- Mexico has long been a largely Roman Catholic country. However, in 1857 the country adopted a new constitution that limited the power of the Catholic Church and provided an opening for Protestantism. A few missionaries had already started work just south of the Rio Grande border with the United States. In 1852, for example, Con-gregationalist Linda Rankin extended her small work in Brownsville, Texas, into Matamoras across the border. In 1856, she associated this work with the American and Foreign Christian Union, a Protestant agency founded specifically to convert Catholics to Protestantism. over the next few years, she opened a string of Protestant schools in Monterrey state.In 1859, an independent Catholic church, not in affiliation with Rome, was opened in Mexico City as the Mexican Church of Jesus. Two years later, German expatriates opened a Lutheran church in Mexico City, which established ties with the Episcopal Church in 1868 and began to grow as the Episcopal Church of Jesus. Baptists established an initial church in 1862, which prompted American Baptists to begin supporting a Mexican mission.Some 15 American churches had set up multiple centers by 1900. The Presbyterians, who entered in 1872, had the most success; the National Presbyterian Church of Mexico today has more than a million members. Among groups who entered Mexico toward the end of the century, the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, the Jehovah's Witnesses, and the Seventh-day Adventist Church have received notable response. Like the Presbyterians, the Witnesses have more than a million members.The year 1910 proved another turning point in Mexican Protestant history, as a new set of antichurch laws were instituted. While primarily aimed at the Roman Catholic Church, the laws also referred to Protestant churches, and a number of American groups withdrew their personnel. In 1917, the older denominations worked out a comity agreement to prevent competition and overlapping work. The agreement transferred some congregations from one church body to another in whose territory it was located. These transfers became a matter of intense anger on the part of many church members who were not consulted.The Azusa Street revival occurred only hours from the Mexican border; undoubtedly, Mexicans who attended the revival meetings in Los Angeles were the first to bring the Pentecostal message to their homeland. Some converts affiliated with the Assemblies of God as early as 1915. Besides the Assemblies, the Church of God of Prophecy, and the Church of God (Cleveland,Tennessee) have substantial work. Three independent indigenous Pentecostal churches are also noteworthy, the Church of God in the Mexican Republic, the Apostolic Church of Faith in Jesus Christ (JEsus Only Pentecostals), and the Light of the World Church (Iglesia la Luz del Mundo). The latter is controversial for its non-Trinitarian theology and its rapid growth. It now includes 4 to 5 million members scattered across Mexico, Central and South America, the United States, Canada,Spain, and Australia.Though experiencing spectacular growth in the 20th century, by its end the Protestant community still represented less than 7 percent of the Mexican population. However, it was large enough to support several ecumenical organizations, including the Evangelical Federation of Mexico, affiliated with the World Council of Churches, the Pentecostal Fraternal Association, which includes the indigenous Pentecostal bodies, and the Confraternidad Evangélica Mexi-cana, affiliated with the World Evangelical Alliance.Further reading:■ D. J. Baldwin, Protestants and the Mexican Revolution (Chicago: University of Illinois Press, 1990)■ Kurt Derek Bowen, Evangelism and Apostasy: The Evolution and Impact of Evangelicals in Modern Mexico (Montreal: McGill-Queens university Press, 1996)■ John Wesley Butler and Francis J. McConnell, History of the Methodist Episcopal Church in Mexico: Personal Reminiscences, Present Conditions, and Future Outlook (New York: Methodist Book Concern, 1918)■ Wm. A. Ross, Sunrise in Aztec Land: Being an Account of the Mission Work That Has Been Carried on in Mexico since 1874 by the Presbyterian Church in the United States (Philadelphia: Presbyterian Committee of Publication, 1922).
Encyclopedia of Protestantism. Gordon Melton. 2005.