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 Christian Methodist Episcopal Church was organized as the Colored Methodist Episcopal Church in America, December 16, 1870, in Jackson, Tennessee, by former slaves who had been members of the Methodist Episcopal Church, South during slavery but who, after their emancipation, realized that continued membership in the church of their former masters was neither desirable nor practical and requested their own separate and independent church “regularly established,” said Isaac Lane, “after our own ideas and notions.”
In accordance with disciplinary procedures of the times, and with careful attention to what was pointed to as the “desires of our colored members,” the 1860 and 1870 General Conference of the M.E. Church, South, provided the basic ecclesiastical, legal and practical means that enabled the colored members to, in the word of Lucius H. Holsey, establish our “own separate and distinct ecclesiasticism.” Several hundred black preachers were ordained deacons and elders; an official periodical, “The Christian Index,” began publication; five black annual conferences were established; delegates to a special General Conference empowered to set up a “separate ecclesiastical jurisdiction” were elected; the ordination of black bishops was authorized; and transfer to the new church of all properties that had been sued by slave congregations was sanctioned. On December 21, 1870, William H. Miles of the Kentucky Colored Conference and Richard H. Vanderhorst of the Georgia Colored Conference-the two black preachers elected by the delegates-were ordained bishops by Robert Paine, Senior Bishop of the M.E. Church, South. At the close of the Organizing General Conference Bishop Paine transferred Episcopal supervision to Bishop Miles with these words: “The time has come for us to resign into your hands the presidency of this body, and the Episcopal oversight of your people. And we now do it. Take this chair…. henceforth you are their guides and governs.
The CME Church rapidly emerged as one of the more influential churches in African American communities throughout the South. Beginning with approximately 78,000 members, competent leaders, several hundred congregations, and title to hundreds of pieces of church property, it had, by the turn of the century, expanded beyond the Mason-Dixon Line following black migrations to the North, Midwest and the Pacific Coast. After World War I, the CME Church was established wherever significant numbers of African Americans were located.
After World War II, as CMEs found themselves in more racially inclusive communities and the civil rights struggle intensified, the term “colored” took on the stigma of discrimination and Jim Crowism. Consequently, in 1954 the name was changed to the Christian Methodist Episcopal Church.
The CME Church now has 886,000 communicant members and 3,000 congregations throughout the United States, and conferences in Nigeria, Ghana, Liberia, Haiti and Jamaica. It is divided into ten Episcopal districts, has 34 annual conferences and ten active bishops. It sponsors four colleges and a Theological Seminary.
The Church of the Nazarene emerged from the 19th century Wesleyan-holiness revival after three regional bodies in the North America united in 1908: the Association of Pentecostal Churches of America, stretching from Nova Scotia to Iowa; the Church of the Nazarene extending from the West Coast to Illinois; and the Holiness Church of Christ, reaching from Georgia to New Mexico. Two were products of earlier mergers. The united church’s original name – Pentecostal Church of the Nazarene-was shortened in 1919 after the term “Pentecostal” (a synonym, to the founders, of “holiness”) had acquired new meanings.
The Pentecostal Mission (U.S.) and the Pentecostal Church of Scotland united with the Nazarenes in 1915. Later accessions included the Layman’s Holiness Association (U.S.), the Gospel Workers of Canada, the Calvary Holiness Church (Great Britain), and an indigenous Nigerian body also bearing the name Church of the Nazarene.
The church’s doctrine is Wesleyan. Nazarene’s affirm the reality of original sin but emphasize Christ’s universal atonement and prevenient grace; justification by grace through faith; sanctification likewise by faith; entire sanctification as God’s gracious opportunity for believers; and the witness of the Spirit. The church practices the sacraments of baptism (by sprinkling, pouring or immersion) and the Lord’s Supper. Parents may request infant baptism, but believers’ baptism predominates. Members admitted by profession of faith agree to observe the general and special rules of the church, which include refraining from tobacco and alcoholic beverages.
Nazarene policy blends congregational, presbyterian and episcopal elements. From American Methodism the church derives its concepts of general and district superintendency, the quadrennial general meeting, and its book of discipline (called the Manual). Nazarene ordination practices also reflect Methodist roots: elders are elected to orders by peers and ordained by a general superintendent, who is joined by other elders in the laying on of hands. A congregational element is reflected, however, in the local church’s right to call its own pastor, while a presbyterian element appears in the district’s right to elect its own superintendent.
The Nazarene district assembly meets annually, electing its superintendent, receiving reports from churches, electing candidates to elder’s orders, and periodically electing equal numbers of lay and clergy delegates to General Assembly.
The General Assembly elects the general superintendents (who serve until the next General Assembly) and the members of various boards. It enacts legislation binding on churches and districts throughout the denomination.
It also elects the General Board, which meets annually and supervises, with the Board of General Superintendents, the church’s World Mission, USA/Canada Mission, Evangelism, and Sunday School agencies and the International Board of Education.
Internationalization shapes contemporary Nazarene life. The church exists in local, district, and general (international) levels, not at the national level except for certain legal purposes. The 12,598 Nazarene churches worldwide are grouped into 386 districts, one fourth of these in North America, where about half the church’s 1.4 million members live. The church is presently organized in 138 world areas. There are 13,203 ordained elders, 436 permanent deacons, 5,881 licensed ministers, and 747 missionaries.
Bible and liberal arts colleges are supported on every continent, and graduate schools of theology are located in Kansas City and Manila. The Nazarene Publishing House has operated in Kansas City since 1912 and is helping establish regional publishing houses in other world areas.
The Evangelical Methodist Church of Costa Rica has been part of the United Methodist Church for many years. In 1973 under the permission of the General Conference, our church obtained its autonomous status, being actually affiliated to the United Methodist Church.
Our country has a population of 3,500,000 inhabitants. Catholicism is the official religion of the country, however, Protestantism has a very significant influence in our society. The church in Costa Rica has at this moment 90 local churches and 45 preaching points, and an average of 9,500 members, attending community of more or less 12,500 people.
During the last six years our emphasis has been the development and training of laypersons and pastors under a deep knowledge of the word of God and also awareness of our Wesleyan theology. This has produced a major compromise with Christ as personal Lord and Lord of the life. For the next years under the same dynamic of education we believe we can raise 2,000 or more local churches, around the whole country. If we want compromise with the communities the local churches are a very important vehicle to present the total and integral evangelism to the human being.
In accordance with the modern world, with all its positive and negative implications, with firmness we believe that the love of God for humanity, in Christ is the response for a restoration of life and a transformation of our society. For the authority Christ gives to the church through the Great Commission, is our agreement to increase evangelism, the love, God’s holy grace, is an action that continues, living in faith and hope for all human beings.
We believe that our lives must be consecrated totally in agreement with Christ and also our witness as disciples must be daily living, in this way we can affirm “the world is my parish.” We thank God for the Methodist movement and for the Methodist family around the world. The Methodist heritage we have is enough to share with our brothers and sisters in sorrow, in adversity and in the hope in Him.
We continue serving Christ as Lord, through our resources, through our gifts and abilities, through our local churches and institutions.
Our work of revival, of growing, of presence we support in continued obedience and consecration to Jesus Christ. Only in this way we can do the will of our Father, in a complete guidance of the Holy Spirit.
The Methodist Episcopal Church, South, USA, opened work in Cuba in 1883 through Cuban Methodists residing in Florida. The first church was organized in Havana that year with 194 members. The Spanish-American War interrupted this flourishing work, and it was not until 1898 that American missionaries were sent to Cuba, and Bishop Warren A. Candler, of the Florida Annual Conference personally visited the island. The Cuban Mission was organized in 1907; a Mission Conference in 1919; and the Cuba Annual Conference in 1923. At Methodist Unification in 1939, the Conference became a unit of the Southeastern Jurisdiction. In 1964 the General Conference passed an enabling act to allow the Cuban Methodist Church to become autonomous if it so chose. Autonomy was declared on February 2, 1968, and Rev. Armando Rodriguez elected as the First Cuban Bishop.
During the past few years a lot of new members have helped create almost 200 new congregations in the church, plus the 120 that were founded by the Cuban and American missionaries. The current membership is close to 13,000 and other 50,000 are attending church, although they are not yet members. More than 100 pastors work full time in preaching the Gospel. Methodists in Cuba hope to win “Cuba for Christ” through their evangelistic work. They are praying for opportunities to print Christian literature in Cuba and broadcast radio and television programs with the Gospel of Jesus Christ. The church has been trained to reach large numbers of people.
Since 1969 the church has been self-supporting. There is well organized work with women, youth, young adults, men, and activities in the area of Evangelism, Christian Education and leadership development. Twenty-three students are currently studying at the Matanzas Evangelical Theological Seminary, to become pastors, and seven others are studying in Garrett Evangelical and Perkins Seminaries, in the United States.
Together with Methodists in the United States, the Caribbean and Central America the Methodist Church in Cuba participates in studies and projects of missionary work in countries in the region where there is no work of the Methodist Church. Recently, Bishop Armando Rodriguez (retired) and his wife Alida were appointed as Cuban missionaries to Honduras, the only Latin American country where there is no Methodist church.