In 1889 an active mission work began in Albania. Besides preaching the Gospel and practical everyday help, the focal point and primary work was that of providing basic education for the population. Then, Methodist work was inactive for several decades until 1992, when Christians from Germany began to be involved by bringing help to Albania. In the following years the work was extended: educational, medical, agricultural and forestry projects were established, and in 1998, the UMC in Albania could be established when the first men and women were admitted as professing members. Since then the situation has changed. Many people have left the mountain villages and have, together with their families, moved to urban areas in order to find a job or better life conditions. The UMC has spread with the people into other parts of the country. Four promising and growing churches have been established in Tirana (2008), Pogradec (2008), Elbasan (2014), and Durrës (2017). The UMC continues to work for the people in Albania and the development of a free and democratic society. At various places, income-generating projects have been initiated (fruit tree cultivation, sewing project for women). Other projects focus on people with disabilities and their integration in society. There is a strong commitment of lay
people as the churches try to combine sharing the Gospel and addressing the challenges of today’s society both appropriately and effectively. Leadership development, spiritual growth, and discovering the social aspect of faith are some of the priorities of the current work in Albania.
Methodist work in Austria begun in Vienna in 1870. Initially, the Methodists had the right to a «familial practice of religion» only. But when they were granted more freedom in 1920, they soon established several new congregations and a children’s home. The worship services and Sunday Schools were full. But soon a very painful era dawned. In 1945, the Methodist Church in Austria had to be reorganized. In spite of 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 refugee camps. In 1951, the Methodist Church was recognized by the Austrian state. Today, openness toward seekers of all generations and countries are typical characteristics of the Church. Because of this, in practically all congregations, people from many different nations gather, and worship services are sometimes translated into several languages. In Vienna, there is also a lively English-speaking church that was founded in 1978. As a result of this basic openness, new people find a spiritual home in the UMC again and again. Although small in number, it plays an important role in the ecumenical movement. And finally, the widely known and respected «Zentrum Spattstrasse» in Linz provides innovative and important social and pedagogical
services for children and youth from all over Austria.
In 1816 Wesleyan missionaries from Great Britain established a Methodist presence in Belgium. After the First World War, American Methodists became involved, as well. They established various social ministries and distributed Christian literature. When they withdrew from Belgium in the thirties, the Belgian Methodists (about 1,000 members) were keen to continue the work by themselves. The years after the Second World War were marked by an increasing cooperation with other Protestant Churches of the country. They jointly established several schools and a Faculty of Theology. After many conversations the Belgian Methodists left the UMC in 1969 and formed, together with other Protestant Churches, the «United Protestant Church of Belgium» (EPUB). From this very beginning the EPUB remained affiliated with the UMC. Some years ago, United Methodists from the DR Congo, who lived in Brussels, established a Methodist congregation. Following an open and trustful consultation with the EPUB leadership, a United Methodist charge conference was officially organized in May 2010. While this church has an affiliated status with the EPUB, it is now part of the Switzerland-France-North Africa Annual Conference.
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.
This church sprang directly from the work of John Wesley (1703-1791) and his brother Charles (1707-1738), which was part of the Evangelical Revival of the 18th century. John dedicated himself to serious Christian living in 1725; they met with others at Oxford to form the Holy Club, also nicknamed “Methodists” because of their rigorous approach to Christian life. They were ordained deacons and priests of the Church of England and went to Georgia as missionaries. On the voyage they were greatly impressed by the faith of the Moravians.
They returned to England dissatisfied with their spiritual state. On May 24, 1738 in a room in Aldersgate, John felt his heart strangely warmed; Charles had a similar experience. After this new beginning, reluctantly following the example of George Whitefield they began open-air preaching, despite the opposition of bishops and hostile mobs. Societies were formed, first in Bristol in London and then in many places. Lay preachers were employed; a system of circuits was formed and from 1744 onwards there was an annual conference of preachers, a centralized system geared for mission. John traveled 250,000 miles and preached 40,000 times and by 1791 there were over 70,000 members and over 400 chapels.
John Wesley never intended his movement to separate from the Church of England, but in 1794 he gave legal status to his Conference and ordained ministers for America. Disputes about the status of the traveling preachers and the administration of the sacraments were resolved by the Plan of Pacification (1795) which was a decisive break with the Church of England. Divisions arising from the constitutional disputes and fresh revivals led to the creation of the Methodist New Connexion (1797), to the Primitive Methodists (1812), the Bible Christians (1816) and smaller groups which largely united in the United Methodist Free Churches in 1857. All except the Wesleyan Reform Union and the Independent Methodists united with the main body, the Wesleyans, to form this Methodist Church in 1932.
This Church, which covers England, Scotland and Wales, is the largest of the Free Churches in England. It belongs to the Council of Churches for Britain and Ireland (CBBI) and other ecumenical bodies and takes part in over 300 local ecumenical projects. It serves local churches through a connexional team, with four coordinating secretaries responsible for church life, church and society, inter-church and other relationship and central services. It has 333 districts, each with a Synod, presided over by a ministerial chairman. It emphasizes education in general and training for varied forms of ministries, both lay and ordained. The traditional Wesleyan stress on evangelism, social concern and the struggle for justice is expressed in its involvement for education and service, with young and older people respectively, through NCH and MHA, its two main social work agencies, as well as many local mission projects in inner city and rural areas.
Our calling challenges the Methodist Church to respond to the present age, in its worship, learning and caring, service and evangelism. Its worship is a mixture of formal and free, with the Wesley hymns still important to a people “born in song”. Its commitment to prayer and bible study in small groups, to youth work, pastoral care and social outreach, are the main characteristics of a Church proud to celebrate over 250 years of Methodist witness and over 200 years of overseas missions as its contribution to the World Church. The rediscovery of Wesley’s message for today and the connection between our Methodist heritage and contemporary mission, as we prepare to celebrate the 300th anniversary of John’s birth (2003), is a vital part of its ongoing commitment to evangelical revival and the quest for holiness, personal and corporate, offering Christ to all through worship, witness, preaching and service.
The UMC in Bulgaria has more than 150 years of history behind it. As a minority denomination, it often struggled to survive — especially in the 40 years after the Second World War when almost all church activities were forbidden. By 1989, only three of the original 16 local churches had survived. But as a result of a huge commitment, the church was structurally re-organized and filled with life. At the center of this growth process, the founding of new churches exists side by side with the consolidation and stabilization of the existing ones. Many local churches and individuals have recognized that in a society going through a radical transition they are only credible when the proclamation of the Gospel goes hand in hand with practical help. Their current activities therefore combine both words and deeds in many different ways (e.g. ministry with prison inmates, educational programs, ministry with homeless people, etc.). Children and youth as well as people from the margins of society – particularly members from minority groups (Roma, Armenians, Turks) – are given special attention. In so doing, the UMC in Bulgaria has succeeded in becoming a model of peaceful coexistence and collaboration of people belonging to various ethnic groups – and this is a very important Christian witness in a region still challenged by ethnic and religious tensions.
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 principle 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 Albania, Algeria, Austria, Belgium, Bulgaria, Croatia, Czech Republic, France, Hungary, Macedonia, Poland, Romania, Serbia, Slovakia, Switzerland, Tunisia.
Beginning in Zagreb 1923, various missionary initiatives worked to build Methodist congregations in Croatia. This work was carried out in the Serbo-Croat language, in contrast to the Vojvodina region (now part of Serbia), where there were many thriving German-speaking and Hungarian-speaking congregations at the beginning of the 20th century. The missionary efforts in Croatia were, however, not particularly successful, and were eventually discontinued. On the other hand, the Methodist Church maintained various congregations in Istria (e.g. in Pula), which belonged to Italy. But when Istria became part of the Federal People’s Republic of Yugoslavia in 1947, this work, too, was discontinued. In the nineties, UMCOR, the relief agency of the worldwide UMC, requested the United Methodist Bishop for Croatia to send a pastor to the war-damaged country, taking care of the many local workers. In 1995 a native Croatian who had studied in Germany and his wife moved to Split, Croatia. A cooperation with UMCOR could never be achieved, but in Split, they began to approach people with a message of hope and with deeds of love. Through their efforts, and often through seemingly coincidental encounters, a network of relationships sprouted. From this, a small congregation developed. Still, in an environment that is almost exclusively Roman Catholic, missionary work was very difficult, and in spite of the tireless efforts of the leaders, the work remained small. After many conversations it was finally decided to discontinue the congregational work of Split UMC in October 2010, which means that there is no official congregational work in Croatia anymore.
In 1920, missionaries from the US began their work in the then combined state of Czechoslovakia. They organized revival meetings, distributed Bibles and helped people still suffering from the consequences of the First World War. In the following years many local churches were established – first in what is now the Czech Republic, later in what is now the Slovak Republic. The Church grew rapidly but also experienced politically and financially difficult times. Today the UMC is very mission-oriented; this is clearly seen in its evangelistic programs and the varied activities for children and youth. The social services for mothers and their children, for people with special needs, for drug or alcohol dependent persons, for prisoners and those on the parole are another priority of the church work. This work lends credibility to the Gospel message, and through it, people find a new outlook on their lives, and get ready to share the love, which they themselves have received. The UMC in the Czech Republic and in Slovakia is organized in a cross-border Annual Conference with two districts.
Near the middle of the 19th century the Methodists in New York purchased an old ship and anchored it in the harbour as a mission for the thousands of Scandinavian immigrants and sailors who were coming to America. It was called the Bethel Ship and its pastor was Olaf Gustaf Hedström, a Swedish sailor, who had been converted in America.
In 1858 Christian Willerup, a Dane who had been converted on the Betel Ship, and was serving as superintendent in Norway, was released to become an evangelist in all the Scandinavian countries.
During a family visit to Copenhagen, Christian Willerup began public meetings. The first congregation was established in 1859, and in 1865 the church received official approval by the state, according to The Royal Constitution. It was first in 1911 that Methodism in Denmark had grown substantially enough to receive status as an Annual Conference. At the time there were 53 pastors, 27 congregations, 127 preaching stations and 3,634 members.
Now the number of members is declining. The main challenge that the UMC faces today is that of changing from a survival mode to a mission mode. Many churches are holding on to what they have rather than taking the risk of new ways of thinking and doing ministry. Another challenge is to strengthen youth work.
Methodism in Estonia began in 1907 through two lay preachers Vassili Täht and Karl Kuum who started preaching on the island Saaremaa. During that time Dr. George A. Simons from the USA led the work in St. Petersburg.
The first congregation was founded in Estonia in 1910 and two years later the first church was built in Kuressaare on Saaremaa. From 1911 to 1920 the Methodist work in Estonia was a part of the Russian Mission of the Methodist Episcopal Church. In 1921 the Baltic and Slavic Mission Conference of the Methodist Episcopal Church was founded with headquarters in Riga, Latvia. In 1924 the Mission Conference was turned into Annual Conference with 46 local churches, 29 pastors, and 1639 full members in Estonia, Latvia and Lithuania.
In 1940 the Baltic countries became parts of the Soviet Union. During World War II the people and Methodist work suffered great losses. Thanks to God the Methodist Church in Estonia survived the Soviet period (in Latvia and Lithuania the Methodists virtually disappeared). After regaining our independence in 1991 the Methodist church had 17 local churches.
In 2005 the church has total membership of 1700, 26 congregations with many of them in new places and newly built churches. The number of clergy is 47. The church is very active in outreach work (e.g. organizing summer camps, publishing a magazine “Koduteel” and Estonian “Upper Room” edition). Alpha courses are arranged, as well as Disciple courses. Mission trips have taken place to Finno-Ugric nations in the former Soviet Union. Challenges facing the church include training of leadership, mission and evangelism and older buildings in need of repair.
The church runs social projects (e.g. soup kitchens and children’s Care Center “Lighthouse”). Children’s work has a high priority.
It has its own theological seminary with over 100 students, many of whom are from other denominations.
The Methodist Church holds membership in the Estonian Council of Churches and the Estonian Evangelical Alliance.
On the Finnish side of the Bay of Bothnia, Methodist preaching began to be heard by 1859 and the years to follow. Gustaf Lervik, a coxswain who had returned to his homeland, began to preach in his home country after being converted aboard the Bethel Ship in New York. Later, the Bärlund brothers joined in as preachers. In the 1880’s, impulses from Sweden led to a new start for Methodism in Finland, and the first congregation was established in 1881. Methodism in Finland fell in under the Sweden Annual Conference and had status as a district under the leadership of Superintendent B.A. Carlsen. In 1887 the first Finnish-speaking congregations arose, and two years later B.A. Carlsen established a mission to Russia, with meetings held in St. Petersburg, leading shortly thereafter to congregational development. The Czar, who at the time ruled both Russia and Finland, gave official approval in 1892 to the Methodist Church in both states. The Sweden Annual Conference organized “The mission in Finland and St. Petersburg” during the same year. In 1907,
German-American Dr. George A. Simons (son of Frisian immigrants from Sylt, in Schleswig) was appointed as superintendent in St. Petersburg. The link to Sweden weakened, and under his leadership the work developed rapidly with ramifications for Russia and Estonia. The Bolshevik Revolution in 1917 put a stop to all possibilities for church growth, yet, in spite of opposition, the work continued into the 1920’s. The Methodist Church in Finland gathered for the first time as an independent Annual Conference in 1911. The church had 1,568 members. In keeping with the development in Finland after its independence, the work was separated in a
Swedish-speaking and a Finnish-speaking conference in 1923. Finnish-speaking Methodism suffered greatly during World War II, since 60% of its members lived in regions that were incorporated into the Soviet Union.
Today the Finland Finnish AC has 800 members and 9 congregations. Two of the congregations have seen a strong increase in membership and four congregations have regular work with children and youth. The economical situation is difficult.
The Finland Swedish AC has 1100 members and 14 congregations.. The church has decided that 2006-07 will be a Children’s Year and steps have been taken to focus on children’s and youth work. The economical situation is improving through prudent stewardship and an increase of tithing. The church is looking to the future with confidence.
In 1791 Wesleyan missionaries came to France from Great Britain. In the following years more than 20 congregations came into being. However, most of them joined the French Reformed Church in 1938. Today's «Union de l'Eglise Evangélique Méthodiste en France» was founded in 1868 in Alsace. This work was expanded to Southwest France in 1926. In 2005 the Methodist congregations, which did not join the French Reformed Church decades ago, were incorporated into the UMC. In 2008/2009 two congregations with Methodist roots from the Ivory Coast joined the church, as well. Today, important areas of emphasis of the UMC in France include working with children, youth, and women, evangelization, and the distribution of Christian literature. However, the congregations are also aware of their heritage of social service and take this mission seriously by helping people in need. At some places Chinese, Korean, and Cambodian congregations, which all have the status of associated congregations, meet in the buildings of the Methodist congregations. Points of contact between Church and society include several institutions with which the UMC is affiliated: the Bethesda charity, five homes for the elderly; two centers for vacation, contemplation and renewal; and seven Protestant bookstores.
The United Methodist Church in this country, called “Evangelisch-methodistische Kirche” in Germany, has various sources. Methodism here was started by Christoph Gottlieb Mueller, a German who had fled to England during the Napoleonic wars and was converted there. He returned to Germany in 1830 and began to preach in Wuerttemberg and the Southern part of the country.
In 1849 American Methodists sent Louis S. Jacoby, a German immigrant, who had become a minister in Illinois, to Germany. He began his work in Bremen and was soon joined by others from America. In the same year Methodism began work in eastern Germany. The work established by Jacoby and his associates became the Germany Mission Conference in 1856. German Methodism carried the work into Switzerland, Austria, Hungary, Yugoslavia, and the former Baltic States. There was union with the groups formed by Mueller and the Methodist Episcopal Church in 1897. In 1905 the United Brethren joined the Methodist Church.
Sixty-three years after that merger, in 1968, the German Methodist Church united with the German E.U B. Church (“Evangelische Gemeinschaft”), which had developed in a similar way as the Methodist Church. In 1850 Johann Conrad Link of the Evangelical Association returned from America to his homeland and started preaching in and near Stuttgart, Soon other American ministers followed to testify to the love of God among their former fellow countrymen. Step by step they spread their missionary work all over Germany, and preached in France, and Switzerland. In 1865 they founded a German Conference.
Due to the German division a Central Conference in East Germany (then German Democratic Republic) was formed in 1970. It set up its own institutions for theological training, publishing, social and diaconal work. The common membership in the UMC provided the framework to retain the unity in spirit and to establish partnership but to serve under different political and societal conditions. German reunification in 1990 allowed the union of the Central Conferences in October, 1992. In the Federal Republic of Germany there are three annual conferences (East, North, South).
The School of Theology is located in Reutlingen, Wuerttemberg, where students from Germany, Switzerland and other European countries are trained. The United Methodist Church in this country carries on quite extensive social work in hospitals, homes for senior citizens, aftercare institutions for drug and alcohol addicts. In addition there are training institutions for adult educational work and vacation centers for young people. A growing sector is the ministry for migrants and asylum seekers.
120 years ago, as part of an Evangelical growth in the country, Methodist missionaries established the first Methodist churches in Hungary, firstly among German-speaking and later among Hungarian-speaking people. These churches grew fast but suffered heavy setbacks for political reasons until the end of the Second World War and Communism. Yet God always created something new. Today, focal points of church activities include family, children and youth ministries (summer camp, work in schools, radio and television ministries), as well as various social services, e.g. for the elderly, the Roma, drug dependent persons and prisoners. The church is also strongly engaged in ecumenical work. The local churches are growing slowly but continuously, and they are trying with great commitment to raise the level of their financial independence. However, there are many obstacles to achieving this aim. Popular camps and educational activities as well as urgent building projects at various locations could and can only be carried out with help from outside of the country.
John Wesley made the first of his twenty-one visits to Ireland in 1747, finding 280 Methodists who had been gathered together in Dublin by pioneer lay preachers. The word spread very rapidly inwards and served to strengthen the Protestant witness in a country which is predominantly Roman Catholic except what is now known as Northern Ireland. The first chapel was opened at Dublin in 1752 and the first conference was held at Limerick in the same year. Emigrants from Ireland during the eighteenth and nineteenth centuries were of immense importance in spreading Methodism to other parts of the world. They included Barbara Heck, Philip Embury, Robert Strawbridge, and Robert Williams, pioneers in the United States of America, and Laurence Coughlan, the founder of Methodism in Newfoundland. The Irish Methodist Church has one constitution throughout the Republic and Northern Ireland with a President of the Methodist Church in Ireland. The President of the British Conference, as the successor of John Wesley, presides, however, over the Irish Conference, and six Irish representatives sit as members of the British Conference. There are 222 congregations, 16,200 recognized adult members and a total community roll of almost 55,800. There are 130 ministers in active work and 60 retired ministers. Local preachers total 293, with 68 local preachers on trial.
Methodism has made an important contribution to Irish education, including the establishment of Wesley College in Dublin, Methodist College in Belfast, and Gurteen College in Co Tipperary-this last a college of agriculture. It has developed a wide-ranging social work service, largely through its five city missions in Dublin, Belfast, Newtonabbey and Londonderry, which control several homes for the elderly, hostel accommodation for needy men and woman, residential care for adolescents and day care centers for the elderly. An increasing number of churches in other towns provide a range of services on their premises, including luncheon clubs, community advice centers, pre-school play groups, practical help and work with the elderly, etc.
Together with other churches, the Methodist Church in Ireland is deeply concerned with the issue of reconciliation and peace in Ireland. Many of the ministers and people have taken leading roles on efforts to establish peace during recent years of community strife.
Methodism was introduced into Italy during the second half of the last century, when the Risorgimento movement for reunification of Italy was in full force.
In 1859 the Wesleyan Missionary Society of London sent its general secretary to sound out what possibilities there were of Protestant preaching in this country. The Rev. Henry Piggott and his co-workers arrived in 1861 and their preaching gave birth to the “Wesleyan Methodist Church.”
Methodism first spread in Northern Italy, then from 1864 through the South. A theological school was founded together with social centers, and a few periodicals started publishing. This work, however, met with great difficulty after the rise of fascism in the 1920s and one by one the centers were forced to close. The government sent some ministers away from their churches and revoked others’ permission to preach. The decade from 1935 to 1945 could be defined by the motto “resist at all cost.” Thanks to the Lord the congregation did resist and since then they have continued to witness their faith, within the limits of their possibilities.
In 1871, the year after the break of Porta Pia, when the Pope’s temporal power was limited to the Vatican City, the Episcopal Methodist Missionary Society of New York sent the Rev. Leroy Vernon, who began his work in Modena, Bologna, Florence and Rome. In 1873 he was in Milan and proceeded to visit many other cities and smaller towns all over Italy. The Episcopal Methodist Church reached its widest diffusion during the years 1911-1935. At the same time, once again because of the financial crisis and the fascist regime, many of its achievements had to be renounced, both in the field of evangelization and the social and educational works.
Piggott and Vernon had not been the classic missionaries of the colonialistic age. They had a very clear understanding of the historical period Italy was going through. They put themselves to the task of contributing, by preaching the gospel, to developing an all-Italian Protestant Reformed Movement. This also served to expand those areas of freedom which were already open. A Protestantism completely immersed in the spirit of the Risorgimento was developing.
In May 1946 the union took place of the two branches of Italian Methodism. The Evangelical Methodist Church of Italy was born as a district of the British Methodist Conference. In 1948 the Italian Methodist Church took part in the founding of the World Council of Churches. In 1962 it achieved full autonomy with its own Conference. In 1975 the process of federation began between the Waldensian and Methodist churches and became operative in 1979. Churches have maintained their individual identities and organization, including financial administration. We share ministers between our churches, have one theological college, and one united circuit and district meeting.
Today there are about 4,200 Italian Methodists of whom 2,700 are baptized members. They are constituted in about 50 congregations spread all over the country. There are numerous Methodist social projects, especially in the south of Italy. The most significant are the “social center” in Villa S. Sebastiano (Abruzzi), and in Scicili (Sicily) “Casa Materna” in Portici near Naples; “Centro Emilio Nitti,” “Casa Mia” in Naples, the youth center “Ecumene” near Velletri that runs biblical training and which promotes debates on social and political problems; “Creating Hope” Intra for refugees and migrants’ Methodist Center.
The Evangelical Association from Kõnigsberg District started evangelistic work in Riga, the capital of Latvia, in 1908, with the establishment of the first church in 1912. From this point, the work developed into the formation of congregations in Kuldiga and Liepaja. German Methodism started work in Riga with the appointment of George R. Durdis in 1910. This led to the establishment of the first Methodist church in Riga 1912. In 1911 the Methodists came into Email with a Moravian Brethren missionary who had founded the congregation in Liepaja, which in turn became a Methodist church. The Baltic countries attained independence after World War I, and the work developed rapidly, with American support.
The Incorporation of the Baltic countries into the Soviet Union after World War II was catastrophic for the Methodist church. Systematic persecution of pastors and congregations, as well as confiscation of buildings destroyed a great deal of the work. In Latvia, a small group of earlier Methodists remained, and in 1991 the Emails led to the reconstruction of the United Methodist Church of Latvia. Since then there has been growth and the operations have spread from the indigenous languages and people to the Russian-speaking population. Latvia UMC has status as District Conference within the Estonia Annual Conference.
The church has good relations with other denominations. The number of membership is growing and the church is happy by the fact that they have a new camp site, Camp Wesley, which was opened last year. Diaconal ministry is an important part of the church’s ministry.
The Methodist movement began at the turn of the 20th century with a spiritual awakening in a German-speaking community in Kaunas. The first Lithuanian-speaking congregation was created in 1923. By the 1939 Baltic and Slavic Conference, Lithuanian Methodism included seven active congregations. Following the Soviet occupation in 1944 all Methodist activity was forcibly stopped, congregations disbanded, and property nationalized.
In 1995 Methodists from Europe and the United States began to assist a small group of surviving Lithuanian Methodists in efforts to reorganize congregations and reclaim property. As of 2005 there are eleven congregations with a total of 485 members and 1,000 persons who participate regularly in Methodist activities. The congregations have active ministries of worship and teaching, feeding ministries, English instruction classes, economic development programs, and a drug and alcohol addiction help center in Birzai.
The churches are currently served by five Lithuanian pastors and five missionaries from Britain Sweden and America.
Lithuania celebrated the 10 years anniversary since the re-opening of the UMC in 2005. Many congregations have seen growth and a number are involved in building projects. Diaconal ministry is an important part of the church’s ministry.