South American Mission Society (SAMS)
After 166 years of mission in South America and Iberia, the South American Mission Society (SAMS) united with Church Mission Society (CMS) in 2010.
The legacy of the work of SAMS includes a maturing and growing Anglican Church in South America and beyond, the Bible translated into indigenous languages, a history of transformative social projects, the beginnings of discipleship materials now used across the world and countless people encountering the living Jesus.
Today, this integrated Church Mission Society continues the work of SAMS as it walks alongside the Latin American church in mission. It responds to the needs of the church, in prayer and through the support of mission partners and local leaders.
As the context of global mission develops we are following God’s call to develop mission within and from Latin America.
This includes mission in new geographical areas, within new contexts and with new partners. It is also enabling Latin American Christians to serve in mission both within the region and across the world, sharing the gifts of the Latin American church.
A brief history of SAMS
In 1844, Captain Allen Gardiner founded the Patagonian Missionary Society in Brighton. This followed his unsuccessful requests to several missionary societies to embrace the needs of the peoples of Patagonia. These included the Church Missionary Society, as we were then called – though it was funding not desire that was lacking.
Between 1845 and 1848 Gardiner undertook two expeditions to Patagonia and one to the Bolivian Chaco. All were unsuccessful. In 1850 Gardiner and his six companions set out on what was to be their final expedition, to Tierra del Fuego. Here they died, in Spaniards Harbour, the following year. The last entry in Gardiner’s diary is from 5 September 1851. His body was found in January 1852.
“Hope Deferred, not Lost”
In 1856, the Rev George Pakenham Despard, general secretary of the Patagonian Missionary Society, led the next venture. His motto was “Hope deferred, not lost”, and he set sail in the first of three ships owned by the society, all named after Gardiner.
Despite many setbacks, chaplaincies were started among British communities and in 1864, the Patagonian Missionary Society became the South American Missionary Society because of the expanding work. The next step was hoped to be a ministry beginning immediately among the indigenous peoples of the Chaco.
The South American Missionary Society’s object was “to send out the Gospel of our Lord Jesus Christ, by missionary agency, to the native tribes of South America, and to take advantage of any openings which may present themselves, for the advancement of His kingdom throughout that continent.”
SAMS work among the indigenous communities
In 1887 SAMS began work with indigenous communities in the Paraguayan Chaco, with W Barbrooke Grubb being instrumental in this. 1894 saw a similar work begin with the Mapuches in Chile. William Case Morris – who became known as the “Dr Barnardo of South America” – began work with poor children in Buenos Aires.
The early 1900s saw the first baptisms and confirmations in Paraguay, and a new work began in the Argentinian Chaco among the Wichi in 1911.
Next was the Bolivian Chaco in 1925, 80 years after Allen Gardiner’s original attempt, with the work led by Henry Grubb. Unfortunately this mission had to be abandoned in 1932 due to the Chaco War. But the success of the mission to the Wichi led to a mission to their neighbours, the Tobas in 1930.
The World War Two years were a difficult time but in 1948 AW Goodwin Hudson became SAMS general secretary. He had seen the work of SAMS in South America as a chaplain in Santiago. He breathed new life into the society, attracting many significant missionaries to the work.
By 1963 the number of SAMS missionaries had increased to 80 and income had tripled.
During this time, the Anglican Church in Latin America was divided into dioceses and SAMS missionaries began to serve within a diocesan family rather than directing the work. Amerindian pastors began to be ordained during the 1960s. Urban work also began in the cities, including the establishment of many schools.
In the 1970s SAMS began work in Brazil. In Argentina, Mario Marino became the continent’s first Amerindian bishop. Through the next decades national bishops were consecrated. SAMS magazine changed its title from Sent to Share to reflect the growing partnership with the Latin churches.
The 1980s took work to Bolivia and Uruguay, as well as to Spain and Portugal. SAMS encouraged UK churches to link with teams and national ministries rather than individual missionaries.
By the 1990s “multi-way mission” became a central theme of SAMS, as Latin American missionaries were sent to neighbouring countries and to Europe. In 1995, after 131 years, the society became the South American Mission Society.
2000s – decade of change
The new millennium saw more landmark events in the history of SAMS.
In 2000 Bishop Hector (Tito) Zavala became the first Chilean to lead the Diocese of Chile. The following year representatives of the various branches of SAMS International visited Tierra del Fuego and the cave where Allen Gardiner died, commemorating 150 years since the event.
Also in 2001, work began in Ecuador, and 2002 saw the first complete translation of the Bible enabled by SAMS mission partners – into the Wichi language of northern Argentina.
In 2007, formal discussions got underway with Church Mission Society (CMS) about the possibility of integrating the two societies. In February 2010 a ‘new’ Church Mission Society was formed by amalgamating SAMS and CMS.
A bright future – together
The Latin American mission work grown and developed by SAMS continues to flourish in the new united society.
In the diocese of Northern Argentina, a new branch of the Mothers’ Union, named AMARE and initiated by CMS mission partners, has energised the faith and action of more than 1,500 women from the Chaco. Then in 2016 three new indigenous bishops were conscrated in the diocese, two Wichi and one Toba. The same year saw the publication of the Bible in Southern Enxet for the first time – the culmination of a 25-year project overseen by mission partner Tim Curtis.
2017 saw mission partners begin work for the first time in Honduras and in Guatemala, as well as the recruitment by Church Mission Society of a mission development manager, with the brief of cultivating a locally-led mission movement within Latin America.
In 2018 Paul Tester, based in Peru, began this exciting work of developing Church Mission Society’s future mission work in the region – together with, listening to and inspired by Latin American Christians.
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