- Spanish settlers and Roman Catholic missionaries entered Argentina set upon wresting political and religious control from the native peoples. Four centuries later, the church reported that it had been 99 percent effective.Beginning early in the 19th century, Protestantism began to enter the country via immigrants from northern and western Europe. In 1818, Scotsman James Thompson, an agent of the British and Foreign Bible Society, became the first Protestant missionary. He distributed Bibles as he worked to create public education in Buenos Aires (1818-21). The Church of England and the (Presbyterian) Church of Scotland began missionary programs in the expatriate communities. Protestants began to address the larger population when Methodists opened a church in Buenos Aires (1836) and Anglicans began a mission among the native people in Patagonia (in the far south) and among the Chaco in the north. The Christian Brethren (1882) were among the first of several groups to begin evangelistic efforts to the ethnic Spanish population.Protestant growth was facilitated by the ambiguous relationship between the government and the Catholic Church. The government viewed the church as both an ally and an obstacle during the independence struggle and more recently in terms of government policies.A spectrum of Protestant groups entered Argentina throughout the 20th century, usually starting with ethnic churches among the expatriates from the missionaries' own homelands. This included Lutheran denominations of German, Danish, and Swedish heritage, the Waldensian church (Italian), and the Reformed churches founded by believers from Holland, Switzerland, Scotland, Hungary, and, most recently, Korea.Though Pentecostals arrived as early as 1908 (from Norway and Canada), real growth did not occur until after World War II. An important impetus came from Chile, where Pentecostalism had thrived from early in the century. Postwar growth can be dated from 1948, when several of the smaller Pentecostal groups came together in the Union of the Assemblies of God. In 1954, evangelist Tommy Hicks appeared to have healed President Juan Peron's skin condition; Peron gave Hicks access to Argentinean radio and allowed him to rent a large stadium in Buenos Aires. During his two months in Argentina, several hundred thousand attended Hicks's meetings, and a national Pentecostal movement was created. Besides the Assemblies of God, the Evangelical Pentecostal Church of Argentina and the Svenska Fria Mission received the primary benefit from the revival.At present, more than 20 Pentecostal denominations operate across Argentina. The largest are the two Assemblies of God, one with American and one with Swedish roots, the Evangelical Pentecostal Church of Argentina, and the Evangelical Pentecostal Church of Chile. Noteworthy in the larger Pentecostal community is the Miracles of Jesus Renewed Christian Church, more popularly known by its radio show, "Waves of Love and Peace." Founded in 1983 by Hector Gimenez, an ex-drug addict and gunfighter, it has become the largest church in Buenos Aires. Its 70,000 members and additional visitors fill the 2,500-seat church for eight daily services emphasizing salvation and healing held every day of the week.Ecumenically, some 28 denominations are members of the Argentina Federation of Evangelical Churches, which grew out of the older Confederation of Evangelical Churches of the River Platte (that also included churches in Uruguay and Paraguay). The federation is affiliated with the World Council of Churches. A number of the more conservative groups have formed the Argentine Alliance of Evangelical Churches, which is affiliated with the World Evangelical Alliance. The several Pentecostal churches cooperate through a Pentecostal Federation.See also South America.Further reading:■ Arno W. Enns, Man, Milieu and Mission in Argentina (Grand Rapids, Mich.: William B. Eerdmans, 1971)■ Norberto Saracco, ed., Directo-rio y Censo de Iglesias Evangélicas de la Ciudad de Buenos Aires (Buenos Aires: Fundaciön Argentina de Educaciön y Acciön Communataria, 1992)■ Waldo Luis villapando, ed., La Iglesias del Transplante: Protestantismo de Immigration en la Argentina (Buenos Aires: Centro de Estidios Cristianos, 1970).
Encyclopedia of Protestantism. Gordon Melton. 2005.