Methodist work in Uruguay began in 1836 with explorations and visits among the English speaking population. In 1868, the Rev. Juan F. Thompson who had begun Spanish preaching in Buenos Aires, Argentina, moved to Montevideo and started a very promising movement, especially among the liberal intellectuals and the independent middle class. In 1878 the Rev. Thomas B. Wood organized the Episcopal Methodist church in the capital city and other cities of the country, and founded the first Latin American Methodist publication, “El Evangelista.” In 1893 Uruguay became a district of the River Plate Conference (Argentina and Uruguay), and a Provisional Annual Conference in 1954. Since 1969 the church became autonomous, under a General Assembly every two years, with an Executive Committee of six lay members and three ordained members. The President can be a minister or a layperson.
Educational work began in 1879, with several independent schools under national leadership, that later on converged into the “Instituto Crandon,” one of the most prestigious and influential educational institutions in the country to this day. In 1957 a branch was started in the city of Salto. Good Will Industries was founded in the depression years to help the unemployed, the first of its kind to be founded outside of the USA. The “Good Will Institute” is totally dedicated to specialized education of handicapped young people. Day care centers are offered in some of the most needy areas of Montevideo, in cooperation with government institutions.
In spite of its small number of churches and members, the Uruguayan Methodist Church has been present and active in the intellectual and social life of the country, providing the leadership for Temperance and Defense of Women movements, the formation of the YMCA, the creation of the “Hospital Evangelico,” the National Federation of Youth, and the Federation of Protestant Churches.
Ecumenical relationships and projects are an inseparable part of the church, nationally and internatinally, providing leadership to the world church (i.e., Emilio Castro, former secretary of the WCC). A radio program “La Voz Evangelical,” has been reaching a national audience for 52 years. The church suffered the impact of eleven years of military dictatorship (1973-83), with the subsequent polarization and dispersion of membership. At the moment the total membership is 1,193 and the community served is 5,000. It has 11 ordained ministers, 4 lay ministers, and 478 people working in its institutions and programs. At present a missionary couple from the USA, one pastor from Argentina and one from Brazil are sharing in this ministry. “The Academy of Methodism” has been created to train the lay leadership.
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