From the outset in 1821 Methodist preaching bore fruit among the aku people - freed slaves and their descendants - in Bathurst (now Banjul) but there were fewer converts upriver and among the largely Muslim indigenous Gambians. Among the first missionaries there were early casualties, such as William Bell in 1823, who only survived three weeks.
The Methodist community never numbered more than two thousand but ran significant educational and medical work in twelve schools and five clinics, as well as an agricultural project. In 1956 there was a reported membership of 1,200 with a community roll of 1,800. By 2007 Gambian Methodism was the only remaining overseas District of the British Conference, with a reported membership of 1,230 and a community roll of 2,234. The Conference of 2008 approved arrangements for the autonomy of the Methodist Church in The Gambia in May 2009. In 2010 the Rev. Professor Peter Stephens was consecrated as its first Bishop, handing over to its first native bishop two years later.
Entry written by: JRP
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