Methodist Church of Uruguay

(Iglesia Metodista en el Uruguay, IMU)
Methodism came to Uruguay in 1838 through mission from England. It was interrupted in 1842 and re-initiated by the Methodist Missionary Society from the USA in 1870. During those first years the work in Uruguay was part of the mission based in Buenos Aires. When the annual conference of South America was formed in 1893, Uruguay became a district. From the beginning there was a strong emphasis on education. The Crandon Institute of Montevideo was founded, which until today is one of the most prestigious educational establishments of the country. Later the Crandon Lyceum and College of Salto were added, and more recently the Institute of Good Will which is dedicated to the formation of young people who are physically handicapped. In 1952 Uruguay became a provisional conference separate from Argentina and in 1968 it was authorized by the general conference of the United Methodist Church to be an autonomous church. The district conferences were abolished and instead of the episcopal tradition the church adopted the system of a president as leader. The position is open to clergy as well as lay members. The highest authority is the national assembly and a board for Life and Mission composed of three clergy and six lay persons supervises the whole church. Besides the one thousand members there is a wider community of about two thousand people who are related to the church.

The mission of the church is implemented through five departments: evangelism, education and formation, women and family, youth, and service and witness. The coordination between these departments and with the department of communication aims at an integrated response to mission. In 2004 a pastoral institute was created for the on-going formation of the laity and the renewal of pastoral studies. Two large programmes are the focus of the mission of the church: the integrated rural mission in the north, in the most impoverished region where the church is growing more than elsewhere, and the urban mission in Montevideo. Both are challenges to the whole church and areas of voluntary service of professionals and lay persons from the congregations and the wider community. The church has taken a leadership role together with the Waldensian Church on the issue of women's rights in reproductive health and has a ministry with per¬sons of diverse sexual orientations. Historically the IMU has marked itself by its commitment to human and political rights in the country.

Together with the Conference of Argentina and the Church in the South of Brazil the programme "Churches without Borders" was initiated in 2003, as a joint mission and pastoral project in the border zone between Uruguay, Brazil and Argentina. The IMU maintains close relations with the Methodist churches in the USA, the UK, Switzerland, Argentina and Brazil.