Our World Wide Church Family
The World Methodist Council is made up of 80 Methodist, Wesleyan and related Uniting and United Churches representing over 40.5 million members in 138 countries1. 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 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.
The United Methodist Church in the Democratic Republic of Congo has undergone dramatic changes in the past few years, including reverting from the country name of Zaire to the earlier name, Congo. Because of the rapid growth of Methodism in this area there are now three Episcopal areas and three bishops.
Methodist missions in the Congo were initiated by the U.S. Methodist Churches, North and South. Therefore, until 1930 there were two Methodist areas in the Congo. Then the two groups in the United States united, one Episcopal area was formed in Zaire with the first Zairian bishop elected in 1964.
After hearing stories of political tension, travel difficulties and fact that more than one half of Africa Central Conference Methodists live in the country of Congo, the 1992 United Methodist General Conference authorized the Africa Central Conference to create the new Zaire Conference.
The country is nearly one million square miles in area and residents speak at least 36 languages. Church institutions include hospitals, serving a large network of dispensaries, pastors’ schools, a theological school, a technical school, many women’s schools, primary and secondary schools. The schools are under the direction of the government but staffed by Methodist teachers in church-owned facilities. Several agricultural and industrial projects are sponsored by the church.
Methodism arrived in Chile through the efforts of William Taylor in 1877-78. His self-supporting missions on the west coast of South America saw the arrival of missionaries from the United States, the establishment of schools and eventually the evangelization work in the Spanish language.
The mission came under the Methodist Episcopal Church in 1893, when the South American Conference was organized with Chile as one of its districts. In 1960 the Methodist Church of Chile became autonomous electing a bishop and adopting its own statutes and regulations.
At present the Methodist Church of Chile extends throughout the whole country. There are 126 congregations and preaching points with a membership of 17,600. There are 73 active ministers, one bishop and seven district superintendents. The educational, social and health ministries of the church coordinate the extensive work of institutions and programs in the seven districts.
The motto for this period is “opening spaces and places for the mission.”
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.
Various attempts at establishing the Methodist Church in Colombia were not able to succeed in demonstrating the spirit of unity that characterizes a Christian mission and is part of the Methodist family. Bishop Isaias Gutierrez V., first to set foot on Colombia in 1982, had been previously informed of the work done by Bishop Armando Rodriguez of Cuba and Bishop Joel Mora of Mexico. The work begun by Pastor Gustavo Tibazosa Quiroga had run into serious obstacles, which finally led to its breaking into two independent groups.
Finally, in 1989, the “Methodist Christian Community in Colombia” was created. Headed by Pastor Luis Castiblanco, his marked Wesleyan accent became known throughout the popular neighborhood, Chapeinero, within the city of Bogota. They established two churches; however, there were too many obstacles in their path to further spread their work. Nevertheless, this expansionist yearning finally became possible with the arrival of the Rev. Manuel Grajales and his wife to the City of Armenia in the year 1996. Welcomed with jubilation by the United Methodist Church in the USA, Pastor Grajales managed to initiate work in Calarca with new strength. He was also able to Email evangelic leaders of great evangelic zeal and who were appreciated by the Methodist Church, its doctrine, identity, strong educational and social emphasis, its ecumenical opening, among other distinct expressions.
In February of 1997, Bishop Isaias Gutierrez V., President of CIEMAL, visited them for the first time. He has since realized consecutive visits to all of the works thus established in Colombia and has presided over assemblies and district gatherings, especially since the return of the Grajaleses to the United States for health reasons in 1998.
Presently there are two defined regions: the Capitol District and the Western District. The Capitol District’s work in the Chapinero neighborhood has great possibilities for extension, for which we are looking for resources. This work embraces health and social service programs as well as numerous ecumenical Emails that bring prestige to their work. The Western District includes churches and missions that have established in the Eje Cafetero: Calarca, Armenia, Pereira; in the Cali Valley: El Lido, Floralia, Agua Blanca, Los Laureles, more than one mission in the Northern Neighborhood of Cali; in Palmira; and the Church in Neiva by brotherly relationship. Their educational work comprehends an elementary and secondary school for 300 children along with the “John Wesley” Academy for long distance degrees. They are also hoping to establish an arts and business school. The social work consists of an open center for 200 very poor children, two day care centers, a welcome house, and a rehabilitation center for young drug addicts.
We have an integrated ministerial staff, composed of 15 pastors and seminaries, numerous lay leaders and a community of 1,300 participants.
We give thanks to God for being part of the Methodist Church in Colombia, called on to be an expression of a new rising amidst our convulsed society.
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.
Three very important stages have marked THE installation of the Protestant Methodist Church in Cote d’Ivoire.
Pre-Missionary Periods: Towards 1890: The presence of migrated African Methodists English-speaking colonies, such as Liberia, the former Gold Coast (present Ghana), Sierra Leone. Most of them traders who settled along the Atlantic coast, at Assinie, Grand-Bassam, Grand-Lahou just to mention a few. They created the first Methodist communities. Their first temple was opened towards 1895. 1914-1915: Great evangelical success of the lower coast by William Wade Harris, a lay preacher who was a Methodist Episcopalist from Liberia. He predicted the arrival of white missionaries. Missionary Periods: 1924: The arrival of the first English missionary, Rev. John Platt from Dahomey and Togo where since 1842, the London Wesleyan Society of Methodist Missions had been. The Cote d’Ivoire Colony was therefore declared overseas mission field. To Wards 1930: Cote d’Ivoire was raised into a circuit attached to the French West African District with Dahomey and Togo. 1947: Cote d’Ivoire was raised into a district attached to the British Methodist Conference. 1963: Internal autonomy – the first Ivorian chairman in the name of Rev. Samson Nandjui was installed in his duties on the Methodist Mission jubilee in Cote d’Ivoire in 1964 when The Methodist Conference of Cote d’Ivoire became autonomous from the British Methodist Conference and was renamed the Protestant Methodist Church in Cote d’Ivoire. The membership numbers about one million (adult, youth and children together) on an Ivoirian population of 13 million inhabitants. Number of local churches, 847; ministers, 76; evangelists, 28. There are 5 districts, 10 Methodist zones; 19 circuits; and sections dealing with area and sectional counseling, local church and Methodist class meetings. Five departments of the church which enlighten the spiritual, socio-economic, cultural and religious life: the Department of Enlightenment and Formation, dealing with the laymen and ministers’ formation mixed with the enlightenment of doctrine and theology, of music and liturgy; the Department of Evangelization and Communication, which deals with strategies in terms of evangelization with as support the mass-media service or communication comprising the radio, television, written press and literature; the section dealing with Islam-Christian in Africa, Cote d’Ivoire Service; the Department of Youth deals with formation and guidance of the urban youth, the student youth rural youth, labor youth; the Department of Deacons and Works cares for all the problems of the society comprising —all works of life (hospitals, prisons, the military and paramilitary, family education, student education, the world of job, thc unemployed refugees, infant problems, etc.; the Department of Development and Patrimony, deals with investments like buildings and rural areas, and with vocation works of women, the church action for women.
Social Institutions include: the Protestant Hospital of Dabou built in 1965 with a capacity of 150 beds; the Protestant Institution for Education and Formation with the Methodist schools (primary and secondary schools); the Protestant Student House situated not far from the National University, student house for all nationality and religions; the Methodist Youth Center for Activities; the Harbour Fraternity situated at Abidjan Harbour, base of the ministry of urban and industry; the John Wesley Center of Dabou welcoming center of continued formation and training of the church workers, open to all confessions and denominations; the Orphan Home of Dabou; the Welcoming Center for the Blue Cross, center for disintoxication and of re-education and social insertion of persons victimized by alcohol and drugs.
External relations: The Protestant Methodist Church of Cote d’Ivoire has a relationship with other Protestant
and Catholic Churches of Cote d’Ivoire of the West African Subregion and the whole Africa, and the world in general, but in privileged manner with the Methodist church in Britain as partner.
Short and long projects include the intensive formation of pastors at the School of Protestant Theology of PortoNovo 9 Benin) and at the faculty of protestant Theology (Cameroun) and the realization of a Superior Institute of Theology for the initial and continued training of all workers of the church.
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.
Peter Zunic, a native Croatian, heard the call to missionary work in his former homeland during his studies at the Theological Seminary in Reutlingen, Germany. In 1995, he and his wife Heidi travelled to Split, Croatia. There they began to approach people with a message of hope and with deeds of love, and in this way worked to revive the work of the UMC in this country. Through their efforts, and often through seemingly coincidental encounters, a network of relationships sprouted. From this, a small but growing congregation with faithful and dedicated members has developed.
Along with regular evangelization work in the center of Split (sometimes in cooperation with other evangelical congregations), the production of Christian literature is an important part of the work here. The devotionals and other literature produced here (e.g. a Croatian translation of a compendium of John Wesley’s sermons on the Sermon on the Mount) are treasured and used far beyond the bounds of the Church and the country. Also, Peter and Heidi Zunic have made Email with a nearby orphan’s home, and regularly organize activities for the children, such as excursions, movies, etc.
Still, in an environment that is almost exclusively Roman Catholic, missionary work is very difficult. Time and again, people who find themselves in personal emergencies open themselves to dialogues with the Methodists and demonstrate a basic openness toward God, but turn away when they discover they are dealing with a Protestant church. They are afraid of being considered traitors to the Croatian people.
In the last years, concrete efforts have begun for activities in other cities in the Adriatic coastal region. But in Sibenik, too, the work is just beginning, and is proceeding very slowly.
For structural reasons, the Methodist work in Croatia is under the jurisdiction of the Bishop of the UMC in Central and Southern Europe in Zurich. But the congregational leaders also have a good relationship with their Methodist brethren in Macedonia and in Serbia.
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.
In 1920, missionaries from the US-based Methodist Episcopal Church, South began their work in Czechoslovakia. They organized evangelization meetings, distributed Bibles, and provided emergency services to the people, who were still suffering from the consequences of the First World War. This work led to the founding of various congregations and to the birth of the UMC in Czechoslovakia. In the early years, the Church grew rapidly. Later, the young Church experienced very difficult years, at first in a financial sense, and then for political reasons. Yet in spite of persecution and oppression by the state, from restriction of activities to the arrest of pastors, rays of hope always managed to shine through.
At the end of 1989, the political changes in Eastern Europe suddenly offered many new opportunities for Christian service in a highly secularized society, and the UMC was still there, with renewed missionary zeal that soon led to the founding and growth of new congregations. For the most part, the new members were young people who were hearing the message of the Gospel for the first time, and who with their enthusiasm brought a strong new dynamic into the Church.
The political separation of the country in 1993 and subsequent founding of the Czech and Slovak Republics did not separate the Annual Conference. The UMC in these countries has undergone structural adaptations, but is still organized as an annual conference with two districts.
The growing congregations in the Czech Republic are confronted with many social challenges. The fact that the country joined the EU in May 2004 has not changed this situation. But these needs are viewed as an opportunity to spread God’s love. Because of this, they often lead to a new engagement fort the Kingdom of God and to programs which also try to alleviate the material needs of the people. For example, one emphasis of the UMC in the Czech Republic is the work with drug addicts (this includes a comprehensive preventive program in youth groups and schools). Other areas of emphasis include multifaceted youth work and support for prison inmates, the homeless, single parents, and the handicapped. This work lends credibility to the Gospel message and helps people to find Christ.
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.
In the 1800s and early 1900s British missionaries gave distinguished service in the Dominican Republic, although there was a period of legal restriction on non-Roman Catholic worship.
American Methodists came to the Dominican Republic in 1885, when a Dominican layman visiting Puerto Rico was converted. He returned home, witnessed to his neighbors, and a Methodist church was born. In 1920 Methodists, United Brethren, Presbyterians, and Moravians united to form the Board of Christian Work which has been called the oldest piece of cooperative denominational work in the world. They have an excellent bookstore, daily vacation Bible schools in the summer, nationwide evangelistic campaigns each year, and medical clinics which serve hundreds of persons weekly.
The Dominican Evangelical Church is self-governing with its own charter, constitution and doctrinal statement. Membership is reported to be growing rapidly.
Long before the United Methodist Church in Burundi was known under this name, it was called World Gospel Church. As early as 1835, missionaries working in Burundi came together and agreed to subdivide the field geographically as an evangelistic strategy for their ministry. Friends (Quakers) took the central region of the country while the Free Methodists extended their work from the mid southeastern part to the west. The World Gospel Mission was left with the east. It opened its field in 1938 with Kayero in Rutana province as its first mission station. By that time Rutana was still a district of Ruyigi Province. In that process the World Gospel Mission extended its activities to Buhonga, Murehe and Murore, located in eastern Burundi.
Missionaries led the church for four decades. After a long struggle for indigenous leadership, a national was elected and consecrated as Bishop of the World Gospel Church in 1980. The church switched to the Evangelical Episcopal Church, Burundi for international recognition. Two years later, the Evangelical Episcopal Church in Burundi sought to become the United Methodist Church.
In May 1984 General Conference held in Baltimore, Maryland, the Evangelical Episcopal Church in Burundi became a part of the United Methodist Church worldwide. In August 1984, Burundi Annual Conference became a part of the Africa Central Conference.
After a military coup in 1993, Bishop and Mrs. Ndoricimpa have lived in exile in Kenya, keeping in close communication with the church in Burundi by fax, telephone calls, and visitors from Burundi. The exile community in Kenya has opened a hospitality center for Burundi refugees, and Bishop Ndoricimpa has taken the lead in establishing a Burundi international peace committee. Burundi has experienced conflict between Hutu and Tutsi tribes, with more than 200,000 people reported to have been killed since 1993. While in exile, the church in Burundi has experienced growth and development, with its mission expanding into Kenya, Sudan Tanzania, Uganda and Rwanda. These areas now make up the East Africa Annual Conference.
The United Methodist Church in Burundi is the second largest religious denomination there. With its multi-ethnic character both in leadership and membership, the church has demonstrated for some time that the conflict is unnecessary. Former South African President Nelson Mandela has been instrumental in negotiations for ending the civil war, and both leaders and members of the church are actively working for peace in their land.
The United Evangelical Church of Ecuador grew out of the work of the United Andean Indian Mission (northern and southern Presbyterian, UCC and UM) and the Church of the Brethren. These two missions began work in 1946 and 1947 with indigenous communities.
In 1960 the UAIM began steps toward organizing congregations, and the Brethren were forming a small denomination, with a total membership in both groups of about 500, in 10 congregations. A Latin American Mission Board, representing Methodists and Waldensians, was considering work in Ecuador.
A study commission of these three groups recommended to the United Andean Indian Mission and the Brethren in November 1962 that they form a United Church, and to the Latin Americans that they work with this group. All groups accepted the proposal. In 1965 the dream of a national church was realized, and Latin American Methodists sent their first missionaries. In 1966 a Center of Theological Studies was formed to train local leaders of the United Church and other churches.
Twelve years later there were 16 congregations with a membership of about 1,000. The road has been difficult, but there have been positive steps. The old categories of missionary, pastor and layman have given way to co-worker. The evangelical “ghetto” has been broken, with Christians discovering anew the world, and a gospel for the total person. We have accepted the cost of discipleship and are learning how to confront the challenges of a modern world.
The church went through a crisis growing out of loss of confidence in leadership, poor administration, and abuse of authority. In 1976 the church named new leadership and began to move forward.
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.
The history of the Methodist Church in Fiji and Rotuma is closely related if not synonymous with the history of this relative young South Pacific nation. It was the missionary zeal and highly disciplined evangelical thrust that saw the members of the Wesleyan Missionary Society penetrate the islands of Fiji, beginning in October 1935. Since that time, Wesleyan Christianity has become well integrated into local culture of the indigenous people.
In April 1854 the then paramount chief of Fiji, Ratu Seru Cakobau was converted to Christianity. Following this conversion, many people openly confirmed their faith in the gospel. This gospel has become a significant pillar in the maintenance of Fijian society.
When British rule was introduced in 1874, the government became the third strand in the new orthodoxy which evolved as the embodiment of Fijian consciousness. These three strands are commonly known as Vanua (way of the land), Lotu (Christianity), Matanitu (state). Throughout these last 160 years, the Methodist Church in Fiji has enjoyed the close working together of these three strands.
1879 saw the coming of Asian Indians. They were imported as indentured laborers for the sugar cane industry. They had come with their religion, language, culture and customs. The Fiji home mission responded to the Indian challenge in Fiji by setting up the Indian Mission in 1892 to address their condition of work and witness to the loving care of God. Work lapsed until Ms. Hannah Dudley arrived in October 1897.
Dudley Church and Dudley High School stand as testimony to her devotion and commitment to he cause of the gospel. Membership of Indo-Fijian Methodists is 2,243 out of a 213,000 Methodist population.
The Rotuman Mission was under the Fiji District of the Wesleyan Missionary Society since 1841. Rotumans on the island of Rotuma are predominantly Methodist. They have continued to grow in their number and persistence in faith in Fiji as well as in countries outside Fiji such as Australia and New Zealand. Rotumans in Suva, Fiji, have built one of the finest buildings with modern architectural art with a sitting capacity of 1,000.
In 1987, Fiji suffered two military coups. This event became an important turning point in the country’s political history. It placed the Methodist Church in a shaky and difficult situation. It was left with a crisis of identity. An authentic and clear witness to the Lordship of Jesus Christ is now called for in order for the church to recapture its identity. The Church is convinced that it must continue its missionary obedience, availing itself to assist in any way possible to become an instrument of peace, justice and unity in our multi-coloured society.
Strong challenges from new religious groups, enthusiasts and spirited cults are among the new forces the church faces today. The spiritual life of our people at the grass root level is maintained, affirmed and renewed in the church’s worship. The evangelical disciplined faith has always been a feature of the spirituality of the Fijian people. As the church moves on to the third millennium, the challenge still stands to seek new ways of witnessing to the lordship of Christ in a new pluralistic situation.
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.