Dennis Smith, regional liaison for Brazil and the Southern Cone
The partner church in Uruguay for the Presbyterian Church (U.S.A.) is the same as one of our partner churches in Argentina, the Waldensian Evangelical Church of the River Plate, and 1856 marks the beginning of that church ’ s ministry in the region. The PC(USA) supports our brothers and sisters of Christ ’ s church in Uruguay as they commit themselves to evangelism, social advocacy and social action towards justice.
Uruguay was the first country in Latin America to constitutionally separate church and state. Unlike the relationship in many other Latin American countries, the Catholic Church is not subsidized by the government.
Read a brief history of Uruguay.
Partner churches and organizations
Uruguay was the first country in Latin America to separate church and state. The Uruguayan constitution accords totally equal and nonofficial status to all religions (unlike neighboring Argentina where Catholicism is official, established and heavily subsidized by the government). Therefore in Uruguay no religion has an advantage over another; Protestants and Catholics find themselves bound together, for the most part, to face the staggering national problems.
Uruguayan Protestant churches are a distinct but significant minority. All suffered under the military regime, but the suffering was most acute in those churches that took up the struggle against oppression as a way of obedience to the gospel. In some cases, this involved not only confronting the military regime itself, but also facing off with church members who felt that the regime was not all that bad.
The Iglesia Evangélica Valdense del Río de la Plata (Waldensian Evangelical Church of the River Plate) was founded in Uruguay and Argentina by Italian immigrants in 1856. The Waldensian Church originated in a movement of religious revival near Lyon in the South of France in the 12th century and is considered a precursor of the Protestant Reformation. The name is linked with the founder of the movement, one Valdo or Valdesius. A group of laymen took vows of “evangelical poverty” and went from city to city preaching the gospel. Today there are about 65,000 Waldensians worldwide, the majority of them in France and Northern Italy.
There are 15 Waldensian churches in Uruguay and eight in Argentina, with 21 ordained pastors and a total membership of about 15,000. The church supports two homes for the elderly, one in Uruguay and one in Argentina, a home for the disabled, a children’s home, a students’ home and a social service center. It also has a very strong summer camp program for children, youth and families. Evangelization is carried out primarily through radio programs.
The Waldensian Church has a strong ecumenical commitment and is a member of CLAI (Latin American Council of Churches), WARC (World Alliance of Reformed Churches), AIPRAL (Association of Presbyterian and Reformed Churches of Latin American), and the WCC (World Council of Churches).
Learn more about Uruguay
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