The Belize Union of Churches Mission (as of 2020, Belize Union Mission) is a part of the Inter-American Division. Its headquarters are in Belize City, Belize.1 In June 30, 2018, it had 92 churches and 45,492 members in the country’s total population of 398,000.2
History of Seventh-day Adventist Church in Belize
As a church organization in Belize in 1929, Belize Union of Churches Mission evolved in its growth, development, and administration as one of the few countries listed under the Inter-American Division as a “Union of Churches.”
The Adventist message was first introduced to Belize (formerly British Honduras) in 1885, when Elizabeth Gauterau from the Bay Islands of Honduras introduced the message through publications. Her visit was followed by T. H. Gibbs, who, with the help of an interested person, maintained a reading rack with pieces of literature on a principal street of the city. By late 1891, L. C. Chadwick visited the country and established a group with a small number of converts. In 1892, F. J. Hutchins and his wife, who dedicated themselves to distributing literature, arrived and conducted a series of evangelistic efforts in the city until 1894. From 1893-1900, J. C. Brooks and J. A. Morrow contributed to the growth of the small number of believers through public and literature evangelism.
God blessed the efforts of those individuals. By 1905, this mission field consisted of about 160 members with five organized churches and five groups. During the late 1800s and early 1900s, the Honduras Bay Islands and British Honduras fields were part of Central American Mission with Pastor H. C. Goodrich as its president. From this humble beginning, the church made great strides in its growth and development. Today, the union has 48,000 members, three administrators, 22 pastors, two laypeople, 20 primary schools, five secondary schools, a tertiary institution, a radio station, a health clinic, and a hospital.3
On June 26, 1906, Central American Mission, which included all the Caribbean Islands, Central American countries, and northern South American territory, was transferred to West Indian Union Conference. In 1908, Central American Mission was renamed Central American Conference. Its territory included British Honduras, Spanish Honduras, Bay Islands, Guatemala, and El Salvador, and its headquarters were located in Guatemala City.
In 1913, the conference’s territory was reorganized, leading the Republics of Guatemala and El Salvador to organize under new mission fields, and Central American Conference became a detached field under the General Conference, joining “The Northern Spanish American Missions.”4 In 1918, North Honduras Mission was organized with 267 members.
In 1930, North Honduras Mission was divided, allowing for the formation of British Honduras Mission with British Honduras and the Bay Islands as its territory. In 1937, British Honduras Mission was reorganized with 385 members and eight churches. In 1944, it had 422 members and 12 churches, but its jurisdiction was transferred to the British West Indies Union Mission. In 1952, British Honduras Mission was transferred to Central American Union Mission with 15 churches and 486 members.5
Official Organization of Belize Union of Churches Mission
The country of Belize constituted a single mission field since its reorganization in 1937 with headquarters in Belize City, the industrial capital. Many years later, under the leadership of President Pablo Perla, Central American Union Mission divided into four separate unions: South Central American Union Mission comprised of Nicaragua Conference, Panama Conference, and Costa Rica Conference; Honduras Union Mission; El Salvador Union Mission; and Guatemala Union Mission comprised of the Guatemalan conferences and missions as well as Belize Mission.
In 2003, the Inter-American Division board appointed a special committee to study a proposed territorial adjustment of Belize. The committee met and agreed to change the status of Belize Mission to Belize Conference. On July 4, 2004, Belize Conference held its first session with Pastor Earnal Scott as president, Paul Cassanova as secretary, and Abilio Cima as treasurer.6
The Inter-American Division proposed a territorial adjustment that was not very common; on June 1, 2008, Belize became the second “Union of Churches” in the hemisphere, “Belize Union of Churches Mission,” with Pastor Dennis Slusher as president, Pastor Luis Jesse as secretary, and Abilio Cima as treasurer.
In 2020, Belize Union Mission’s ideals are expressed in its mission, vision, and values.
Mission: To glorify God and, under the influence of the Holy Spirit, lead each convert to experience a personal and transforming relationship with Christ, enabling the believer to become a disciple in sharing the everlasting gospel with everyone.
Vision: Every member of the body of Christ living in readiness for the kingdom of God.
Values: Integrity, Unity, Respect, Glory to God, Lifestyle, excellence, humility, compassion, fairness, and commitment.
List of Presidents:
L. Astleford (1938-1941); N. H. Kinzer, acting (1942); F. I. Mohr (1943-1944); F. R. Archbold, acting (1945); D. E. Reid (1945-1946); J. N. Williams (1947-1953); R. T. Rankin (1953-1959); Elden Ford (1959-1962); Frank Skoretz (1963-1965); W. D. Cunningham (1966-1971); James Kaine (1971-1974); L. V. McMillan (1974-1977); Gary Gregory (1977-1978); Hugh Blackman (1978-1983); Victor Shepherd (1983-1989); Dennis Slusher (1989-2002); Earnal Scott (2002-2008); Dennis Slusher (2008- ).7
Greenleaf, Floyd. The Seventh-day Adventist Church in Latin America and the Caribbean. Berrien Springs, Michigan: Andrews University Press, 1992.
Minutes of the Inter-Oceanic Mexican Union, Mid-Year Plenary Board Meeting, May 27-28, 2015, 6040, vote #4929. Archive of Minute Books. Inter-Oceanic Mexican Union Archives, Puebla, Puebla, Mexico.
Seventh-day Adventist Yearbook. 1915, 2019. https://www.adventistyearbook.org/.
“Belize Union of Churches Mission,” Seventh-day Adventist Yearbook (Nampa, Idaho: Pacific Press, 2019), 88.↩
Floyd Greenleaf, The Seventh-day Adventist Church in Latin America and the Caribbean (Berrien Springs, Michigan: Andrews University Press, 1992), 189-210.↩
Seventh-day Adventist Yearbook, accessed 2019, http://documents.adventistarchives.org/Yearbooks/YB1915.pdf.↩
Minutes of the Inter-Oceanic Mexican Union, Mid-Year Plenary Board Meeting, May 27-28, 2015, 6040, vote #4929, Archive of Minute Books, Inter-Oceanic Mexican Union Archives, Puebla, Puebla, Mexico.↩
Seventh-day Adventist Yearbook, accessed 2019, http://documents.adventistarchives.org/Yearbooks/Forms/AllItems.aspx.↩