Who We Are
THE SOCIETY’S MISSION AND COMMITMENT IS THREE-FOLD:
1) To Tell the Story The Waldensians (Waldensian-Methodists) are a people of faith and courage not only in history, but in contemporary society. Their caring presence is a strong witness to the love of Jesus Christ in the world. We seek to share this powerful witness with others, believing that the Waldensian story is an inspirational one for believers everywhere.
2) To Encourage ‘Crossings’ Much can be learned from our sisters and brothers in Italy and Latin America. We seek to create and encourage relationships between individuals, churches, seminaries and other church organisms that will result in mutual understanding, cooperation and support.
3) To Provide Financial Support Not withstanding the energy and commitment of the Waldensian-Methodist Church in Italy and the Waldensian Church in Latin America, the financial challenges are significant. We seek to generate funding that assists their ministry.
The Waldensian Church is rooted in the preaching of Valdesius, a merchant in Lyon, France, who lived during the same period of the late Middle Ages as Francis of Assisi. Like Francis, Valdesius believed in the value of the evangelical poverty of the early church. The community of faith that gathered around Valdesius survived three centuries of persecution and adhered to the Calvinist branch of the Protestant Reformation in 1532. Waldensians gained their civilrights in 1848. The Constitution of the Italian Republic granted the Waldensian Church freedom of worship in 1948, but these rights were not signed into law until 1984.
The Waldensian Church is governed by a single Synod that gathers in two sessions: a European session that is held at the end of August in Torre Pellice (an hour from Turin, in the heart of the Waldensian Valleys), and a South American session that takes place in El Río de La Plata at the beginning of February. The Synod elects the two moderators of the Waldensian boards—the Tavola Valdese in Italy and the Mesa Valdense in Argentina-Uruguay.
Over centuries of persecution, the solidarity received from Protestant churches abroad was enormously important to the Waldensians. Accordingly, the Church has a strong international, ecumenical vocation. The Waldensian Church is a member of the World Council of Churches, World Alliance of Reformed Churches,and Conference of European Churches. The Methodist component is a member of the World Methodist Council, as well as the Conference of European Churches. The relationships between the Waldensian Church and the Protestant churches of the USA are strong, especially with the Presbyterian Church (USA), the Reformed Church in America, the United Methodist Church, and the United Church of Christ.
The Waldensian Church today embraces approximately 30,000 members in Italy and 15,000 in Argentina-Uruguay. In Italy there are over 150 congregations and as many specialized ministries and social programs. The communities are distributedthroughout Italy, from Sicily to the Piedmont. The social ministry of the church always has been non-confessional and open to all, regardless of faith or creed. In addition to increasing its membership, the Church is dedicated to communicating the message, based on the Gospels, that believers are “set free by Christ for personal and public responsibility.” The Church often pursues this program by taking clear, progressive, even controversial stands on issues in public life related to the struggle for a state free of clerical and sectarian interests.
IN LATIN AMERICA
Waldensian presence in Latin America was born out of the mid-nineteenth century emigration from Italy. The church, with offices in Colonia Valdense, Uruguay, includes 24 congregations and 20 specialized ministries that address the needs of persons on the fringes of society.