Robert Reid Kalley

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Robert Reid Kalley.

Robert Reid Kalley (8 September 1809 – 17 January 1888) was a Scottish physician and Presbyterian missionary notable for his efforts to spread Presbyterian views in Portuguese-speaking territories and as the introducer of Protestantism in Portugal at a time when the only religion allowed to the Portuguese citizens was Roman Catholicism.


Kalley first went to Madeira Island in 1838 with his wife, who was ill with tuberculosis. Impressed with the poverty, iliteracy and ignorance of the Madeirans, Kalley exercised Medicine gratituously and decided to teach people to read and to write. He also started to preach, importing translated versions of the Bible in Portuguese from England. He founded a small hospital and several elementary schools. The Catholic Church started to look with worry on these initiatives, since proselytism was forbidden by the Portuguese Constitutional Chart of 1826 and the Bishop of Funchal forbade Kalley's religious lectures in 1841. In 1843, the Bibles he had distributed in Madeira were forbidden, like the meetings at his home. On 8 May 1845 he founded the first Presbyterian Church of Portugal, in Funchal, ordaining presbyters and diacons, and celebrating the Supper of the Lord for 61 Madeiran converts. Since Protestantism wasn't allowed for Portuguese citizens, he faced charges of blasphemy and heresy and all the schools he had founded were closed in 1846. Some converts had to face charges of heresy, then still punished by the death penalty. Kalley sought refuge at the house of the British Counsul and had to leave the island in 1846 in disguise, heading for the United States.[1]

Kalley, biggest work, however, was in Brazil. When Kalley arrived in Brazil in 1854 it had Pedro II as its emperor, and had as its official religion Catholicism. The imperial constitution did not prohibit religious freedom, however, it did prohibit public worship to any form of religion other than Catholicism.

Despite not being the first foreign Protestant missionary in Brazilian soil, Kalley was the one who was the most fruitful among Portuguese-speaking Brazilian. In Rio de Janeiro, he founded the Igreja Evangélica Fluminense which is still today the oldest Portuguese speaking church in Brazilian soil, and in Pernambuco, the Igreja Evangélica Pernambucana[2]

Despite his previous work as a Presbyterian, before coming to Brazil he became convinced of the congregational values, so the first churches he founded were Congregational churches (like the I. E. Fluminense and I. E. Pernambucana) following the Scottish tradition of closed service. Later, after he developed and founded Congregational churches with a few doctrinal variations (like baptism by immersion) and shaped to the Brazilian culture, which was called locally as Igreja Cristã Evangélica. Crista Evangélica churches became one of the strongest denominations in Brazil until the early 1990s specially in the states of São Paulo (having its hub in São José dos Campos) and Goiás (having its hub in Goiânia and Anápolis).

He hard often arguments with the Catholic church and was for a while prohibited of preaching in Brazilian soil.[3]

Kalley became a close friend of Brazil's emperor Pedro II, with whom he often argued against slavery and prohibition of public worship.

He became a widower in Brazil, and later returned to Scotland shortly before he died.


  1. ^ Yates, Nigel (1999). Anglican Ritualism in Victorian Britain, 1830-1910. Oxford: Oxford University Press. p. 144. ISBN 0-19-826989-7, ISBN 978-0-19-826989-2.
  2. ^ Dobson, David (ed.) (2003). Scots in Latin America. Baltimore, MD: Genealogical Publishing Co. p. 62. ISBN 0-8063-5202-7, ISBN 978-0-8063-5202-2.
  3. ^ Pedro, Medeiros. "A Legislação do Brasil Império e a estratégia missionária de Robert Kalley" (PDF). Universidade Federal do Rio de Janeiro. 

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