Methodist Church in Brazil
(Igreja Metodista em Brasil, IMB)
A first attempt by American missionaries to begin a Methodist mission in Brazil in 1835 was unsuccessful. As of 1867 several congregations were established and the church began to grow steadily. In 1930 the Methodist Church in Brazil declared its autonomy. It is governed by a general conference which meets every five years and elects the bishop and approves mission guidelines, church discipline, etc. The board of bishops is responsible for the church and its doctrine, another body composed of equal numbers of clergy and laity looks after the administration and the programmes. From its very beginning the Methodist Church has placed great emphasis on education. As a result it runs 37 schools, from nursery level to higher education, including two Methodist universities. Students total around 70,000. Ministers (men and women) are prepared in the theological seminary in Sao Paulo, as well as in two other seminaries and six regional centres for theological formation. The church ordained its first woman elder in 1974, the first denomination in Brazil to recognize women's rights to serve in the ministry.
Affirming unequivocally the social dimension of the gospel, the church was a pioneer in establishing day-care centres, orphanages, homes for the aged, social and community centres, and medical clinics. It also pioneered in proclaiming its social creed affirming human rights and civic responsibilities, and denouncing the shortcomings of the Brazilian social body. During the twenty years of political oppression many Methodists were persecuted for their social stance. Since 1982 two documents approved by the general conference, the "Plan for the Life and Mission of the Church" and the "Guidelines for Education in the Methodist Church", have been set as goals to be reached by all Methodist congregations and institutions. Much controversy has arisen out of these official positions, which push the church into an active witness and struggle to transform Brazilian society along lines of justice and freedom, with equal opportunities for the oppressed and poor. From this moment on, the church has spread out in all Brazilian states, and doubled the number of members and churches in the last 12 years.
The church maintains close relationships with the United Methodist Church (USA), the United Church of Canada and the Evangelical Methodist Church of Germany, with which it shares personnel and financial resources to promote special projects in the country and abroad.
At the 18th General Council meeting in 2006 the Methodist Church in Brazil decided to withdraw from CONIC (the National Council of Churches) and other ecumenical organizations in which the Roman Catholic Church holds membership.