Review of Religious Research

, Volume 57, Issue 2, pp 191–218 | Cite as

The Growth and Development of Non-Catholic Churches in Chile

  • Henri GoorenEmail author


Different varieties of Protestantism and Pentecostalism have been very successful in Latin America, where Chile, Brazil, and most Central American countries are now 15–30 % Protestant. This article analyzes the growth and development of the ten major non-Catholic churches in Chile, one of the most Pentecostal countries of Latin America. It describes the history and growth of the following churches in the chronological order of their arrival or start: Anglicans, Methodists, Seventh-day Adventists, Baptists, Iglesia Metodista Pentecostal, Jehovah’s Witnesses, Iglesia Evangélica Pentecostal, Assemblies of God, Church of God, and Latter-day Saints (Mormons). I end with an analysis of average annual growth rates for each church and for the entire Protestant community. Chile was famous for strong Protestant growth in the past, but there are few recent data on church growth. My main question here is: which non-Catholic churches in Chile have been most successful in terms of membership growth and when did this growth occur? The conclusion analyzes why non-Catholic churches in Chile have been successful in the past and why they currently struggle to grow.


Protestantism Pentecostalism Mormonism Witnesses Catholics Chile 



Thanks to Cristián Parker and Juan Sepúlveda for their comments on earlier versions of the text and on the original research design. The research was made possible by an individual Pentecostal-Charismatic Research Initiative (PCRI) Grant of the John Templeton Foundation, administered by the Center for Religion and Civic Culture at the University of Southern California. For more details on the PCRI, see their website:


  1. Anderson, Allan. 2004. An introduction to Pentecostalism: Global Charismatic Christianity. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press.Google Scholar
  2. Barrett, David B., George T. Kurian, and Todd M. Johnson. 2001. World Christian encyclopedia, 2nd ed. Oxford: Oxford University Press.Google Scholar
  3. Brusco, Elizabeth E. 1995. The reformation of machismo: Evangelical conversion and gender in Colombia. Austin: University of Texas Press.Google Scholar
  4. Bundy, D.D. 2002. Chile. In The new international dictionary of Pentecostal and Charismatic movements, ed. Stanley M. Burgess, and Eduard M. van der Maas, 55–58. Grand Rapids: Zondervan.Google Scholar
  5. Carter, Miguel. 1991. El papel de la iglesia en la caída de Stroessner. Asunción: RP Ediciones.Google Scholar
  6. Central Intelligence Agency (CIA). 2013. The world factbook: Chile. Accessed 29 April 2013.
  7. Clawson, David L. 2012. Latin America and the Caribbean: Lands and peoples, 5th ed. New York: Oxford University Press.Google Scholar
  8. Cleary, Edward L. 2011. The rise of Charismatic Catholicism in Latin America. Gainesville: University Press of Florida.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  9. Cleary, Edward L., and Juan Sepúlveda. 1997. Chilean Pentecostalism: Coming of age. In Power, Pentecostals, and Politics in Latin America, ed. Edward L. Cleary, and Hannah Stewart-Gambino, 97–121. Boulder: Westview Press.Google Scholar
  10. Cragun, Ryan T., and Ronald Lawson. 2010. The secular transition: The worldwide growth of Mormons, Jehovah’s Witnesses, and Adventists. Sociology of Religion 71(3): 349–373.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  11. Deseret News. 2008. 2008 Church Almanac. Salt Lake City: Deseret News.Google Scholar
  12. Durkheim, Emile. 1966 [1897]. Suicide: A study in sociology. New York: Free Press.Google Scholar
  13. Espinosa, Gastón. 2004. The Pentecostalization of Latin American and U.S. Latino Christianity. Pneuma: The Journal of the Society for Pentecostal Studies 26(2): 262–292.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  14. Fleet, Michael and Brian H. Smith. 2000 [1997]. The Catholic Church and Democracy in Chile and Peru. Notre Dame: University of Notre Dame Press.Google Scholar
  15. Fortuny, Patricia, and Henri Gooren. 2014. Neither Catholics nor Protestants: Mormons, Jehovah’s Witnesses, Adventists, and “La Luz del Mundo”. In The Cambridge history of religions in Latin America, ed. Paul Freston, and Virginia Garrard-Burnett. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press. (forthcoming).Google Scholar
  16. Freston, Paul. 2001. The transnationalisation of Brazilian Pentecostalism. In Between Babel and Pentecost: Transnational Pentecostalism in Africa and Latin America, ed. André Corten, and Ruth Marshall-Fratani, 196–215. London: Hurst.Google Scholar
  17. Gill, Anthony. 2006. Chile. In Worldmark encyclopedia of religious practices: Volume 1, Countries A-G, ed. Andrew Riggs, 213–218. Detroit, MI: Thomson Gale.Google Scholar
  18. Gooren, Henri. 1999. Rich among the Poor: Church, Firm, and Household among Small-Scale Entrepreneurs in Guatemala City. Amsterdam: Thela [Latin America Series, number 13].Google Scholar
  19. Gooren, Henri. 2001a. Reconsidering Protestant growth in Guatemala, 1900–1995. In Holy Saints and Fiery Preachers: The Anthropology of Protestantism in Mexico and Central America, ed. James W. Dow, and Alan R. Sandstrom, 169–203. Westport: Praeger.Google Scholar
  20. Gooren, Henri. 2001b. The dynamics of LDS growth in Guatemala, 1948–1998. Dialogue 34(3&4): 55–75.Google Scholar
  21. Gooren, Henri. 2003. The religious market in Nicaragua: The Paradoxes of Catholicism and Protestantism. Exchange 32(4): 340–360.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  22. Gooren, Henri. 2008. The Mormons of the world: The meaning of LDS membership in Central America. In Revisiting Thomas F. O’Dea’s “The Mormons”: Contemporary perspectives, ed. Cardell K. Jacobson, John P. Hoffman, and Tim B. Heaton, 362–378. Salt Lake City: University of Utah Press.Google Scholar
  23. Gooren, Henri. 2009. Comparing Mormons and Adventists in Latin America. Paper presented at the annual meeting of the Society for the Scientific Study of Religion (SSSR) in Denver, CO.Google Scholar
  24. Gooren, Henri. 2010. Religious conversion and disaffiliation: Tracing patterns of change in faith practices. New York: Palgrave-Macmillan.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  25. Gooren, Henri. 2012. The Catholic Charismatic Renewal in Latin America. Pneuma: The Journal of the Society for Pentecostal Studies 34(2): 185–207.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  26. Gooren, Henri. 2013. The growth and development of non-Catholic Churches in Paraguay. In Spirit and power: The global impact of Pentecostal growth, ed. Richard Flory, Donald E. Miller, and Kimon Sargeant, 83–98. New York: Oxford University Press.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  27. Gottlieb, Robert, and Peter Wiley. 1986. America’s Saints: The rise of Mormon power. San Diego: Harcourt.Google Scholar
  28. Haas, Liesl. 1999. The Catholic Church in Chile: New political alliances. In Latin American religion in motion, ed. Christian Smith, and Joshua Prokopy, 43–66. New York: Routledge.Google Scholar
  29. Holland, Clifton L. 2006. Paraguay. In Worldmark encyclopedia of religious practices: Volume 3, Countries M-Z, ed. Andrew Riggs, 205–209. Detroit: Thomson Gale.Google Scholar
  30. Hoover, Willis Collins. 2000 [1931]. History of the Pentecostal Revival in Chile. Santiago de Chile: Imprenta Eben-Ezer.Google Scholar
  31. Hudson, Rex A. (ed.). 1994. Chile: A country study. Washington: GPO for the Library of Congress. Accessed 13 Nov 2009.
  32. Johnson, Todd M. 2010. Personal email to author, October 29.Google Scholar
  33. Johnstone, Patrick, and Jason Mandryk. 2001. Operation world. Carlisle: Paternoster Lifestyle.Google Scholar
  34. Kamsteeg, Frans. 1995. Prophetic Pentecostalism in Chile: A case study on religion and development policy. Amsterdam: PhD dissertation, Free University Amsterdam.Google Scholar
  35. Kessler, J.B.A. 1967. A study of the older Protestant missions and churches in Peru and Chile. Goes: Oosterbaan.Google Scholar
  36. Knowlton, David C. 1996. Mormonism in Chile. In Mormon identities in transition, ed. Douglas J. Davies, 68–79. London: Ashgate.Google Scholar
  37. Lalive d’Epinay, Christian. 1969. Haven of the Masses: A study of the Pentecostal movement in Chile. London: Lutterworth.Google Scholar
  38. Land, Gary. 2005. Historical dictionary of seventh-day Adventists. Lanham: Scarecrow.Google Scholar
  39. Lawson, Ronald. 1995. Sect-state relations: Accounting for the differing trajectories of seventh-day Adventists and Jehovah’s Witnesses. Sociology of Religion 56(4): 351–377.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  40. Mansilla, Miguel Angel. 2009. La cruz y la esperanza: La cultura del pentecostalismo chileno en la primera mitad del siglo XX. Santiago de Chile: Editorial Universidad Bolivariana.Google Scholar
  41. Mariz, Cecília Loreto. 1994. Coping with poverty: Pentecostal Churches and Christian Base communities in Brazil. Philadelphia: Temple University Press.Google Scholar
  42. Martin, David. 1990. Tongues of fire: The explosion of Protestantism in Latin America. Oxford: Blackwell.Google Scholar
  43. Martin, David. 2002. Pentecostalism: The world their Parish. Oxford: Blackwell.Google Scholar
  44. Orellana U., Luis. 2008. El Fuego y la Nieve: Historia del Movimiento Pentecostal en Chile 19091932. Concepción, Chile: Centro Evangélico de Estudios Pentecostales (CEEP).Google Scholar
  45. Ortiz, R., Juan Rodrigo. 2009. Historia de los evangélicos en Chile 18101891: De disidentes a canutos. Concepción, Chile: Centro Evangélico de Estudios Pentecostales (CEEP).Google Scholar
  46. Parker, Cristián. 1990. El aporte de la Iglesia a la sociedad chilena bajo el régimen militar. Cuadernos Hispanoamericanos 482–483: 31–48.Google Scholar
  47. Parker, Cristián. 1996a [1993]. Popular religion and modernization in Latin America: A different logic. Maryknoll, NY: Orbis.Google Scholar
  48. Parker, Cristián. 1996b. Las Iglesias y su acción social en Chile. Santiago: UNICEF.Google Scholar
  49. Parker, Cristián. 2000. Religion and culture. In Chile in the nineties, ed. Cristián Toloza, and Eugenio Lahera, 617–660. Stanford: Stanford University Press.Google Scholar
  50. Plett, Rodolfo. 2000. Crecimiento evangélico en el Paraguay: Estadística, evaluación, proyección hacía el futuro. Asunción: FLET.Google Scholar
  51. Rambo, Lewis. 1993. Understanding religious conversion. New Haven: Yale University Press.Google Scholar
  52. Roberts, Bryan R. 1968. Protestant groups and coping with urban life in Guatemala. American Journal of Sociology 73(6): 753–767.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  53. Sepúlveda, Juan. 2003. La defensa de derechos humanos como experiencia ecuménica. Persona y Sociedad 17(3): 21–28.Google Scholar
  54. Stark, Rodney, and Roger Finke. 2000. Acts of faith: Explaining the human side of religion. Berkeley: University of California Press.Google Scholar
  55. Tennekes, Hans. 1985. El movimiento pentecostal en la sociedad chilena. Amsterdam/Iquique: Cultural Anthropology VU University/CIREN.Google Scholar
  56. United Nations Development Program (UNDP). 2006. Human development report 2006. Accessed 14 Feb 2012.
  57. United Nations Development Program (UNDP). 2011. HDI Report 2011. Accessed 13 Feb 13 2012.
  58. Vergara, Ignacio. 1962. El protestantismo en Chile. Santiago de Chile: Editorial del Pacífico.Google Scholar
  59. Wikipedia. 2011. Religion in Chile. Accessed 12 Jan 2008.
  60. Willems, Emilio. 1967. Followers of the new faith: Culture change and the rise of Protestantism in Brazil and Chile. Nashville: Vanderbilt University Press.Google Scholar
  61. World Bank. 2012. Chile. Washington: World Bank. Accessed 24 Oct 2012.

Copyright information

© Religious Research Association, Inc. 2014

Authors and Affiliations

  1. 1.Department of Sociology, Anthropology, Social Work, and Criminal JusticeOakland UniversityRochesterUSA

Personalised recommendations