Evangelical Presbyterian Church of Portugal
(Igreja Evangélica Presbiteriana de Portugal, IEPP)
Portugal was hardly touched by the 16th century Reformation, and also in subsequent centuries only a few individuals affirmed Reformed insights. The Bible was translated into Portuguese in 1688 by a Portuguese who was an ordained pastor in the Dutch Reformed Church in Java. The Presbyterian Church of Portugal can trace its history back to 1838 when a physician and missionary from Scotland opened a small hospital and a school, and began to preach the gospel on the Portuguese island of Madeira. There, in the town of Funchal, the first Presbyterian community in Portugal was founded in 1845. Soon, persecution began; most members of the community emigrated and found refuge in Brazil, Trinidad and the United States. Some of them returned later to Portugal, and in 1871 the first Presbyterian Church in Lisbon was founded. Slowly the Presbyterian work expanded. Missionaries from both Brazil and the United States played a significant role in strengthening the movement. In 1947 the statutes for an Igreja Evangélica Presbiteriana de Portugal (IEPP) were adopted and in 1952 the first synod was held, on Reformation day.
While it is the oldest Protestant church in the country, the IEPP is one of the smallest in number. Two main reasons explain this reality: Portugal is a Roman Catholic country (more than 90 percent of the population) and the IEPP has always refused to be a proselytizing church. Although small in number the IEPP is well known, particularly for its commitment and involvement in ecumenical dialogue, theological formation and in social projects, e.g., the theological seminary (Carcavelos), St Luke's Clinic (Lisbon), agricultural cooperative (Bebedouro), ecumenical centre (Figueira da Foz), social project and kindergarten (Cova e Gala), old peoples' home (Palmela).
One of the priorities of the IEPP is to preach the gospel of Jesus Christ in the light of and according to the Reformed tradition, and to witness to the unity of the one church through its diversity. The IEPP is not against anyone but wants to affirm its own identity among the others. In doing this it has gained its own credit and respect both among Roman Catholics as well as Evangelicals.
Refusing to be a church in isolation, the IEPP has close contacts at national level with the Methodist and the Lusitanian (Anglican) churches and internationally with the Spanish Evangelical Church, the Reformed Church in France, the Church of Scotland, the Presbyterian Church (USA), the Reformed Churches in Angola, Mozambique and East Timor.