By Mark Michael
The Rt. Rev. Juan David Alvarado, Bishop of El Salvador, was elected Archbishop and Primate of the Anglican Church in Central America at a provincial synod held in Guatemala City on April 29. He will serve a term of four years as leader of the province, and succeeds the Most Rev. Julio Murray, Bishop of Panama.
The Anglican Church in Central America, often known by its Spanish acronym IARCA, consists of five national dioceses: Costa Rica, El Salvador, Guatemala, Nicaragua and Panama. It was constituted as an independent province of the Anglican Communion in 1998. The province has around 35,0000 members, in a mostly Roman Catholic and Pentecostal region of 30.1 million people.
Alvarado, 60, has served as Bishop of El Salvador since 2015, the second native Salvadoran to serve in this role. A native of Antiguo Cuscatlán, a municipality just outside San Salvador, the national capital, Alvorado is a graduate of San Salvador’s Instituto Tecnológico Centroamericano. He is married to the Rev. Irma Alvarado, and they have two children.
The Diocese of El Salvador has 18 congregations and about 3,000 members. It partners with the Dioceses of Guatemala and Honduras in the LoveLight Initiative, a project focused on ministering to migrants uprooted by social and economic instability across the region. The diocese has also been active in advocating for an end to physical punishment in the country’s justice system and for increased use of renewable energy. The diocese’s Sexual Diversity Ministry recently opened St. Marta’s, a shelter for LGBT teenagers in San Salvador, the first resource of its kind in the country.
Anglicanism in the region served by the province originated with the ministry of the English Society for the Propagation of the Gospel in the 1740’s in the short-lived British colony of Miskitia (Mosquito Coast) colony, part of which was located in present-day Nicaragua. Mission work across the five nations was undertaken later by the Episcopal Church, first as chaplaincies to the region’s English-speaking diplomatic and business communities, and then among Caribbean Anglican immigrants and local populations.
The five national dioceses were initially created by the Episcopal Church. Panama is the oldest, founded in 1919 out of mission efforts associated with the building of the Panama Canal. The other four were established in the late 1960’s.
When the IARCA was founded, the Diocese of Honduras chose to remain part of the Episcopal Church. With 39,000 members, it is larger than the five dioceses of IARCA combined, and is, by far, the largest diocese in the Episcopal Church’s Province IX (whose five other dioceses are in South America and the Caribbean).
The Diocese of Belize, located in what was formerly the colony of British Honduras, was established through the Society for the Propagation of the Gospel’s mission work. It was the established church of the former colony for several decades, has 31 parishes and 20 schools, and is a constituent diocese of the Church in the Province of the West Indies.