- Angola is a large, predominantly Roman Catholic country in southern Africa. Protestant and African Initiated Churches have won many members in the 20th century.For nearly 500 years after its discovery by Europeans in the 15th century Angola was a colony of Portugal. Roman catholic missionaries had free reign to spread christianity, which eventually became the dominant religion. Protestantism only entered in the last half of the 19th century. Drawing on a prior agreement, the different groups selected different target peoples for missionary work. British Baptists arrived in 1878 and made their base among the Bakongo people. Congregationalists from America (working through the American Board of Commissioners for Foreign Missions) cooperated with Presbyterians from Canada to evangelize the Ovimbundu people. William Taylor, the missionary bishop of the Methodist Episcopal Church, brought a team of 45 people to Angola in 1885 to establish a mission among the Kinbundi people. The Evangelical Church of Central Angola (the result of the Con-gregationalist work) and the United Methodist Church remain among the largest Protestant groups in the country.The entire Christian community was strongly affected by the independence struggle against Portugal, a war that lasted from 1961 to 1975. Fighting persisted long after independence, as rival groups contended for control of the new government. Peace came in 1994 with the signing of the Lusaka Protocol, but some fighting was still going on as late as 2003.The civil war, combined with the government's relatively pro-Catholic tendencies, hindered Protestant church development. in 1975, the authorities expelled several churches, including the Church of God (Cleveland,Tennessee) and the Pentecostal Assemblies of God. The Church of Jesus Christ on Earth by His Messenger Simon Kimbangu (the Kimbangu Church) was persecuted for many decades. The Marxist government that came to power in 1975 was openly hostile to religion, and in 1976 it expelled a number of Catholic and Protestant missionaries. in 1978, a new process of registering churches was put in place and tax-exemption withdrawn. in 1986, it was announced that 12 churches had been approved for registration and 19 churches denied approval and thus banned from operation.Approved churches included the Evangelical Church of Southwest Angola, the Evangelical Congregational Church of Angola, the Catholic Church, the united Methodist Church, the Evangelical Baptist Church, the Evangelical Reformed Church, the Kimbangu Church, the (formerly expelled) Pentecostal Assemblies of God, the Seventh-day Adventist Church, the Angola Baptist Convention, and the union of Evangelical Churches. These churches form the backbone of the Angolan Christian community, though after the government eased its approach to religion in the 1990s, a variety of older groups have revived and new ones have entered the country.The Kimbangu Church, which came into Angola from Zaire in the 1920s, is the largest of several African Initiated Churches. The Tocoist Church and the Church of our savior Jesus Christ (founded by former Baptists in 1949) are its largest competitors. Pentecostalism arrived in 1938 with Edmond and Pearl Mabel stark of the Church of God; though Edmond soon died, Pearl revived the mission in 1948 with help from Brazilian Assemblies of God missionaries. Thus began what became the largest Pentecostal church in the country, the Pentecostal Assemblies of God of Angola. Since 1975, several additional Pentecostal churches have been founded, and the Pentecostal revival has entered several of the older Protestant bodies. one Pentecostal body, the Evangelical Pentecostal Mission of Angola, is notable for its membership in the World Council of Churches.The Protestant missions formed the Evangelical Alliance of Angola in 1922. Tensions within this body became evident in the mid-1970s, when it went through a schism and reorganization. in 1974, six member groups reorganized the alliance as the Association of Evangelicals of Angola, which linked up to the Association of Evangelicals of Africa and Madagascar and the World Evangelical Alliance. Three years later, eight of the older denominations formed the Angolan Council of Evangelical Churches and aligned with the All-Africa Council of Churches and the World Council of Churches.As the 21st century begins, less than 5 percent of the population still practice traditional African religions, and secularism is now viewed as the primary challenge to church life. Some 94 percent of the public profess Christianity, of which the great majority (85 percent) are Roman Catholic.See also Africa, sub-Saharan.Further reading:■ David Barrett, The Encyclopedia of World Christianity, 2nd ed. (New York: Oxford University Press, 2001)■ L. W. Henderson, The Church in Angola: A River of Many Currents (Cleveland, Ohio: Pilgrim Press, 1992).
Encyclopedia of Protestantism. Gordon Melton. 2005.