For All the Saints – James Theodore Holly

If you’ll forgive me for a little bit of denominational pride, or at least brand loyalty, I’d like to spend some time today speaking of the life and legacy of Bishop James Theodore Holly, missionary and Bishop to Haiti during the second half of the 19th century.

The son of former slaves, Holly stared his ministry in Detroit and was a principal figure in the African resettlement movement of the 19th century. Supporting both the movement for a return to Africa for slaves in the west and/or the establishment of a homeland on this continent, Holly quickly became aware and a proponent for the development of Haiti after its revolution threw off the colonial yoke.

At first, the Episcopal Church refused, for reasons that are both conveniently and sadly lost to the ages. Yet, Holly persisted. Once establishing a movement, even the flora and fauna of Haiti seemed to refuse – more than half of Holly’s original missionary entourage died of tropical disease during the first several years of his effort. Yet, Holly persisted.

Today, the diocese of Haiti is the single largest diocese in the Episcopal Church, edging out both the Diocese of Northern Virginia (the Episcopal heartland, so to speak) and the Diocese of Texas (among the fastest-growing and my own current diocese).

The Story of Bishop Holly’s work is Haiti is not done justice by my limited words in this blog. But in what space I’ve taken, I hope to show that what Jesus says about our need to envision the harvest all around us is true. God is out there planting in those places that we cannot, or choose not to see. Pray that God would empower each of his servants to see with the eyes and heart of James Theodore Holly the great potential of the Gospel in any time and place.


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