- Albania, a small, primarily Muslim country on the Adriatic Sea northwest of Greece, has had a tumultuous religious history. After the 11th-century split between Roman Catholics and Eastern Orthodox, it fell under the influence of the Eastern church, but it was close enough to italy for Catholics to reach out regularly for Albanian disciples.In the 15 th century, the country was overrun by Turkish Muslim forces. Though Christianity was not totally suppressed, the majority of Albanians became Muslims. The Orthodox Church in Albania operated under the direct authority of the Ecumenical Patriarchate in Istanbul until 1920, but an independent Albanian Orthodox Church emerged when the country itself became independent following the collapse of the Ottoman Empire.A few Protestant groups had started to put down roots from the end of the 19th century: Methodists (1890s) from Yugoslavia, Seventh-day Adventists (1903) from Greece, and Baptists (1939) from Italy. The Jehovah's Witnesses launched a mission in the 1920s.The Marxist state established in 1944 under Enver Hoxha (1908-85) was extremely hostile to religion. Hoxha officially declared Albania an atheist country and moved to dismantle the Orthodox Church. He closed the seminary, stopped ordination, and then moved on to close churches and arrest priests. The church barely survived the 40 years of his rule. The Roman Catholic Church, which had survived in an enclave in the north of the country, suffered equally All the Protestant efforts were lost.The fall of the Marxist regime at the end of the 1980s provided a context for the rebirth of the older religious communities and an opportunity for many new ones, including a spectrum of Protestant groups, to enter the country. Methodists from Germany, for example, began work in several predominantly Muslim villages in 1992. They provided humanitarian aid and helped rebuild schools. There are now four small Methodist churches attached to the United Methodist CHURCH's Central and Southern Europe Central Conference.More than 100 Protestant churches and missionary organizations began work in the 1990s. Pentecostalism has been widely received and now accounts for more than half of the Protestant community. The largest group apart from the Orthodox and Catholic churches are the Jehovah's Witnesses, with some 10,000 members. Pentecostals and Charismatics may have numbered as high as 100,000 as the 21st century began. The largest Pentecostal group appears to be the Word of Life Church, with more than 8,000 members in 1995.Among the Albanian Christians, only the Albanian Orthodox Church and the Methodists (affiliated with the United Methodist Church) are members of the World Council of Churches.A majority of the Protestant and Free Church groups that began work in the 1990s have joined the Albanian Encouragement projects, a cooperative endeavour. Some of them also joined the Albanian Evangelical Alliance, which is affiliated with the World Evangelical Alliance.Further reading:■ David Barrett, The Encyclopedia of World Christianity, 2nd ed. (New York: Oxford University Press, 2001)■ Patrick Johnstone and Jason Mandryk, Operation World, 21st Century Edition (Carlisle, Cumbria, U.K.: Paternoster, 2001).
Encyclopedia of Protestantism. Gordon Melton. 2005.