19th century, and were received hospitably by the Turks who ruled the country at the time. But they did not merely set up new congregations. It was also one of these missionaries, Dr. Albert Long, who translated the whole Bible into Bulgarian, thus making the Word of God accessible to the Bulgarian population in general for the first time. By choosing the East-Bulgarian dialect fort his translation he tremendously influenced the Bulgarian literature of the following 50 years and even the creation of an official national language. In the years that followed, girls’ and boys’ schools were founded, contributing to the literacy of the country. However, in spite of the success and significance of this early pioneering work, the history of the UMC in Bulgaria in the following decades was like a roller coaster, and, often enough, the Church had to fight for survival.
The period of Communist rule from 1947 to 1989 began with a terrible persecution of all Churches in the country, and was an especially dark era. Many pastors were beaten, thrown into prison for long periods, or even murdered. A law implemented at the time nominally provided for religious freedom, but in reality it rendered practically all Church work impossible. All Email between the UMC in Bulgaria and the international Church was prohibited.
Following the political opening of the country in 1990, only two of the original sixteen congregations still existed, and the pastors were either old and frail, or had already passed on. In spite of this, the UMC was able to reorganize, and relations were renewed with the Central Conference of Central and Southern Europe and with the supervising bishop.
Since then, the Church has been growing continuously, thanks to God’s grace and the tireless efforts of many lay people and a few pastors from the new generation. In many places where earlier Methodist congregations once existed, new work is being done after an interruption of many decades.
In carrying out missionary and service work, the UMC in Bulgaria has not forgotten that it has been a minority church since its founding. For one thing, this is reflected in the fact that it makes a point of spreading the Gospel to minorities, such as Turkish gypsies, Armenians, and Rom. Moslems (after decades of atheist teachings, this denomination is more an ethnic and cultural reference than a religious one) also learn about Jesus Christ in personal talks, evangelization meetings, and film viewings.
The goal of spreading the Gospel in word and deed is the motor for many social projects such as soup kitchens, literacy courses, out-patient clinics, prison work, creative or play times for neglected children and youth, etc. Samuel Altunian, one of the young pastors, says: “It’s impossible to imagine being a Church in Bulgaria today without providing these services for the poor and the minorities.”
At the same time, the importance of the literature projects should not be underestimated. These support not only the printing and distribution of Bibles, but also practical guides for the reader.
It may not show outwardly, but many members of the UMC in Bulgaria are very poor. The massive economic changes since 1989 have, for the most part, worsened their situation. Thus the existence of the Church and its credible service among the people continue to present a challenge that should not be underestimated.
The United Church of Canada came into being on 10 June 1925, bringing together the Congregational, Methodist and most Presbyterian (71 per cent) churches in Canada. In 1968, the Canada Conference of the Evangelical United Brethren Church joined the Church. The UCC has 573,424 members in over 3400 local congregations in Canada and Bermuda, with another million or more adherents.
Methodism was established in Canada as early as 1765 by Laurence Coughlan, one of Wesley’s preachers, who went from Ireland to Newfoundland. The various branches of Methodism in England and the United States in due course established themselves and by 1884 they were all united to form the Methodist Church of Canada. The United Church of Canada is the inheritor of the Wesleyan tradition in Canada and is a member of the World Methodist Council. The United Church is non-episcopal in character and is governed by a conciliar system.
The United Church of Canada has a history of involvement in justice issues both in Canada and overseas, much of this coming from its Methodist and Reformed traditions of caring for people who suffer economic and social injustice.
Canadian society is multicultural and multifaith. It is a culture in which the pervasive economic worldview impacts relationships, values, identities, and understanding of church. integration through free trade and continental security arrangements. Through advocacy and outreach the church ministers to those marginalized in this economy of exploitation, in addition to providing the traditional ministries and pastoral care. A growing area of work is with ethnic ministries and integration of churches brought to Canada by new immigrants; ministries in French are also an important focus. The church also has oversight of eleven theological schools, five United Church-related colleges or universities and four education centres. Commitment to global justice is expressed through work with overseas partners in some 38 countries with whom we partner in ministry, education, and development work, sharing people and resources in God’s mission, including acting and advocating in solidarity with those most affected by systemic injustice.
Continuing the traditions of the earlier denominations, the Church has spoken out strongly and consistently on controversial issues, including Aboriginal justice and the legacy of abuse in church-supported residential schools that housed Aboriginal students, systemic justice issues (race, gender, sexuality, economic inequalities, etc.), ecology, and the rights of refugees. In all such matters, educational resources are provided for church groups and official positions are made known to governmental or other agencies. Working in a framework of “whole world ecumenism” focused on the mending of the world, the church has also supported processes of interchurch and interfaith dialogue, and published important statements on Jewish-United Church and Muslim-United Church relations.
Through all these ministries, the United Church seeks to express the integral connection between Christian faith, care for creation, and commitment to social justice, remembering that “We are not alone; we live in God’s world.”
Nathaniel Gilbert, lawyer, planter, slave owner and Speaker of the Antigua House of Assembly, was reading a pamphlet “An Earnest Appeal of Men of Reason and Religion” during a period of convalescence in 1758. The author was John Wesley, the result, the start of Methodist witness in the Caribbean. The following year Gilbert made the voyage to England expressly to meet Mr. Wesley, taking with him two of his slaves. The slaves were baptized and he was converted. On his return to Antigua he called his slaves to prayer and thus became the first Methodist preacher in the Caribbean.
Sugar was king and chattel-slavery was at its zenith when the first congregation of slaves gathered to hear about another Master who was their Savior and in whose service was perfect freedom. Here were the first stirrings of emancipation–in the soul of the people through the gospel that was preached, however it was preached, and whoever was chosen by God for the task. Methodism was therefore totally committed to the anti-slavery movement. It quickly became the Church for and of the oppressed. In the aftermath of emancipation it spread rapidly through the Caribbean and the number of Methodists grew by leaps and bounds. By 1884 the first attempt at church autonomy was made but it failed due to a combination of adverse circumstances – economic depression, the lack of indigenous ministry, difficulties in travel and communication and a dearth of lay leadership.
The experiment failed but the vision did not, and in 1967, with trained indigenous ministry and competent dedicated lay leadership as well as rapid developments in the technology of travel and communication and greater economic stability, another attempt was made. An autonomous church governed by one annual conference and organized in eight districts was inaugurated to witness to and serve not less than 25 different national entities, and to work with 13 different currencies.
Since its inauguration in 1967 The Methodist Church in the Caribbean and the Americas has been attempting to respond creatively to the missionary challenges of the region. A conscious attempt is being made so that the Church becomes more self reliant and in a more advantageous position to communicate the Gospel in word and action.
The African Methodist Episcopal Church came to Central Africa in the late 1800s and was officially established by the General Conference of 1888.
Those who played a significant role in the growth and development of the church include: Bishop Henry M. Turner, who was instrumental in accepting the Ethiopian Church into the denomination; the Rev. Hanock Phiri who was instrumental in spreading the church from Southern Africa to Central Africa; and the Rev. W. J. L. Membe who was instrumental in planning the church all over Zambia (formerly northern Rhodesia).
The various enterprises of the African Methodist Episcopal Church in Central Africa include church centers and educational projects from day care to elementary and secondary schools. There was established in 1937 under the leadership of Bishop Richard R. Wright, Jr., the Wilberforce Institute of Higher Education and the R. R. Wright School of Religion. Both institutions have provided the leadership for church growth in this part of the world.
The Central and Southern Europe Central Conference has its roots in the turbulent times before and after World War II. The Geneva area, formed in 1936, was elevated to a Central Conference and elected its own bishop in 1954. Since then the Central Conference was a bridge-builder between east and west and south. In the present history of Europe we uphold the connectional principal as a continuing task. Together we are ready to face the challenges of the future. The Central and Southern Europe Central Conference is composed of United Methodism in Albainia, Algeria/Tunisia, Austria, Bulgaria, Czech Republic/Slovak Republic, France, Hungary, Poland, Switzerland, Federal Republic of Yugoslavia/Republic of Macedonia.