Spanish Union of Churches Conference

By Nelson Salgado

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Nelson Salgado is associate professor of History at Sagunto Adventist College, Spain, and pastor in the Spanish Adventist Union of Churches.

 

First Published: February 14, 2023

Territory: Andorra, Ceuta, Gibraltar, and Spain (including the Balearic and Canary Islands).

Statistics (June 30, 2022): Churches, 116; membership, 17,485; population, 47,564,0001

Beginning and Latin Union

At the General Conference meeting of 1897, the first two Divisions of the Adventist Church outside of the United States were established: Europe and Australia. Later, in 1901 when the work was more structured in the European territory, Spain was included in what was called the Latin Union with Belgium, France, Italy, Portugal and French Switzerland.2 In the following year, the European General Association appointed a commission that traveled to Spain to learn about the possibilities of starting work in the territory. The commission was made up of the president of the Latin Union, Benjamin G. Wilkinson, the secretary-treasurer Jules Robert, and a representative of the Swiss Union, Jean Vuilleumier.3

Two Volunteers Evangelize

In that same year, the president of the General Conference, Pastor Arthur G. Daniells, at a camp meeting held in Fresno, California, made an appeal encouraging young volunteers to work as missionaries in other parts of the world. There were many volunteers; among them, brothers Frank and Walter Bond, who were theology graduates, volunteered to work in Spain.4

Frank, who was single, and Walter, who was just married to Leola, arrived in Barcelona on Monday, June 22, 1903.5 After residing in Barcelona for a few months, they moved to Sabadell, rented a house on the Barcelona Road No. 198, where in addition to serving as housing, they opened a small school that was also a meeting and conference room. They began their work of evangelism through schoolwork with students and their parents, through public lectures, contacting interested individuals, and also by distributing publications in which the Adventist message was expounded. A year later, on June 29, 1904, three people were baptized. Two of them became church workers: Lola Casals became a biblical worker and José Abella became a pastor.6 In 1905, another eight people were baptized who were part of the first Adventist congregation established in Sabadell.7

In 1906, the Bond brothers decided to separate to reach new territories. Walter, the president of the Mission, stayed in Barcelona, and Frank and his wife moved to Valencia.

Organization of the First Adventist Churches

In September 1912, the first two churches were organized in Spain: in Barcelona, with 47 members, and in Jérica, Castellón, with 17. The first church was specifically the result of Walter’s work, and the second one the result of Frank’s work in Rubielos de Mora, Teruel.8

The Bond brothers did not limit themselves to working in the area of Catalonia. They preached and worked in other places as well, such as the Valencian Community, Murcia, Andalusia, Castilla la Mancha, Madrid, and Aragon.9

Iberian Union

In 1927, the Latin Union was dissolved, and Spain became part of a new structure: The Iberian Union, in which Spain, Portugal, the Protectorate of Morocco, and Tangier were all integrated.10

Spanish Mission and Forerunners

The Spanish countryside was subdivided into two Missions, the East with headquarters in Barcelona and the West with headquarters in Madrid, and these two Missions had about 270 members.11 When in 1929 the European Division was subdivided into three camps, the Iberian Union became part of the South-European Division. In 1932, the two missions in which the Spanish territory was divided were merged into one: The Spanish Mission.12

In the September 1935 report, the Spanish membership was 369 members; in 1936, 403, and at the end of 1940, after the Spanish Civil War, it had been reduced to 245 church members.13

Growth in spite of Difficult Postwar Years

The post-civil war and post-World War II years were difficult for the Adventist church; there was no religious freedom, and believers had great difficulty professing their faith. However, the church continued to grow. In 1967, the Law of Religious Freedom was promulgated, which allowed the beginning of a new era of possibilities for the church that continued to grow, opening new churches and institutions.14 In 1972, it was agreed to organize the South European Union (USE) based in Rome. It was made up of Portugal, Spain, Greece, Italy, Israel, Albania, Malta, Portuguese Guinea, and Spanish Sahara.15

In 1975, a new organizational step was taken in the Spanish territory: it ceased to be a Mission and changed to the status of a Spanish Association with full economic and administrative independence.16 When democracy arrived in Spain in the Constitution of 1978, the state ceased to be confessional,17 so the Adventist church continued its development under more favorable conditions.

In 1982, there was a new modification, it went from being an association to the status of a union.18

Sources

Guaita, Alberto. “La Unión Ibérica,” Revista Adventista Española, n. 9, 1978.

López, José. “Primeros pasos misioneros en España.” Revista Adventista Española, n. 9, 1978.

Lozano, Juan. “La iglesia española (1940-1950): Una década para aprender.” Revista Adventista Española, n. 4, 1979.

Navarro, Juan. “España abierta al mensaje adventista.” Revista Adventista Española, n. 9, 1978.

Puyol, Carlos. “Adiós a la Misión Española.” Revista Adventista Española, n. 8, 1975.

Puyol, Carlos. “La Unión Latina.” Revista Adventista Española, n. 9, 1978.

Seventh-day Adventist Yearbook, various years. https://www.adventistyearbook.org/.

Valls, Jonathan. Compartiendo la esperanza, Cien años de adventismo del séptimo día en España. Madrid: Safeliz, 2003.

Notes

  1. “Spanish Union of Churches Conference,” Seventh-day Adventist Yearbook, accessed February 14, 2023, https://www.adventistyearbook.org/entity?EntityID=13866.

  2. Carlos Puyol, “La Unión Latina,” Revista Adventista Española, n. 9, 1978, 6.

  3. Jonathan Valls, Compartiendo la esperanza, Cien años de adventismo del séptimo día en España (Madrid: Safeliz, 2003), 34, 35.

  4. Juan Navarro, “España abierta al mensaje adventista,” Revista Adventista Española, n. 9, 1978, 9.

  5. Jonathan Valls, Compartiendo la esperanza, Cien años de adventismo del séptimo día en España (Madrid: Safeliz, 2003), 40.

  6. José López, “Primeros pasos misioneros en España,” Revista Adventista Española, n. 9, 1978, 13.

  7. Jonathan Valls, Compartiendo la esperanza, 44, 45.

  8. Ibid., 51.

  9. Ibid.

  10. Alberto Guaita, “La Unión Ibérica,” Revista Adventista Española, n. 9, 1978, 30.

  11. Jonathan Valls, Compartiendo la esperanza, 70.

  12. Ibid., 71.

  13. Ibid., 253. Juan Lozano, “La iglesia española (1940-1950): Una década para aprender,” Revista Adventista Española, n. 4, 1979, 8.

  14. Jonathan Valls, Compartiendo la esperanza, 180.

  15. Ibid., 246.

  16. Carlos Puyol, “Adiós a la Misión Española.” Revista Adventista Española, n. 8, 1975, 12-13.

  17. Jonathan Valls, Compartiendo la esperanza, 157, 180.

  18. Ibid., 246.

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Salgado, Nelson. "Spanish Union of Churches Conference." Encyclopedia of Seventh-day Adventists. February 14, 2023. Accessed May 29, 2024. https://encyclopedia.adventist.org/article?id=AHCF.

Salgado, Nelson. "Spanish Union of Churches Conference." Encyclopedia of Seventh-day Adventists. February 14, 2023. Date of access May 29, 2024, https://encyclopedia.adventist.org/article?id=AHCF.

Salgado, Nelson (2023, February 14). Spanish Union of Churches Conference. Encyclopedia of Seventh-day Adventists. Retrieved May 29, 2024, https://encyclopedia.adventist.org/article?id=AHCF.