For 100 Years, Hispanics Have Played an Important Role in the Growth of the Assemblies of God

Temple Beth-El

Templo Beth-el Latin American Assembly of God (Weslaco, Texas), circa 1960.

This Week in AG History — June 26, 1960

By Glenn W. Gohr
Originally published on AG News, 28 June 2018  

This year the Assemblies of God is celebrating the centennial of Hispanic churches in the Fellowship. Hispanic AG churches in the U.S. trace their roots back to a convention in Kingsville, Texas, in January 1918, organized by Isabel Flores (a male Mexican-American pastor) and Henry C. Ball (an Anglo missionary to Mexicans).

From 1918-25, Hispanics were organized as the Latin American Conference, a part of the Texas District. Mexico (mostly border communities) was included with this original conference in 1918. Puerto Rico was organized as a conference under Juan Lugo in 1921 and eventually became a district of its own. Cuba united with the Latin American Conference in 1923. In 1926, El Salvador and Guatemala united with the Latin American Conference. These are each separate fields of ministry today.

The Latin American Conference became the Latin American District in 1929 and was officially chartered on Jan. 4, 1930, by H. C. Ball, Demetrio Bazan, and G. V. Flores. On the same date, Mexico received autonomy to form its own Latin council. Ball was the first superintendent of the Latin American District. After leading Hispanics for more than 20 years, he withdrew his name as superintendent in 1939, and Demetrio Bazan was elected as the second superintendent.

The Spanish Eastern District was divided from the district in November 1956. Bazan’s term ended on Dec. 31, 1958, and Jose Giron took office Jan. 1, 1959, as the third superintendent, with H. C. Ball serving as assistant superintendent. This preceded the Latin American District dividing into many different districts. What remained of the Latin District divided into four separate districts in 1972: Gulf Latin American, Central Latin American, Midwest Latin American, and Pacific Latin American. Another division took place in 2012, when the Gulf Latin American District dissolved and separated into the Texas Louisiana Hispanic District, the Texas Gulf Hispanic District, the West Texas and Plains District, and the South Central Hispanic District.

By 1960 Hispanics led the nation in the opening of new AG churches. That trend has continued through today.

An article in the Pentecostal Evangel from June 1960 highlights the growth of Hispanics in the AG. In 1959, the Latin American District opened 27 churches. Ruth Lyon wrote, “Leading the nation in the number of new churches opened in the last five years, the Latin American Branch of the Assemblies of God has 113 to its credit.” The Southern California District ran second with 99 new churches opened during that same period.

At this time the AG had nine foreign-language branches, operating under the supervision of the Home Missions Department. In 1960, the Latin American Branch had “over 600 ministers, 300 churches, and a membership of over 18,000,” according to Lyon. The Latin District also operated two Bible schools, now known as LABI College in La Puente, California, and Christ Mission College in San Antonio, Texas.

In 1960, four large conferences — Pacific, Central, Texas, and North Central — comprised the Latin District. The Evangel article highlighted several of the new churches the district had opened in the five previous years. The churches featured include Templo Calvario Spanish Assembly, Alamogordo, New Mexico; Spanish Assembly, Tucumcari, New Mexico; Templo El Monte Horeb, Santa Clara, California; Spanish Assembly, Rockdale, Texas; Getsemane Spanish Assembly, Austin, Texas; The Spanish Assembly, Lockney, Texas; Templo Beth-el Assembly, Weslaco, Texas; and Bethel Spanish Assembly, Grand Rapids, Michigan.

Currently the 14 Hispanic districts in the U.S. are Central District/Distrito Central, Florida Multicultural District, Midwest Latin American District, Northern Pacific Latin American District, Northwest Hispanic District, Puerto Rico District, South Central Hispanic District, Southern Latin District, Southern Pacific District, Southwest District, Spanish Eastern District, Texas Gulf Hispanic District, Texas Louisiana Hispanic District., and West Texas and Plains District.

As of 2016, there were 378,790 Hispanic adherents among the Hispanic districts in the AG, and the numbers keep climbing. To celebrate this 100-year history, the AG Hispanic Centennial will be held Aug. 1-3 in Houston.

Read the article, “Latin American District Leads the Nation,” on pages 4-5 of the June 26, 1960 issue of the Pentecostal Evangel.

Also featured in this issue:

• “If I Could Do It Again,” by Lillian Trasher

• “A Pastor Recommends Light for the Lost,” by Louis H. Hauff

• “Pioneer Evangelism in Korea,” by Louis P. Richards

Click here to read this issue now.

Pentecostal Evangel archived editions are courtesy of the Flower Pentecostal Heritage Center.

Do you have Pentecostal historical materials that should be preserved? Please consider depositing these materials at the Flower Pentecostal Heritage Center (FPHC). The FPHC, located in the Assemblies of God national offices, is the largest Pentecostal archive in the world. We would like to preserve and make your treasures accessible to those who write the history books.

Flower Pentecostal Heritage Center
1445 North Boonville Avenue
Springfield, Missouri 65802 USA
Phone: 417.862.1447 ext. 4400
Toll Free: 877.840.5200
Email: archives@ag.org
Website: www.iFPHC.org

3 Comments

Filed under History

3 responses to “For 100 Years, Hispanics Have Played an Important Role in the Growth of the Assemblies of God

  1. Berneice Rogers

    I enjoy reading about history. Church History is not dull, because of the Holy Spirit that establishes them. What a great heritage we have in the lives of so many witnesses to what God has done!

  2. Joe Davila

    The first Hispanic church was started in 1954 by Robert Davila in Altus oklahoma.This was the first one in the state.

  3. Dear Glenn,
    Thanks for including this line in your article
    “Puerto Rico was organized as a conference under Juan Lugo in 1921 and eventually became a district of its own.” I would like to mention some of the Articles that are available in the iFPHC. Minutes of the General Council, September 21-28, 1921, page 36 mention “Porto Rico” as the first Hispanic District. Not as a Conference but a District, Puerto Rico and Lugo as the Superintendent. Puerto Rico political situation put us in a difficult position of what kind of District, Foreign or Domestic. The birth of the Puerto Rico District was the fruit of 5 years of pioneer work of the Hispanic-American workers; John L. Lugo, Salomon and Dionisia Feliciano, and Frank D. Ortiz Jr, all Missionaries from the General Council. Combined Minutes of the General Council of the Assemblies of God, 1914-1917, Page 39-40.

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