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Topic: General Interest

2017_0205 Black Church History

February 5, 2017
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The Origins of the Anglican Church in Jamaica

The Anglican Church had a presence in Jamaica from the 1600’s when the British conquered the island from Spain and established St. Jago de la Vega church which was built on the ruins of the Spanish Church.  The church is now the cathedral, and has national and regional significance as not only is it the oldest Anglican cathedral outside of the British isles, but the site it occupies is the oldest site of continuous Christian worship in this hemisphere as a church has stood on that same spot since approximately 1538.

The Anglican Church however was the planters’ church.  It was this fact, as well as the increasing agitation of Abolitionists against slavery, and the increasing influence of other denominations on the enslaved Africans that prompted the official charter of the Diocese of Jamaica in 1824, which diocese included the Bahamas and the then British Honduras (now Belize).  

The first Bishop of the Diocese was sent from England to increase ministry to Blacks. The church however continued to be state owned - church property being owned by the state and clergy being paid by the state until 1870, when the state decided it could no longer afford the church, and the Incorporated Lay Body of the Church was established; the church became self-supporting and self-governing.

A series of bishops followed, but one young man who had gone to the Island as a Methodist missionary and who was subsequently ordained a priest in the Anglican Church became bishop in 1880 at age 38, and dominated the life of the church in Jamaica and the West Indies for the next 36 years.  It was under this bishop, Bishop Nuttall, that there was a rapid expansion in the number of churches in the Island, and The Deaconess Order was started. The deaconesses in turn started a number of schools.  It was not until 1956 however that the first black bishop was ordained, during which time the Church’s involvement in education and social work increased. The Anglican Church remains a key figure in national life, though it is struggling with the impact of an aging and diminishing membership.


The Origins of the Church of Nigeria Anglican Communion

Spread through English colonization and missionary work, the Anglican Church in Nigeria grew from a single mission established in 1842.  Under the tireless efforts of evangelists, the missionary movement took hold, so much so that by December 25, Nigerians for the first time celebrated the birth of Christ; Anglicanism had been born in Nigeria. The mission movement continued to flourish and was eventually consolidated under the leadership of one of the original evangelists – Rev. Samuel Ajayi Crowther.  In 1864 he was elected Bishop of The Niger Mission; he was the first Black bishop of the Anglican Communion.

In 1919, as Anglicanism flourished in Nigeria, the Diocese of Lagos was formed.  The Diocese then joined with four other dioceses in West Africa- Diocese of Sierra Leone, Diocese of Accra, Diocese of On The Niger (Nigeria) and Diocese of Gambia, to form the Church of the Province of West Africa; this in 1951.  Between 1951 and 1977 however, the two Nigerian dioceses gave birth to 14 new dioceses, and it became very clear that there was a need for a separate and independent church of Nigeria.  The Church of Nigeria Anglican Communion was established in 1979, with one of the Bishops of the newer dioceses being named the Archbishop Primate and Metropolitan of the Province. 

The Church continued its commitment to evangelism, with resulting phenomenal growth.  To effectively manage such a large institution, in 1997 The Church of Nigeria was divided into three provinces under the tag line – “Three Provinces One Church”, with the vision of the Church summarized as such –“The Church of Nigeria shall be Bible-based, spiritually dynamic, united, disciplined; self-supporting, committed to pragmatic evangelism, social welfare, and a church that epitomizes the genuine love of Christ.”

The Church of Nigeria remains the 2nd largest province in the Anglican Communion, with two million active attendees on any given Sunday, and is the largest growing church of the Anglican Communion.


The Origins of The Episcopal Church in Liberia

The Episcopal Church in Liberia (ECL) formally began in 1846. The Church was a direct off shoot of The Episcopal Church (TEC), through the work of American missionaries and the establishment of an episcopate in the years following. The first church was started in the Liberian state of Maryland, and missionary work spread across the country, resulting not only in the building of churches, but several schools, so that the ECL became the largest educator in Liberia.

The Church became the Missionary District of Liberia in 1913, was renamed the Episcopal Diocese of Liberia in 1970, but moved from mission church status, no longer a part of the Episcopal Church, when it joined and became a full member of the Church of the Province of West Africa in 1982. In 1979, a covenant agreement was entered into between the ECL and The Episcopal Church to establish the special and ongoing relationship between these two sister churches, as the Church in Liberia transferred from TEC to the Province of West Africa. These covenants were entered into to provide support to help propel the new provinces into the future. (The four other churches in covenant with The Episcopal Church are Philippines, Mexico, Brazil and Central America).

Various bishops led the Church over the years, including Bishop Samuel Payne, the first African-American bishop and the first bishop of Liberia, but it was not until the election of Bishop George Daniel Browne in 1970 that the Church became truly indigenized, also uniting the Afro-Liberians and the Americo-Liberians communities.

~ K. Henry


Origins of The Episcopal Church of Haiti

THE EPISCOPAL CHURCH of Haiti began in a way unlike any other church in the Anglican Communion. Never was it a church of expatriates, either British or American. It's been Haitian from its beginnings in 1863. The details of the church's founding and growth are a source of great pride to its members.

The Rev. James Theodore Holly, one of the U.S. Episcopal Church's first African-American priests, ordained in 1856 at age 27, left New Haven, Conn., for the Caribbean island with 110 emigrants in 1861. The plan was to found a sort-of colony, become citizens of the first black republic. The first year was disastrous as Holly lost nearly half his company and many members of his own family to disease. Holly remained and established Holy Trinity Church in Port-au-Prince.

Over the next 11 years, as he established more churches in the countryside and trained young men for the priesthood, he invited bishops to come and ordain his young colleagues. Holly's vision was to create a church that would be indigenous and provide education, support to the whole person.

In 1874, with the church expanding in all directions from the capital city, Holly was consecrated bishop for Haiti, but not in the usual way. ECUSA, known then as the Domestic and Foreign Missionary Society, refused to support a black missionary bishop. He turned to the American Church Missionary Society, an evangelical group within the Episcopal Church. Several member bishops consecrated him at Grace Church, New York, and he became head of what he called the Anglican Orthodox Episcopal Church of Haiti. Over the next decades until his death in 1911, Holly and his priests established elementary schools, normal schools and an agricultural school and began the medical work that the church carries on today in many parts of the country.

In 1913, two years after Holly's death, ECUSA's General Convention accepted the church in Haiti as a missionary district and consecrated a missionary bishop to lead it. Two North Americans served in that capacity, Harry R. Carson and C. Alfred Voegeli. Holy Trinity Cathedral in Port-au-Prince was constructed under Bishop Carson. The world-famous murals that adorn its sanctuary were commissioned by Bishop Voegeli and created by some of the most celebrated of Haiti's artists.

The first native-born Haitian bishop, Luc A. J. Garnier, was consecrated in 1971 at Holy Trinity Cathedral. He led the diocese until 1994, when the current bishop, Zaché Duracin, succeeded him.

Taken from The Episcopal News Service

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