The Kiribati Protestant Church
The Kiribati Protestant Church is a Congregationalist Protestant Christian denomination in Kiribati. With approximately 40,000 members the church is the second-largest religious group in Kiribati and accounts for approximately 36 percent of the population of the country.
The first resident missionary to Kiribati came with Hawaiian pastors in 1857, through the American Board of Commissioners for Foreign Mission. They settled in Northern Kiribati and established a school to teach young people to read and write. Although their success in evangelization was limited, their greatest contribution was the translation of the Bible, completed in 1893 and the translation of Christian hymns into the Kiribati language. In 1870 a number of Samoan missionaries came with a missionary from the London Missionary Society (LMS) to Southern Kiribati. A boarding school, a training institution for pastors and a printing press were established in 1900. The ABCFM finally left in 1917 and entrusted all the schools and churches in Northern and Central Kiribati to the London Missionary Society. In 1920 local pastors started to help the Samoan pastors in the evangelization and recruiting for pastors from Samoa gradually ended. By 1945, after World War II, the local pastors gradually took over from the Samoans and started to prepare plans for autonomy which culminated at the first general assembly of the Gilbert Island Protestant Church in 1968. The name changed to Kiribati Protestant Church in 1979 when the Gilbert Islands became independent as the Republic of Kiribati.
The Kiribati Protestant Church is actively involved in youth and Sunday school programs, women’s activities, mission to seamen (a joint venture with the Roman Catholic Church), chaplaincy work, vocational training for young men and women, and secondary schools. The pastors of the church are trained at Tangintebu Theological College.
At present the KPC has over 20 female ministers and over 100 male ministers and over 20 lay preachers. There are over 30 ministers who are engaged with the administrative, managerial, bishopric, theological, church education, chaplaincy and missionary work. The majority of church members are ordinary fishermen and copra cutters. Membership is increasing and churches in villages are also expanding. The experience is vividly seen in most churches on the capital Tarawa on Sundays and other church functions. Thus, huge maneaba (halls) have been used instead of church buildings to accommodate worshippers on Sunday.