Partnership with the Jamaica Baptist Union
For more than 200 years, we have had a close partnership with the Jamaica Baptist Union
The story begins with George Liele, a freed slave from Savannah who was around 50 years of age when he arrived in Jamaica as the first ‘unofficial missionary.’ By 1791 he had baptised 400 people and built a church with a membership of 450 enslaved Africans. Liele also launched a mission movement that reached from Georgia to Jamaica; and spanned from Jamaica to Sierra Leone and Nova Scotia.
In 1794 the British establishment banned Liele from preaching; having been charged with ‘uttering dangerous and seditious words.’ During his imprisonment, his co-labourers Moses Baker and George Gibb developed his legacy.
Moses Baker penned a letter to the Baptist Missionary Society in Britain, inviting the organisation to support the work on the island. In 1814, John Rowe answered the call - thus paving the way for Baptist churches to be planted throughout the island. More than two hundred years later, Jamaican and British Baptists continue to engage in mission work together.
In 2012 a team of four from Britain were invited as delegates to the Sam Sharpe Conference in Jamaica. At a meeting, held at the United Theological College of the West Indies, a bicentenary proposal was discussed. The rest, as they say, is history.
A message from Karl Johnson - General Secretary, Jamaica Baptist Union
The Jamaica Baptist Union celebrates the ways in which a partnership with British Baptists, has grown over the last 200 years. Withstanding the test of time, our friendship represents a powerful testimonial of mutuality, collaboration, respect and continuity. Like any longstanding partnership there were, and will be, moments of disagreement, misunderstanding and even tension, but true friendships are usually robust enough to withstand those threats and today we have much more to celebrate than commiserate about how God has led us over these two centuries.
We are grateful that in recent years this friendship has enjoyed a kind of ‘revival’, primarily linked to the journey you have been on arising out of the Apology
. We thank God for the opportunity to accompany you on that journey in search of wholeness and harmony in racial and multi-cultural relationships and pledge to be ‘as Christ to you’ in pursuit of that goal.
A message from Lynn Green – General Secretary, Baptist Union of Great Britain
The story of the relationship between the Jamaican Baptist Union and British Baptists holds within it moments of lament alongside the many things we want to celebrate. The willing response of John Rowe and the Baptist Missionary Society to serve Jamaican Baptists in establishing a Union is a model of mission that we continue to aspire to today.
There is great thankfulness for all the ways that Jamaican Baptists have supported and shaped the development of Baptist life in the UK over many years. The reality that many Jamaican Baptists, particularly of the ‘Windrush Generation’, did not always receive a warm welcome in some of our churches is a cause for lament for British Baptists today, yet honest reflection on the past is enabling the Lord to speak to us in the present and for the future; The Apology
of 2007 is a demonstration of this. What remains clear is that our partnership is as significant for the future as it has been in the past. In an increasingly multicultural context, British Baptists need partners like the Jamaica Baptist Union to help us come closer to God’s heart for his church and to fulfil his Great Commission. Together we long for God’s coming Kingdom on earth as it is in heaven.