The work of Methodism in North Africa was started towards the end of the 19th century by missionaries from the USA. Before Algeria became independent in 1962, there were only a few restrictions on church work in this country. The Methodist Church owned mission stations, children's homes and clinics. At that time, the Church in North Africa was organized as an annual conference, to which local pastors, lay preachers, and evangelists belonged. Then the country dissolved its ties to France. This was a historic juncture that had serious - and for many, painful - consequences. Many local Christians left the country, believing that there was no place for a Christian Church in an independent Algeria. Finally, eight years later, events followed, which were to define the next period: half of the Methodist missionaries were deported, children's homes and boarding schools were forced to close, and Church property was taken over by the state.
In 1972, the Methodist Church fused with most of the other Protestant denominations to form the Protestant Church of Algeria, and Methodist work in North Africa was reorganized as a district of the Annual Conference Switzerland-France-North Africa. Today this district also includes the Methodist presence in Tunis, Tunisia, with its emphasis on social services (assistance for students and immigrants from sub-Saharan Africa), and on a joint service with the Reformed Church.
Today, the Christian Church is a tiny minority in Algeria, where Islam is now the state religion. Fairly recently, it was possible to run a congregation in an organized manner, in spite of state-ordered limitations (prohibition of public evangelization, prohibition of all activities not directly related to church work, prohibition of all services to Moslem children, youth and students). However, the political and religious developments of the past few years have not really made Methodist work any easier in this country.
But encouraged by new awakenings - for instance in the nineties in Kabylia - and against all odds, the Methodists faithfully press on. There are worship services, Bible studies, weddings and baptisms. There is a longstanding ecumenical cooperation. And the Gospel is not only proclaimed but also put into action in very practical ways, which leads to the fact that over and over people are expressing their interest in the Christian faith.
Structurally, the Methodist congregations in Algeria and the Methodist ministries in Tunisia are still part of the Annual Conference Switzerland-France-North Africa. Faithfully and trusting that God will provide the answers to the questions regarding their future at the right time, they are taking up the challenge to be a credible Christian church in a Muslim context.