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Abstract

Though in size resembling a sect, the Methodists of the former Yugoslavia functioned as a Protestant “Free Church” due to its international structural connection with a large worldwide Methodist Church. After disparate beginnings in the two locations, the Methodist of Vojvodina began to function in 1898 while in Macedonia, the former Congregationalist (called Evangelical) began their work in 1870 but were transferred to the Yugoslavia Methodist Mission Conference after World War I. In Vojvodina, most of the members were of German and Hungarian ethnicity who had already been Protestants before they joined the Methodists while in Macedonia, the members were ethnic Macedonians, formerly Orthodox Christians. In both localities, they sporadically experienced harassment and unequal legal status. When Yugoslavia became a communist country after World War II, ironically they obtained equal legal recognition as the other religious communities, but experienced various levels of persecution that were intense in the first decade after the war but gradually subsided with the liberalization of the society. In Vojvodina, the Methodists lost almost their entire German membership but these were replaced by the adherence of ethnic Slovaks in the late 1940s and early 1950s when their Blue Cross Society was banned. Theologically, the Methodists adopted the predominant view of nineteenth century pious Protestants that the large historical churches, especially the Catholic and Orthodox, have drifted away from the Gospel, but after World War II when the world-wide Methodist Church joined the World Council of Churches, a spirit of greater tolerance caused the Evangelical Methodists to cooperate with other churches. After the fall of Communism and the end of the wars following the disintegration of Yugoslavia, greater liberties were enjoyed. The greatest achievement was the election of one of its members, Boris Trajkovski, to the presidency of the Republic of Macedonia. Currently, the Evangelical or United Methodists are among the most dedicated proponents of dialogue and ecumenism in these lands.

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