El Salvador


El Salvador
   For more than 400 years, the Roman Catholic Church was the only Christian group operating in what is now El Salvador. Catholicism is still the religion of the large majority. Catholic hegemony was unchallenged until the end of the 19th century, with the arrival of representatives of the Central American Mission (now CAM International).
   The beachhead established by the CAM missionaries was expanded by the California Friends Missions (1902), American Baptists (1911), and the Seventh-day Adventist Church (1915). They quickly won a substantial response among both the native population (descendants of the Aztec and Mayan peoples) and the mestizos (those of mixed Spanish and native lineage).
   Pentecostalism had a unique beginning in El Salvador. In 1904, an independent Canadian minister, Frederick Mebius, began a movement called the Apostolic Churches of the Apostles and Prophets, a non-Trinitarian Pentecostal church that preceded a similar movement in the United States. He founded several independent assemblies that later affiliated with the Assemblies of God when that church entered the country in 1929. The Assemblies of God was the first non-Catholic church to surpass 200,000 members. Large followings have also adhered to the Elim Christian Mission (a Pentecostal movement from Guatemala), the Church of the Prince of Peace (also from Guatemala), the Apostolic Church of the Apostles and Prophets, the Church of God (Cleveland,Tennessee), and the United Pentecostal Church International. Pentecostalism has somewhat overwhelmed the original missionary efforts by the CAM and the Friends.
   El Salvador has also seen steady work by the Seventh-day Adventists and newer work by the Jehovah's Witnesses and Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints. The older Protestant bodies are represented by several Baptist associations (the largest of which is affiliated with the National Baptist Convention, an African-American church) and the Evangelical Lutheran Church (based in Costa Rica).
   While several of the churches operating in El Salvador (all based in other countries) are members of the World Council of Churches, there is no local council of churches. Some of the conservative churches have joined together in the Con-fraternidad Evangélica Salvadorena affiliated with the World Evangelical Alliance. It appears that more than 20 percent of the population adheres to one of the Protestant churches.
   See also Central America.
   Further reading:
   ■ Clifton L. Holland, ed., World Christianity: Central America and the Caribbean (Monrovia, Calif.: MARC World Vision, 1981)
   ■ Everett A. Wilson, "Sanguine Saints: Pentecostalism in El Salvador," Church History 52 (June 1983) 186-98.

Encyclopedia of Protestantism. . 2005.

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