Significant dates in the history of the South American Mission Society

  Patagonian Missionary Society founded in Brighton by Captain Allen Gardiner RN, following his unsuccessful petitions to the Church Missionary Society, the London Missionary Society and the Wesleyan Missionary Society to embrace the needs of the Patagonian Indians. Funds, not manpower, prevented their acceptance.
184548   Gardiner undertook two expeditions to Patagonia and one to the Bolivian Chaco, all unsuccessful in their attempts to reach the indigenous peoples.
185052   Gardiner and six companions set out on another expedition to Tierra del Fuego, where they died in Spaniards Harbour the following year. The last entry in Gardiner’s diary is from 5 September. His body was found in January 1852.
1856   Rev George Pakenham Despard, SAMS’ general secretary, led the next venture under the resounding cry ‘Hope deferred, not lost’. He established a mission on Keppel Island in the Falklands, using the first of three SAMS ships, all named after Allen Gardiner.
1859   Captain Fell, Garland Phillips and six crew members massacred by Indians on Navarino Island.
Allen Gardiner junior was sent by SAMS to evangelise the fierce Mapuches of Southern Chile, but circumstances prevented this. He responded to a different need, that of British miners, and undertook a chaplaincy in Lota, Chile. This led to a new dimension in SAMS’ work, with chaplaincies started in several countries.
The Rev Waite Stirling arrived at Keppel. In 1869 he moved to Ushuaia, a spot which Despard’s adopted son, Thomas Bridges, had identified for a mission. Bridges and his family moved there in 1871 and a year later, Stirling, known as ‘God’s Sentinel’, was consecrated “Bishop of the Falkland Islands”.
The Patagonian Missionary Society became the South American Missionary Society because of the expanding work, which also envisaged a ministry beginning immediately among the Indians of the Chaco (part of Bolivia, Paraguay and Argentina). The 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.”
Charles Darwin asked to be an Honorary Member of SAMS and gave an annual subscription to the Society in succeeding years, admiring its civilising work among the Indians.
The SAMS General Committee, despite the doubts of Bishop Stirling, decided to start a mission in the Paraguayan Chaco. British and Foreign Bible Society agent Adolphus Henricksen surveyed the area and possibilities and encouraged the Society to go ahead. Henricksen took ill and died in 1888. A year later W Barbrooke Grubb arrived, having had his first promising interview with the Society five years earlier at the age of 19. In 1891 he established the first Chaco mission station. This indomitable man became known in Paraguay as ‘El Pacificador de los Indios’ and elsewhere as ‘The Livingstone of South America’.
SAMS’ decision to reach the Mapuches of Southern Chile finally moved forward when a group of outstanding missionaries – Walker, Wilson, Class and Sadleir – sailed for Chile. Wilson served until his death in 1957.
A mission centre was established at Maquehue, Chile. William Case Morris, who had grown up in Buenos Aires, offered to SAMS, seeing the Society as the best means to enable him to reach the poor children of that city. The General Committee agreed and Morris is now a legend in Argentina. He became known as the ‘Dr Barnardo of South America’.
Paraguay – baptism of first two Indian converts.
Paraguay – Bishop Every conducted first confirmation service.
Paraguay – Grubb launched cattle ranch project.
Edinburgh Missionary Conference

Existing Diocese divided into two:
  • Bishop Every leads the Diocese of Argentina with Eastern South America
  • Bishop de Jersey leads the Diocese of the Western Republics with the Falkland Islands
Argentine Chaco – Having successfully established the work in Paraguay, Barbrooke Grubb, Richard Hunt and companions began work among the Wichi. The first mission site was purchased three years later at Algarrobal (Misión Chaqueña).
Misión Chaqueña moved to its present site due to flood risk; the first Wichi baptisms were held.
Henry Grubb’s expedition to Bolivia led to a mission station in the Chaco there, 80 years after Gardiner’s attempt. The first baptisms took place in 1930 but two years later the mission had to be abandoned because of the Chaco War.
Having witnessed the fruit of the mission to the Wichi, their warlike neighbours the Tobas asked for their own. Alfred Leake and William Everitt started it in 1930. The first converts were baptised in 1935.
Chile – First Mapuche ordained: the Rev Juan Antinao
In Argentina, Eastern Bolivian Mission staff George Revill, Harry Dickson and their wives transferred to SAMS and set up the mission station of La Paz on the River Pilcomayo.
This was a difficult time with shortage of manpower placing a heavy burden on the emerging indigenous churches and severely curtailing the work.
1948   AW Goodwin Hudson became SAMS general secretary after chaplaincy ministry in Santiago. "He had seen the work of the SAMS in South America and believed that the Society with such a great past must have a great future also…. Official advice and opinion dictated that the Society should either cease to exist or be amalgamated with a larger mission. Nevertheless Bishop Goodwin Hudson, along with many others, could not imagine South America without the SAMS." (Wendy Mann, An Unquenched Flame, SAMS 1968).

With few missionaries, distrust at home by Evangelicals and ‘disowned by Churchmen of other traditions’, SAMS was at a low ebb, but Goodwin Hudson breathed new life into it. In the 1950s and 1960s, under Goodwin Hudson and his dynamic successor Canon Harry Sutton (1960-74), God called out the Milmines, Flaggs, Barratts, Bartles et al to Chie Harrises, Leakes, Robbins, Barbara Kitchin et al to Argentina; the Hawksbees, Battmans, Elizabeth Richards et al to Paraguay.
A momentous year!

The total number of SAMS missionaries rose to 80, thanks in great part to a Forward Move initiated by the General Committee in October 1960 which sought 45 new missionaries by 1963. Income rose from £26,000 to £62,000 in 1963.

‘Southern Cone’ Diocese was divided following a Consultation at Cuernavaca, Mexico, on the Anglican Church in Latin America, at which SAMS was represented.
  • Bishop Cyril Tucker became Bishop in Argentina and Eastern South America
  • Bishop Kenneth Howell became Bishop in Chile, Bolivia and Peru.
Many SAMS missionaries were given ecclesiastical responsibility in the new dioceses. “Consequently the SAMS began to find itself more of a servant serving within a diocesan family than a master making its own decisions” (Mann).

Paraguay – three Lengua Indians ordained.

Thea Wedgwood opened a kindergarten in Asunción which grew into the prestigious St Andrew’s College.

Urban work among the Spanish-speaking majority began in Roque Alonso and Zeballos Cue (Asunción), two years after the initial Spanish speaking work started at St Paul’s, Valparaíso, Chile. This reflected another – and crucially strategic – aspect of expansion to meet the challenges of the continent – the first drops of water in the stream towards the cities and the future channelling of priority into the urban work among the majority (Spanish-speaking) people. The fact that Indian ordinations were starting to happen was also a divine signpost to the new direction: the Indians were now growing into leadership of their church.
Argentina – Bishop Tucker conducted the first seven Wichi ordinations.
Total number of SAMS missionaries had risen to 96 with income £87,000.
Diocese of Northern Argentina with Paraguay created with Bill Flagg as first bishop.
Brazil – SAMS missionaries go to Salvador at the invitation of the Diocesan Council of Central Brazil.
Brazil – SAMS involvement at Boys’ Town Argentina; 10 year social plan launched for Chaco. This led to the calling out of a number of agricultural and medical missionaries through the next years and ultimately to the creation of Asociana, the social justice organisation of the Anglican Church in Northern Argentina.

Chile – David Pytches became diocesan bishop for Diocese of Chile, Bolivia and Peru.
Diocese of Northern Argentina and Paraguay split
  • Northern Argentina – Bishop Patrick Harris
  • Paraguay – Bishop Douglas Milmine
Anglican Church Consultation in Lima convened by the Archbishop of Canterbury’s Executive Officer brought together 23 delegates from the eight South American dioceses, plus SAMS GB and Australia. This led to the formation of the Anglican Council of South America (CASA), “welcomed as a step towards the creation of more South American orientated churches” (Bp Harris).
The SAMS magazine changed its title from ‘Sent’ to ‘Share’ to reflect the growing partnership with the Latin churches.
Argentina – consecration of first Amerindian Bishop Mario Mariño. A member of the Wichi people whose consecration was an affirmation of the way God had worked through the Anglican ministry in the Chaco over the years – Capt Allen Gardiner would have rejoiced! Urban expansion there with new churches in Salta – Aero Club, San Ceferino, Tres Cerritos, Tribuno and in the Anglican Centre.
Brazil – SAMS missionaries began work in Recife, which has flourished.
Canon Philip King became general secretary. At a time when there was much questioning about the role and place of voluntary mission agencies in the C of E, he resisted their abolition and absorption into one Board under General Synod. He also championed unsuccessful discussions with Crosslinks about a merger. He was a key mover in the creation of the Partnership for World Mission. He strongly supported the development of national leadership in South America.

Consecrations of national bishops such as:
  • + Abelino Apeleo
  • + Héctor Zavala
  • + Humberto Axt
  • + Andrés Rodríguez

To Uruguay

To Peru – with Bishop Bill Flagg at request of Bishop Pytches to begin to form a separate diocese of Peru & Bolivia.

First missionaries to Bolivia
In response to loss of missionaries due to Falklands War SAMS introduces ‘Share a Yoke’ scheme to continue and deepen its partnership with the church in Northern Argentina. This was later expanded to other areas and linked UK churches with teams and national ministries rather than individual missionaries.
Southern Cone was inaugurated as 27th Province of the Anglican Communion.

To Spain & Portugal at the invitation of the Spanish & Portuguese Church Aid Society.

Uruguay becomes a diocese separate from Argentina. Bill Godfrey moved from suffragan to diocesan bishop.
Early 1990s
Multi-way mission firmly on SAMS’ agenda with support for a Portuguese worker in Jersey and two Chilean evangelists in Spain, plus schemes involving Brazilian, Argentine and Bolivian evangelists. In 1994 to mark the 150th anniversary SAMS’ vision for the future was unveiled in ‘The challenge for Change’:

“We seek to be an agent of multi-way international mission; to represent the Church of South America to the Church in the UK; to shift our focus away from sending missionaries to supporting national mission; to take appropriate initiatives in partnership with other mission agencies.”
Greg Venables appointed assistant bishop to Diocese of Peru and Bolivia
A century after SAMS pioneers began work in Southern Chile, the longdreamed move to the north started to come true with the beginnings of a work in Arica and Antofagasta, a diocesan initiative supported by SAMS.

After 131 years the Society became The South American Mission Society. It is one of the eleven Anglican mission agencies.

Bolivia becomes separate diocese
The new SAMS mission statement affirms that SAMS is to:
  • be Christ centred, biblically based, evangelistically motivated and Spirit enabled in all we do
  • cooperate with our partner churches in the Spanish and Portuguese-speaking world, and the church in the UK, to fulfil their calling in global mission
  • respond to people’s spiritual, emotional and physical needs in Christ’s name
The SAMS strapline is ‘Global mission with a Latin heart’: this reflects SAMS’ desire to engage in ministry to Latin peoples wherever they are across the world, and also to encourage Latin Americans themselves in their own expatriate mission.

SAMS General Council votes to integrate the Society with CMS.

SAMS GB integrates with CMS (Church Mission Society). The new entity is still known as CMS but is a new legal entity made up of the two formerly independent Societies.

Notes on SAMS International
The Irish branch of SAMS began in the early days, back in the 19th century, and the Australian Auxiliary started life in 1936. There was a Canadian Auxiliary in existence early in the 20th century, but SAMS Canada wasn't formed as a separate entity until 1979. SAMS USA began in 1976. It was in the 1970s that SAMS Australasia became a separate branch in its own right. SAMS Ireland also became an independent body at that time. A major event in 1979 was the signing at Swanwick, UK, of the Covenant of the South American Missionary Societies. SAMS Australasia is now part of CMS Australia and New Zealand CMS. SAMS International members, like CMS, are part of the Faith2Share network.

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