British Virgin Islands
   The British Virgin Islands comprise 36 islands on the northeast edge of the Caribbean Sea. They were successively inhabited by the Carib and Arawak peoples, the Spanish, the Dutch and finally, in the 17th century, the British, who introduced sugar plantations and brought in African slaves as cheap labor. Descendants of the slaves constitute the majority of the population. Local citizens elect their own legislature, but London still appoints the governor and has responsibility for foreign relations, defense, and internal security.
   Methodists arrived in 1780. They took pains to evangelize the Africans and at one point claimed 70 percent of the population as their members. With 4,000 members, they still claim the allegiance of half of the islands' churchgoers.
   The Church of England, based in the white population, became the second-largest church in the islands. Early in the 20th century, the care of the islands' Anglicans was turned over to the Episcopal Church (of the United States), whose Diocese of the Virgin islands is based in the neighboring American Virgin islands.
   More than a dozen Protestant-Free Church groups have arrived in the British Virgin islands over the past 100 years, the largest being the Seventh-day Adventist Church and the Church of God (Anderson,Indiana). The Anglicans, Methodists, and Catholics cooperate in the Tor-tola interchurch Council (Tortola being the principal island in the territory).
   See also Caribbean.
   Further reading:
   ■ F. W. Blackman, Methodism: Two Hundred Years in the British Virgin Islands (Bridgetown, Barbados: Methodist Church of the British Virgin islands, 1989)
   ■ D. G. Mason, The Church in the Process of Development in the British Virgin Islands (Madison, N.J.: Drew University, STM thesis, 1874).

Encyclopedia of Protestantism. . 2005.

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