THIS WEEK IN AG HISTORY — JUNE 26, 1960
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 Evangelarticle 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.