European settlement in Guyana was initiated by the Dutch, and Protestantism arrived with their rule. The first ministers were of the Netherlands Reformed Church. They erected a church in 1720, but banned Africans or native Guyanese from becoming members. The Lutherans, who arrived a short time later, also devoted their attention to the European settlers.
   Britain won control in 1814. Methodism had already arrived in 1802 with a small group of freed slaves from Nevis. The London Missionary Society (Congregationalists) arrived in 1807, and the Church of England, soon to become the government church, in 1810. With the loss of government subsidies, Netherlands Reformed Church ministers gave way to the Church of scotland (a Presbyterian body). The Church of England, eventually evolving into the Diocese of Guyana within the Church of the Province of the West Indies, became the largest of these churches by the end of the 19th century.
   The Seventh-day Adventist Church, which began work in 1887, is now the fourth-largest church in the country, with more than 20,000 members. It has been surpassed by the Assemblies of God, a Pentecostal church that only began work in the 1950s. Among the 50 denominations with congregations in Guyana, a set of indigenous churches have arisen, the most successful being the Hallelujah Church and the Jordanites, the latter a Pentecostal body.
   The Guyana Council of Churches, which includes the Roman Catholic Church and most of the older Protestant bodies, dates to 1937. It is affiliated with the World Council of Churches. The more conservative Evangelical churches have formed the Guyana Evangelical Fellowship, which is affiliated with the World Evangelical Alliance.
   Today almost one-third of Guyana's population follows one of several forms of Hinduism, thanks to the import of Indian workers.
   Guyana became the scene of a singular event in church history in 1978, when most of the members of the Peoples Temple, a congregation of the Christian Church (Disciples of Christ) that had relocated from the united states, committed mass suicide and murder. The incident had little effect on the local religious community.
   See also Caribbean; South America.
   Further reading:
   ■ Henry B. Jeffrey and Colin Baber, Guyana: Politics, Economics, and Society - Beyond the Burnham Era (Boulder, Colo.: Rienner, 1986)
   ■ Thomas J. Spinner, Jr., A Political and Social History of Guyana, 1945-1983 (Boulder, Colo.: Westview Press, 1984)
   ■ Michael Swan, British Guiana: The Land of Six Peoples (London: HMSO, 1957).

Encyclopedia of Protestantism. . 2005.

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