- A predominantly Muslim country in North Africa, Algeria's Protestant history rose and fell with the arrival and departure of French rule.Algeria had been predominantly Muslim since the eighth century c.e. Only in the 1830s, following the establishment of a small Roman Catholic enclave, did Protestant missionaries attempt to begin work. Efforts made little impact until the influx of hundreds of thousands of French settlers in the 1870s, at which time the Reformed Church of France was able to open churches. In 1881, the u.S.-based North Africa Mission (now Arab world Ministries), an interdenominational sending agency, sponsored the work launched by Edward H. Glenny in Algiers. He found his greatest success among the Kabyle Berber people. A third effort was launched in 1888 by British representatives of the Algiers Mission Band.American Methodists entered Algeria after two female missionaries already in the country joined the Methodist Episcopal Church (now an integral part of the United Methodist Church) and in 1909 brought their work under its charge. That work grew slowly but was eventually capped with the opening of a hospital in 1966, by which time centers had been established throughout the country. The work then came to an abrupt end in 1969, when most missionaries were accused of working with the American Central intelligence Agency and expelled from the country.Muslim Algerians had begun active resistance to French colonial rule in the 1920s, which grew after World War ii. Following the independence accord in 1962, a massive exodus of French expatriates began. Most Protestants, whether French Reformed or members of the other missionary churches, came from the French community, and their exodus devastated church activity. Among the groups hardest hit was the Assemblies of God. Others such as the Jehovah's Witnesses, known for their door-to-door evangelism, were totally expelled.Upon gaining full independence, Algeria declared islam the state religion, though it did not declare itself an islamic state. it outlawed religious discrimination but also strongly discouraged Christian attempts to proselytize among Muslims. The government has allowed various Protestant and Free Church groups to remain, but they are quite small.In 1964, the Protestant community reorganized its ecumenical group, the Evangelical Mission Council, as the Association of Protestant Churches and institutions of Algeria, but many of the more theologically conservative groups withdrew in protest over the association's relationship with the World Council of Churches. In 1972, the Methodists (now affiliated with the United Methodist Church [UMC]), the Reformed Church of France, and several other groups merged to form the Protestant Church of Algeria, which at present has only eight congregations. it functions as a district in UMC's Switzerland/France annual conference. It is a member of the World Council of Churches.Among the other surviving Protestant groups, the largest are the North African Mission (with some 1,000 members), the Salvation Army (with 300 members), and the Mission Rolland (with 300 members). The Evangelical Coptic Church serves approximately 500 Egyptian expatriates residing in Algeria. Some 20 additional groups work in Algeria, each with a small following.Further reading:■ David Barret, 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)■ World Methodist Council, Handbook of Information (Lake Junaluska, N.C.: World Methodist Council, 2003).
Encyclopedia of Protestantism. Gordon Melton. 2005.