With Billy Graham’s Holy Week San Juan crusade, the Protestant church in Puerto Rico passed an important moment.
The cliché of Catholic domination came under strong challenge as the face of Latin American Protestantism began to emerge.
For eight days of meetings in San Juan and twelve “satellite” crusades held in major cities across the island during the preceding month, attendance reached just over 175,000. A total of 7,975 decisions were recorded.
All this took place on an island where less than 15 per cent of the 2.75 million population can be called Protestant. But more significant to the island’s religious life is the fact that even by Catholic estimates, no more than one-fifth of the baptized Catholics attend services regularly. And many Protestants claim that the real proportion is much lower.
“It is important to understand,” said Dr. Raymond Strong, president of Puerto Rico’s Evangelical Seminary, “that in Latin America, Catholicism is a minority movement. It’s a larger minority than Protestantism, but it is nevertheless a minority movement.”
The island’s religious majority—Catholics connected to the church by membership only—gets most of the attention. This group, perhaps 70 per cent of the population, is the church’s vulnerable outer shell. For the highly evangelistic Protestant church, this outer shell is the focus of much of its activity—and most of its success.
The crusade reflected the emphasis. Eighty per cent of the inquirers made “first time” decisions—double the normal Graham-team percentage.
The force of Protestant outreach is slowly being felt. Where the Catholic church once meant control, it now ...1
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