In March 1825 the Missionary Society of the Methodist Episcopal Church of New York proposed the establishment of a mission in South America. This proposal was acted upon favorably by the 1832 General Conference. In 1835 the Rev. F. E. Pitts visited Rio de Janeiro, Buenos Aires and Montevideo and recommended to the 1936 General Conference that work be established in the first two of these cities. Consequently, Dr. John Dempster arrived in Buenos Aires in December of that year to begin work. The work flourished and resulted in the erection of a sanctuary. Because of financial problems, Dr. Dempster was recalled as was Dr. William H. Norris who had opened work in Montevideo. The local congregation, however, received permission to continue the work and underwrite the salary of Dr. Norris who came to Buenos Aires from Montevideo. On January 3, 1843, the first Methodist sanctuary in South America was dedicated.
In 1856 the Missionary Society sent Dr. William Goodfellow to reinitiate the missionary work in South America. Since it was forbidden by local regulations to preach the gospel in Spanish, the work was extended in foreign languages to colonies established in the provinces of Santa Fe and Entre Rios. With more liberal laws obtained in the country, Dr. John F. Thompson, a Scotsman brought up in Argentina, and graduated from Ohio Wesleyan (USA) on the 25th of May, 1867, preached the first public sermon in Spanish. From thence the work of the Methodist Church, followed in the course of time by other denominations, spread throughout the country. The missionary thrust went beyond the borders, and opened work in Peru, Bolivia, Paraguay, Uruguay and southern Brazil. This work including the work, begun by Bishop Taylor in Chile, was organized into the South American Annual Conference.
The Methodist Church in Argentina continued growing in important cities like Rosario, Cordoba, Mendoza, Bahia Blanca, mar de Plata and in many other places. Many local churches organized primary schools, kindergartens and projects to serve poor people. On October 5, 1969, the church became autonomous as Iglesia Evangelica Metodista Argentina (IEMA) and Rev. Carlos T. Gattinoni was elected as its first bishop.
The IEMA had seven regions since that date with seven superintendents. In 1973 the General Assembly approved a document about the strategy of a church. It affirmed: “The Methodist Church today defines its mission in our country as service to the total liberation as carried by Jesus Christ and to which He invites the people and societies of Latin America to participate…” “Liberation: this word involves two concepts which are inseparable, united and mutually dependent; personal salvation and the redemption of society.”
The Iglesia Evangelica Metodista Argentina has more than 115 congregations, 89 ordained ministers, 180 lay preachers, 210 Christian education teachers, 7 primary schools, 5 secondary schools and one university.
There are many kindergartens, several projects that serve children and women. Its ecumenical contribution is very wide; we are a part of 33 ecumenical projects.
The church includes a community of approximately 20,000 baptized persons who hold membership in the church.