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The Episcopal Church in the Dominican Republic
One Hundred Years

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The Church's Centennial Year in the Dominican Republic

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Iglesia Episcopal Dominican - Seal of the Episcopal DioceseOn August 8th, 1997 the Dominican Episcopal Church celebrates its one hundredth birthday. As with most of the Spanish speaking Caribbean, migrants from the British West Indies brought their Anglican faith with them as they took up residence in their new lands, frequently carrying their bibles and prayer books under their arms as they walked off the ship.

Specifically, and with respect to the Dominican Republic, Bishop James Theodore Holly, Anglican Bishop of the Apostolic Orthodox Church of Haiti, ordained the Rev. P. Benjamin Isaac Wilson priest on the August 8, 1897. Rev. Wilson founded Holy Trinity Church in San Pedro de Macoris, which served a home base to start other mission during the rest of his life. The Dominican Episcopal Church remained under the supervision of the Haitian Orthodox Church until the Haitian Church voted in 1913 to become a missionary district of the American Episcopal Church, and later part of Province IX.

American missionaries William Wiley and James Beer served in the Dominican Republic beginning in 1918, respectively founding the Church of the Epiphany in Santo Domingo, and San Esteban in San Pedro de Macoris and many missions in the surrounding sugar mills. The Rev. Thomas Basden, born in the British West Indies but a life-long resident of the Dominican Republic, ably served from the early 1920’s for 50 years as the spiritual leader and evangelist for the growing Dominican Episcopal Church. For the first 55 year most services were conducted in English, but change began with a new round of missionaries headed by the Revs. Philip Wheaton, James Douglas and William Wipfler in the 1950’s, whose goal was to "nationalize" the Church. The Rt. Rev. Paul Kellogg became the first resident Bishop, and sought to solidify the Church’s expansion. The Rt. Rev. Telesforo Isaac became the first Dominican-born Bishop in 1972, and the Rt. Rev. Julio C. Holguin Khoury followed him in 1991.

The process of nationalization of the Dominican Episcopal Church is now more of less complete, and under strong national leadership. Since 1991 the Church has doubled the number of missions and the number of clergy, and significantly reduced its dependence upon operational funds from the American Episcopal Church. Bishop Holguin describes the present-day Dominican Episcopal Church as undergoing renewal and poised for significant growth. There is a real dynamism and sense of mission among the priests, with most serving two or three missions.

-reprinted from the Caribbean Palms. Vol 4. No 2 August , 1997. A newsletter of the Dominican Episcopal Church

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