The Bishop of Haiti, Bishop Duracin, will on Thursday be giving a major talk at a meeting of international partners about a new vision of the Church in Haiti. See the Haiti Connection website for details. He and his chief operating officer will make a three part presentation: A New Vision for the Diocese, A New Vision for the Diocese in Practical Terms, and A New Way of Understanding Partnerships. This may be a real breakthrough in ways to think about development towards autonomy.
The Episcopal Church of Haiti (L'Eglise Episcopale d'Haiti) has been through very difficult times and now is a time of recovery. Bishop Duracin''s charge to the Church and to the people of Haiti following the earthquake of 2010 was "stand up and walk." And having been encouraged by the reality of the church walking with the people, and walking with the confidence of the presence of God in Jesus Christ, signs of the continuing good health of the Church in Haiti are everywhere to be found. It is a church "up and walking."
Haiti may be "the poorest country in the Western Hemisphere," but that does not exhaust the conversation. The Episcopal Church in Haiti may constitute the largest diocese in TEC, but its strength is often diminished by the way in which others see it, and it sometimes sees itself - as totally dependent on the largesse of others. Neither the poverty of the country or the fragility of some of the church's institutions tell the whole tale. The strength of the community, both civil and religious, points to another possibility - that Haiti's future lies with its own people as its major asset.
That encouragement for the full expression of Haitian peoplehood takes many forms. In post earthquake discussions the question has been raised over and over again, "How can Haiti come back better?"
In the Episcopal Church of Haiti that question is now central to the plans of the Diocese. In the annual Synod of the Diocese in January Bishop Duracin first publically proposed that it was time to work to separate the current diocese into three and that in preparation for this it was time for the formal structure of the Diocese to more nearly take the form of other diocese in The Episcopal Church, with the diocese having distinct self supporting parishes and a wider circle of mission congregations.
Bishop Duracin will be addressing the Episcopal Haiti Connection, a group of over a hundred church related "partners" from outside Haiti and many of the church leaders of the Church of Haiti.
Too few remember that, with all the outside help, the church in Haiti grows from within. I visited four congregations in Haiti, including the Cathedral, whose buildings had been destroyed in the earthquake. They were all meeting for worship in temporary shelters. The congregations were alive and well. Their communities of faith are alive. The help of outside partners has been life affirming, of course, and contributed to the vitality of community life, but the core vitality of the congregations was a product of Haitians living out an incarnational understanding of church... that the gathered community is the place, not the particulars of this or that building.
We sometimes also forget that the founding dream of the Church in Haiti came from Bishop Holly who formed an independent church - The Apostolic Orthodox Church of Haiti - with profound connections to The Episcopal Church and to the community of churches that were in process of becoming the Anglican Communion. But the AOCH was a church of Haiti. When Bishop Holly was consecrated the AOCH entered into a concordat with TEC regarding episcopal oversight and what would later be called "Provincial" connection. But only after Bishop Holly died and the church in Haiti faced the issue of acquiring a new bishop did the AOCH become a missionary district of TEC. (1913) From then until now the Church in Haiti as been a diocese of TEC.
We need to remember that the original vision was of a national church, episcopally ordered in the apostolic and orthodox faith informed by TEC's and the Church of England's understanding of such orthodoxy. Over against that vision we have the continued practical idea that Haiti is a dependency of TEC. The people of the Episcopal Church of Haiti elect their own Bishop, ordain their own clergy, have a seminary, some 100,000 members and do not yet have a self-sustaining church. How much of that is simply the reality of a church in the midst of poverty and chaos and how much is a product of a co-dependency of churches?
But all that can and will change.
I hope we will be able to see transcripts of the talks given Thursday, or even have video's of them. It promises to be a watershead moment in current mission thinking. What it will be remains to be seen and heard.
Pray for Haiti and for the courage and health of The Episcopal Church of Haiti.
And, make a note: The name of the diocese is not "The Diocese of Haiti" but "the Episcopal Church of Haiti." On the letterhead of the church it then says, "Anglican Communion." This is historically correct to the beginnings - an episcopal (apostolic and orthodox) church of Haiti.
If in fact the EEdH (Eglise Episcopale d'Haiti) becomes three dioceses, the name EEdH can continue to be used to mean the Episcopal Church throughout Haiti. The several dioceses would then have different names.
Convenient history, yes?