South Puerto Rico Conference

By Efrén Pagán

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Efrén Pagán Irizarry, DMin (Andrews University, Berrien Springs, MI) retired as religion department chair at Antillean Adventist University having served 44 years to the church as pastor, department director, and administrator in the West and South Conferences of the Puerto Rican Union Conference. He is married to Gloria E. Alameda Román.

First Published: October 9, 2021

The South Puerto Rico Conference is an organization under the Puerto Rican Union Conference of the Inter-American Division of the General Conference of Seventh-day Adventists.

Current Territory and Statistics

The territory of the South Puerto Rico Conference consists of the towns of Adjuntas, Aibonito, Arroyo, Barranquitas, Coamo, Guayama, Guayanilla, Jayuya, Juana Díaz, Peñuelas, Ponce, Salinas, Santa Isabel, and Villalba, and the Castañer and Bartolo neighborhoods of the municipality of Lares.1

The South Puerto Rico Conference had, by the end of 2018, 32 churches and one company. The membership was 2,223,2 which makes it the conference that has the greatest growth challenge in Puerto Rico. The conference had, in 2017, 41 active employees.3

Educational Institutions

The South Puerto Rico Conference has an educational institution, the South Adventist Academy Dr. Dennis Soto. It is located in the city of Ponce. It began operating in 1962 as an elementary school under the name South Adventist Academy. The first teacher in charge was Sarita Espinosa, a Peruvian based in Puerto Rico. It operated from the first Adventist Church in Ponce, at 22 Venus Street. In the early 1970s, Carmelo Rivera Oquendo gave the school a good boost with the construction of new classrooms. In August 1982, the school began to offer intermediate education. It was accredited by the government of Puerto Rico in 1984. After a period of construction, under the leadership of Director Carmen Bartolomei, the K–12 school moved to the current facilities in 2000.

Other Institutions

The South Puerto Rico Conference’s natural food store, Adventist Book Center, and publishing agency are administered by the Inter-American Publishing Association.

Origins of the Seventh-day Adventist Church in Southern Puerto Rico

The first Seventh-day Adventist incursion into southern Puerto Rico was the arrival of the layman F. C. Kelley, in 1900 in the coastal city of Ponce, the main city in the south. The second was B. E. Connerly, founder of El Centinela magazine, when he spent five days promoting his magazine among merchants in the city of Ponce. The first Adventist congregation in southern Puerto Rico was established in 1918. In 1919, it was organized as the first Seventh-day Adventist Church in Ponce and in the south of Puerto Rico.4

In 1901, the Adventist message entered the town of Aibonito, in the Cordillera Central (Central mountain range) through David Trail, an Adventist soldier from the United States Army. Connerly also ventured into the town. In 1918, the leaders of the Adventist work in Puerto Rico bought land to build a school, which ran from 1920 to 1928.5

In 1918, José Encarnación, a literature evangelist, began spreading the seed of the gospel in the city of Guayama, the second city in the southern part of Puerto Rico. This effort was subsequently joined by the layman Andrés Torres. In 1928, the first church in Guayama was organized, the second in the southern part of Puerto Rico.

Significant Events That Led to the Organization of the South Puerto Rico Conference

The South Puerto Rico Mission was organized in 2001 with 20 churches, 3 groups, and 1,731 members, according to the report of December 31 of that year. The Puerto Rican Union appointed José Alberto Rodríguez as the first president of the mission and Pedro Cortés as its first secretary-treasurer. That first year, operating as a mission, US$489,607 of tithe was reported, which represented a per capita tithe of US$249.87.

The mission became a conference in 2010. Delegates to the conference meeting elected Pedro Acobes as president and Héctor Reyes as secretary-treasurer. At the end of that year, it had 31 churches, 6 companies, and 3,120 members. During that year, it reported US$1,112,372.00 of tithe, which represented a per capita tithe of US$364.95.

Mission and Strategic Plans of the Conference

The South Puerto Rico Conference points to seven objectives:

1. Get more church members to live an active and effective personal and transformative relationship with Christ through the Holy Spirit.

2. Involve more members in friendship evangelism to increase the base of people in the community with whom the members interact and increase the number of disciples of Christ in the territory.

3. Make our churches more visible and project a better image, especially in services provided to the community.

4. Grow by 10 percent annually in members, congregations, and pastors.

5. Look for an alternative source of income with church-owned land and properties.

6. Develop a plan to build new conference offices.

7. Implement a doctrinal, evangelistic, and organizational education program.6

Presidents

South Puerto Rico Mission: José Alberto Rodríguez (2001–2002); Pedro Acobes (2002–2008); Efrén Pagán (2008–2010).

South Puerto Rico Conference: Pedro Acobes (2010–2014); Juan Rivera (2014–2018); Edson Canqui (2018–).

Sources

Constitution of the South Puerto Rico Conference. South Puerto Rico Conference archives, Ponce, Porto Rico.

Office of Archives Statistics, and Research. 2019 Annual Statistical Report: Advance Release of Membership Statistics by Division for 2018. http://documents.adventistarchives.org/Statistics/ASR/ASR2019A.pdf.

Office of Archives Statistics, and Research. 2019 Annual Statistical Report: 155th Report of the General Conference of Seventh-day Adventist for 2017. http://documents.adventistarchives.org/Statistics/ASR/ASR2019.pdf.

South Puerto Rico Conference. Strategic Plan, 2019–2022. South Puerto Rico Conference archives, Ponce, Porto Rico.

Vega, Francisco J. Avance Adventista en Puerto Rico: El Desarrollo de la Iglesia en los 78 Municipios del País (Mayagüez, PR: Antillian College Press, 2000).

Notes

  1. Constitution of South Puerto Rico Conference.

  2. Office of Archives Statistics, and Research, 2019 Annual Statistical Report: Advance Release of Membership Statistics by Division for 2018, http://documents.adventistarchives.org/Statistics/ASR/ASR2019A.pdf.

  3. Office of Archives Statistics, and Research, 2019 Annual Statistical Report: 155th Report of the General Conference of Seventh-day Adventist for 2017, http://documents.adventistarchives.org/Statistics/ASR/ASR2019.pdf.

  4. Francisco J. Vega, Avance Adventista en Puerto Rico: El Desarrollo de la Iglesia en los 78 Municipios del País (Mayagüez, PR: Antillian College Press, 2000), 142.

  5. Ibid., 11.

  6. South Puerto Rico Conference, Strategic Plan 2019–2022.

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Pagán, Efrén. "South Puerto Rico Conference." Encyclopedia of Seventh-day Adventists. October 09, 2021. Accessed June 14, 2024. https://encyclopedia.adventist.org/article?id=8I9J.

Pagán, Efrén. "South Puerto Rico Conference." Encyclopedia of Seventh-day Adventists. October 09, 2021. Date of access June 14, 2024, https://encyclopedia.adventist.org/article?id=8I9J.

Pagán, Efrén (2021, October 09). South Puerto Rico Conference. Encyclopedia of Seventh-day Adventists. Retrieved June 14, 2024, https://encyclopedia.adventist.org/article?id=8I9J.