Friday, February 5, 2010

Two More Missions to be Discontinued in Spain and Italy


Missionaries serving in the Italy Catania Mission report that the mission will be discontinued this July. The mission will be absorbed into the Italy Rome Mission. Missionaries were notified that this consolidation will occur in part due to preparing members for the building of the Rome Italy Temple. The decision to consolidate the two missions was also likely influenced by the consolidation of the two districts on Sicily last year in preparation to create the first stake on the island. The Palermo Italy District may become a stake prior to the combining of the missions but no announcement has been made. Once the consolidation occurs there will be around 120 missionaries in the Italy Rome Mission. This consolidation will allow for greater missionary resources to be utilized in areas with more rapid growth and increase the responsibilities for local members in sharing the Gospel with others.


The Spain Bilbao Mission will be discontinued this July and a massive realignment of the three remaining Spanish missions will occur. Districts in Leon and Vigo will transfer to the Spain Madrid Mission and the Vitoria Spain Stake will become part of the Spain Barcelona Mission. The Canary Islands will become part of the Spain Madrid Mission and the Elche Spain Stake, La Mancha Spain District, and a couple mission branches will belong to the Spain Malaga Mission. Missionaries were very surprised about this change considering that the Spain Bilbao Mission had its most successful year in 20 years as the first stake within the mission was created and convert baptisms were up 81% from 2008 in 2009. The Spain Barcelona Mission also had a very successful year as measured by convert baptisms with 402 baptisms. The missions in Madrid and Malaga have also seen good success in the past year. The decision to combine the decision is an inspired one which has come as a result of greater leadership development and maturity among the local members. The establishment of the first stake in northern Spain was a result of local members taking greater responsibility in conducting the Church.

Below I have the letter from the mission president of the Spain Malaga Mission informing missionaries concerning the changes.

The First Presidency has determined that on 1 July 2010 the Spain Bilbao Mission will be dissolved and the boundaries of the Spain Barcelona and Spain Madrid Missions will be realigned to include the areas now served by the Spain Bilbao Mission. President Richard R. Clegg (from the Bilbao Mission) will be the new mission president of the Spain Málaga Mission. In conjunction with these changes, the Elche Stake (from the Barcelona Mission) and La Mancha district (from the Madrid Mission) will be associated with the Spain Málaga Mission. The Canary Islands (Las Palmas de Gran Canaria Spain District) will be associated with the Spain Madrid Mission presided over by President Watkins.

This consolidation, together with many others, will be announced in the Church News on 13 February 2010. While these changes will impact certain missionaries this summer, the move will not affect our role as missionaries to baptize worthy converts. Rather, it is a reflection of the great success which we are experiencing in the growth of the Church in Spain.

This is an exciting and positive move as the Church continues to expand throughout the earth and as ward and stake leaders and members take a more active role in missionary work and the growth and development of the Church in Spain. It is an inspired response to a number of important changes in the work in Spain.

First of all, as you well know, the number of missionaries worldwide and the number of missionaries serving in Spain has been decreasing. This decrease is driven largely by a reduction in the total number of 18 and 19-year-olds in the population throughout North America and Europe. We started our mission with 120 missionaries and by July will have 74. Other missions are going through similar reductions. Overall, the number of missionaries serving in Spain will be less than 300 this year. This is a dramatic decrease from several years ago when we had nearly 800 missionaries in five missions in Spain.

Second, the growth of the stakes in Spain has reduced the amount of Church administration done by the missions. Before the creation of the Madrid Stake in 1982, mission presidents served as the ecclesiastical leaders of all members of the Church in Spain. With the recent creation of the 10th stake in the country - the Spain Vitoria Stake, created out of the Bilbao District of the Spain Bilbao Mission - most Church members now live in stakes led by local stake presidents, and missions have responsibility for fewer mission districts.

Finally, in 2002 the First Presidency announced certain changes which gave stake presidents and bishops the responsibility for missionary work in their stakes and wards. The stake presidents and bishops in Spain have taken on that new responsibility in a very effective way, so that even with the reduction in full-time missionaries, the work of baptizing worthy converts has increased dramatically.

We are excited about this coming change and what it says about the growth of the Church in Spain. While we look forward to welcoming into our mission the great missionaries and members of the La Mancha District and Elche Stake, we will deeply miss the wonderful missionaries and members of the Canary Islands. We know that this inspired change will help the work move forward in a country which we all love deeply. I have had the tender privilege of knowing and working alongside Presidents and Sisters Clegg and Watkins. I am confident those of you who will share that privilege will be greatly blessed by their dedication and love. I invite you to include them in your prayers now as they anticipate and prepare for these new assignments.

May God bless each of you with continued success in this great work of gathering the children of our Father in Heaven into His Kingdom through the waters of baptism.


Tom said...

I must admit, the decline in the number of missionaries over time is something that is worrying me in regards to future church growth.

Its obviously a demographical thing. To fix the problem, I suppose more resources should be directed at strengthening ward member missionary programs to fill in the gap.

Ray said...

Matt, Can you tell us how many missions are scheduled so far to be closed this July and how many new ones will be opened? If I remember correctly, there is a new mission planned for central Africa.

Spain is slated to have one mission consolidated but it has the best growth record of Europe, at least for 2008. For that year there was an increase of 1,433, or 3.3%. The UK actually had a larger increase of 1,916, but the growth rate was only 1.1%

Matt said...

So far I can confirm three will be discontinued which are:

Italy Catania
Ohio Cincinnati
Spain Bilbao

I can confirm two will be created in:

DR Congo (Lubumbashi or Cameroon?)
Nicaragua Managua (II)

I wouldn't be surprised if we see several more mission consolidations and maybe another new mission or two. Places where more missionaries are needed include Africa, Asia (which has been difficult as many countries are unwilling to be cooperative in providing visas), and Central and South America.

2009 saw some pretty impressive growth for many missions which have seen little increases in baptisms over the years. The New Zealand Auckland Mission had a record of 1,094 convert baptisms in 2009. Missions in New Mexico and Arkansas also set records for convert baptisms in 2009. These missions may see increases in the number of missionaries serving, or may see a decline as local Church leaders take greater responsibility in missionary work.

Matt said...

Actually, what will increase full time missionaries in the future would be to strengthen the current Single Adult program of the Church so more singles can get married and have children which will mean more FT missionaries.

Currently in California over 45% of the Adult membership of the Church is single with many going inactive.

To help stregthen singles, here's the Mixed Midsingles/Family Ward approach we have been doing here and on the East Coast and soon in other areas of the world.

Matt said...

Here's the letter sent to missionaries from the mission president of the Italy Milan Mission concerning the consolidation of the three missions into two.

One of the signs that the Church is maturing in a country is a reduction in the number of missions. As the number of stakes increase and as the local leadership matures, the need for large numbers of missionaries and missions is reduced. We have arrived at a point in Italy where the need for three missions is no longer necessary. For this reason, the First Presidency has determined that the number of missions in Italy will be reduced from three to two. On July 1, 2010 the Catania Mission will be disolved and become part of the Rome Mission. The Rome and Milan Mission boundaries will be adjusted so that the Firenze District (which consists of the Toscana region) will become part of the Milan Mission. This change is being announced to all priesthood leaders in Italy this week and will be published in the Church News on February 13.

These changes are a sign of the growth of the Church in this land and will result in the Lord's work moving forward at an even greater pace. This past year, the number of baptisms in Italy has increased significantly. I am confident as each of us does our best to focus on the Lord's work and consecrate all of our efforts in finding, teaching and baptizing, we will see many more miracles. I encourage you to seek the Lord's guidance as to what you can do to continue in our effort to take his work to the next level.

I am grateful for each of you and the dedicated, faithful service you are giving.

Tanti calorosi saluti,
Presidente Dunaway

Interesting to note that both northern/eastern Spain and Italy are seeing increases in baptisms and are seeing a mission reduction.