December 2, 2010 – Mandeville, Jamaica…Lawrie Henry/JAMU
After 104 years of its existence West Indies Union Conference is no more. The solemn and historic Ceremony of Separation took place at Northern Caribbean University 9NCU) on Monday, November 29, 2010. In her place are two new unions: the Jamaica Union Conference (JAMU) and the Atlantic Caribbean Union Mission (ACUM).
The solemn and historic dissolution of the West Indies Union took place at Northern Caribbean University on Nov. 29, 2010. In her place are two new unions: the Jamaica Union Conference (JAMU) and the Atlantic Caribbean Union Mission (ACUM).
In his proclamation, President of the Inter American Division of Seventh-day Adventists, Pastor Israel Leito, explained that the move is not to be seen as a division. “This is the church, we are one, and regardless of administrative decisions, it does not break the church apart. The Seventh-day Adventist Church does not divide; we reorganize. So this process is not a process of division, it is a process of reorganization. It is one church, one spirit, one Lord.”
According to Pastor Leito, reorganization carries several benefits with it that will promulgate the growth and development of the Seventh-day Adventist Movement. He furthered, “We reorganize to achieve objectives and to strengthen what we have gathered thus far. The reorganization of the church has many advantages. It brings administration closer to the church, gives more participation to the laity of the church and it helps the church to respond more rapidly to challenges it may face. It provides the church with this great incentive of listening to the grassroots and working with the grassroots better.”
The decision was taken by the General Conference to carry out a reorganization, after it was decided that the territory had reached a stage of maturity and could manage greater responsibility. The Jamaica Union will function with as much autonomy as the West Indies Union had, while the Atlantic Caribbean Union Mission will function under the direct oversight of the Inter-American Division. This means that its executive officers will be selected by the Inter-American Division, while departmental directors are selected by the membership. Under this arrangement, the executive officers of the ACUM have already been selected and are as follows:
President: Pastor Leonard Johnson, formerly President of the Bahamas Conference
Secretary: Pastor Peter Kerr, formerly President of the Turks and Caicos Islands Mission,
Treasurer: Roderick Sands, formerly Treasurer of the North Bahamas Conference.
The separation ceremony saw master guides lowering the flags of each territory of ACUM, to the singing of their respective national anthems. Former President of the West Indies Union Pastor Derek Bignall, received the flags. The flags were then passed from Pastor Bignall to Pastor Leito, and then to president of ACUM, Leonard Johnson, symbolic of the responsibility being placed on the new Union Mission.
West Indies Union assets have been divided between both new Unions. ACUM received its assets which will allow it to build a Union Office and to begin operations.
Special arrangements were made for the Andrews Memorial Hospital and the Northern Caribbean University, both formerly owned by the West Indies Union. It was decided that ownership of the hospital be transferred to the Jamaica Union, and that the building remain at its current location in Kingston Jamaica.
The Northern Caribbean University will be co-owned and co-operated by both Unions. To cement this decision, stakeholders signed a document titled ‘the NCU Accord’.
As quoted by Secretary of the West Indies Union, Glen Samuels, The accord states-
“…Be it resolved that the Jamaica Union Conference and the Atlantic Caribbean Union Mission agree to jointly support Northern Caribbean University financially according to policy and a spirit of generosity as was done by West Indies Union Conference, and to continue the relationship with Northern Caribbean University jointly, appointing members to the Board of Governors and cooperating on all other matters that pertain to the sustainable advancement of the University.”
Pastors Derek Bignall, Leonard Johnson, Israel Leito, and President of Northern Caribbean University, Dr. Herbert Thompson, affixed their signatures to the document, officially establishing NCU as the provider of Seventh-day Adventist tertiary education to ACUM and JAMU. Pastor Leito noted that it was agreed that no new University be established in ACUM.
Name WIU to be preserved
During the deliberations concerning the reorganization, Pastor Leito noted that he was reluctant to see the name West Indies Union disappear totally. A plan was therefore formulated to preserve the name for generations to come.
“West Indies Union will be no more, but Northern Caribbean University has come to the rescue and the name West Indies Union will not perish from the face of the earth. I can come to a church called the West Indies Union Memorial Church”.
The church is to be built on the main campus of NCU in Mandeville, Jamaica, and will house archives relating to the work and impact of the West Indies Union.