The Sustainers of the Reformed Church in Brazil

It was only three and a half centuries after Brazil was discovered that the first missionaries arrived to evangelize that nation. Dr. Robert Reid Kalley, a medical missionary who had worked in Portugal, was now fleeing from a terrible religious persecution in an island called Madeira, where he was laboring. He came to Brazil in 1855 and established a Sunday School in his own home in Petropolis, Rio de Janeiro. Three years later he was able to organize the first evangelical church in Brazil, the Evangelical Fluminense Church.

Before that time some foreign colonies had their worship services among themselves in their own tongues. This was the first time the natives were receiving the message of salvation and many became faithful followers of Christ.


Although Dr. Kalley was a Scotch Presbyterian, he was not interested in the organization of his own denomination, nor in fact, that of any denomination. So his work was entirely independent of all missionary boards. It was only after many years following Kalley’s death, when the number of churches connected with his work had become large, that they were organized as a denomination, the Congregational Church of Brazil.

In 1859 a young American Presbyterian missionary came to Brazil. His name was Ashbel Green Simonton. With enthusiasm, courage, and consecration to God, he soon had a church started. Later on he began the publication of a periodical called “O Puritano” (The Puritan). He also aided in the establishment of a seminary, for many young men were already eager for theological preparation to serve the Lord.

Simonton had been studying law when he first felt the desire to serve God. So he left the Law School and went to Princeton Theological Seminary where he received his training. When he was twenty-six of age, he came to Brazil under the board of the Presbyterian Church in the U.S.A. One year after his arrival two more men joined him in that missionary enterprise. Soon the work grew fast and we had a true Calvinistic testimony in Brazil. Shortly afterwards God was pleased to call home his faithful servant after only eight years of ministry, but with an influence which remains till now among those who hold to the Reformed faith and who continue the work of Simonton.


In 1903, due to the toleration of Freemasonry in the Presbyterian Church of Brazil, a group of ministers, elders, and many members left that Church and started the Independent Presbyterian Church of Brazil. Later on a seminary was also started, and through the years the work of that group made a tremendous improvement, churches having been established and many souls saved.


While some slept. modernism started to influence some of the leaders of the Independent Presbyterian Church. The main doctrine in question was the doctrine of eternal punishment. Some declared that it was not necessary to believe in that doctrine in order to be ordained for the ministry of the Church. The result was that a tremendous controversy took place, with its climax in 1940 when the Conservative Presbyterian Church of Brazil was founded. Not only ministers, but also churches came out, and with both sacrifice and courage they went on, faithful to the historic Christian faith, receiving from God what was necessary to keep them going. Now, though a small group, they have a goodly number of churches in the southern and central parts of Brazil. They are an indigenous church, supported entirely by the nationals from the beginning. Their General Assembly meets annually in different churches of the denomination, where plans are set forth for its development.


One of the most outstanding events in the history of Calvinism in Brazil was the establishment in 1953 of the Conservative Presbyterian Seminary in Sao Paulo. It had only nine students at the beginning, but now it has over thirty. Some members of its faculty are graduates from orthodox and Reformed schools in the U.S.A. Some have studied in Europe, while others have received their theological preparation even there in Brazil.

The Seminary is one of the factors that is bringing and will bring in its fulness, in a near future, a real revival of Calvinism in Brazil. The Reformed doctrines which are being mixed with Neo-Orthodoxy in the pulpits and seminaries of the other two Churches, are presented in their purity and clearness in the pulpits of the Conservative Presbyterian Churches. The Calvinism planted one hundred years ago by Simonton is being carried on, not by his immediate followers, but by a small and faithful group of Christians, who are walking in his footsteps spiritually.

The Seminary was established to hold forth the Reformed faith, which is the only theology that the Bible knows. Because of the infiltration of neo-orthodoxy and liberalism in the seminaries of the other two groups, the candidates for the ministry of this church could not be sent there anymore. So that school was founded. It is equipped now with a small but good library where the students can deepen themselves in study. Their heavy schedule is carried on faithfully, with great emphasis in the original languages of the Bible, so that the students, as they go out, may say with conviction: “Thus saith the Lord.” The dedicated faculty, true to God’s Word. gives a most scholarly and spiritual preparation for those students who come from all comers of Brazil. They have special courses in the Westminster Confession of Faith and Catechisms. Hodge and Berkhof are used as text books in Systematic Theology, as well as many other Reformed theologians’ works in different courses.


In order that the proposed revival may take place, publication of Calvinistic books needs also to take place there. We not only want books translated from English. Gennan. Dutch or French, but we also need literature prepared by our own people in the Portuguese language. We ask the prayers of our readers concerning that important matter.

Another aspect is the need of sending Brazilian students to the United States so that they may receive graduate degrees and then return to teaching positions in our seminary, and be able writers and preachers of God’s Word. That is one of the methods of modernists around the world. They bring nationals to the United States and give scholarships in the most modernistic schools, and then, as they return, this poison is sown and unfortunately it produces fruit.


It is our purpose in this brief article to present something about “The Sustainers of the Reformed Faith. in Brazil.” So far we have briefly discussed the first group of these sustainers—the Conservative Presbyterian Church of Brazil. But they are not the only ones. In 1956, as a result of the apostasy in the old Presbyterian Church of Brazil, the ministers who spoke against this apostasy and defended the faith were put out of the denomination. Those faithful believers then started the Fundamentalist Presbyterian Church of Brazil, with headquarters and the majority of their churches in the northern section of Brazil. They are just beginning now but, having the same courage their brethren in the south have, they continue firmly in the historic Christian faith, proclaiming it at all times.

The number of members and of churches has increased greatly since they started. They have their own Bible School where men and women are trained for the work of God, and seven of their young people are in the States right now in preparation for the great work in Brazil.

Here is a brief picture of the present situation. These two last groups are the ones who stand firmly for the faith in a constant battle against the wiles of the devil; they are “The Sustainers of the Reformed Faith in Brazil.” What can we say about the two other groups? Do they also hold the Reformed faith? As Prof. William

R. LeRoy says: “We readily admit that they all profess to adhere to that system of doctrine contained in the Westminster Confession of Faith. But we are also aware that the modernism of today does not assume the form of the older liberalism with its open denials of the Christian faith.”1

1. Wm. R. LeRoy, “The Present Picture of Presbyterianism in Brazil,” The Reformation Review, Volume VII, October 1959, p. 51.