The first resident missionary to today's Kiribati came with some Hawaiian pastors in 1857, through the American Board of Commissioners for Foreign Mission (ABCFM). 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 - the larger part of the British Gilbert and Ellice Islands colony - became independent as the Republic of Kiribati. It was changed again to Kiribati Uniting Church at its general assembly in 2014, following the integration of other denominational families, including Congregationalists, Evangelicals, Anglicans and Presbyterians. The Kiribati Uniting Church now represents approximately one-third of the population of Kiribati.
The Kiribati Protestant Church is actively involved in youth and Sunday school progammes, 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.