Argentina is the world’s 8th largest country, stretching from the tropics to the seas around Antarctica. The Anglican Diocese of Argentina has nearly 30 times the population of the Diocese of Sheffield – and 1,500 times the area! It includes the vast fertile Pampas, windswept Patagonia, the snow-capped Andes, and tracts of desert and some sub-tropical jungle.
It is home to 37 million people, mainly of European descent but also Amerindian and, more recently, Asian origin. They are Spanish-speaking with a third defined as living in poverty.
The largest denomination is Roman Catholic, though the Pentecostal and Charismatic churches are growing most rapidly.
Aims and Origins
The link between the Dioceses of Argentina and Sheffield began in 1992. It aims to:
• widen the churches’ vision and raise awareness of belonging to the world church
• learn from each other’s experience
• support and encourage one another
It has developed through bishops’ visits, a youth exchange, a visit by members of Urban Priority Area parishes, a group holiday visit, a number of parish partnerships, support for social projects, mutual prayer and personal friendships.
Anglicans in Argentina
The British came to Argentina to build railways and other infrastructure and develop commerce and banking. Anglican chaplaincies opened in the main cities to provide church services in English for them. The Anglican cathedral in the capital, Buenos Aires, is South America’s oldest non-Catholic church.
The Anglican diocese still serves the decreasing number of Anglo-Argentines but it is now a Spanish-speaking church engaging with the wider community. It includes members from all sections of society and is committed to mission and service. Though small, it is a significant partner in the country’s network of Christian denominations, occupying a key position between Roman Catholics and Pentecostals.
Ministry in Argentina
The current Bishop Greg Venables came to South America as a mission partner and previously served in Paraguay and Bolivia. The majority of the clergy are now Argentines, including a new generation of young self-supporting ministers. They reflect the relative strength of ministry there amongst young people.
Most of the clergy are based in Buenos Aires, though Mónica Tompkins is Minister in the city of Rosario, 200 miles away. Congregations in and around the more distant cities of Córdoba and Mendoza are served by clergy based in Buenos Aires and local lay leadership is important there. Isolated congregations in Patagonia receive an annual visit from one of the clergy. One of the challenges for the future is how areas far from the capital should feature in the life of the Anglican diocese.
The Link Today
The link is one of mutual support. For example, in 2013 John Thomson and Peter Rainford led the annual Theology Week in Argentina on The Minister as Pastor. In 2014 Revd Agustín Marsal and his team led a mission at Clifton, Rotherham.
Parish links continue to play an important part in the good relationships between the two dioceses. Linked parishes include the Cathedral, Ecclesall, Whiston, Braithwell and Kimberworth Park.
Bishop Greg writes:
“Walking and working with others, especially from different cultures and languages, is more than ever a necessary discipline. Friendship across the miles, the sharing of resources, learning together and providing mutual support … are just some of the things we have learned to appreciate and value. We thank God for our link …”
How can I get involved?
Want to find out more? Or to be involved? We’re continuing parish links and encouraging new ones, developing links between our Readers and their lay ministers and arranging visits to parishes by visitors from Argentina as and when they occur. We’re also exploring the possibilities for a further visit by young people and for placements in each other’s dioceses.
For more information please contact Peter Rainford, Convenor of the Argentina Link Group, on (01709) 553238.