Union President is Jamaica’s
New Governor General
Adventist Patrick Allen renders national service
BY MARK A. KELLNER, News Editor
or the first time in the 47-year history of Jamaica, a Seventh-day Adventist will hold the nation’s highest office: Patrick Allen, president of the church’s West Indies Union, is expected to take office as Jamaica’s sixth Governor General in late February. Jamaican Prime Minister Bruce Golding announced his appointment in a Parliament session on January 13, 2009.
“It is astounding and I don’t think I can wrap my head around it, and I’m not sure what the Lord is doing here, but He has some Joseph and Daniel role for me to perform,” Allen told Adventist Review in a telephone interview the same day from Freeport, Bahamas, where he was helping to conduct an audit. “I’m just praying about it and making myself available for God to use me in whatever way He chooses best.”
Allen will resign his present position as West Indies Union President, and a special executive session will be held February 10 to name a successor, said Israel Leito, Inter-American Division president.
Patrick Allen [Photo: Nigel Coke/WIU/IAD]
“The church serves the community and we can do this from within the chuch organization or as individuals in other activities,” Leito said in a statement. “The appointment of Dr. Allen as Governor General of Jamaica is something historic in Jamaica and the world field. As far as memory goes, this [appointment of an Adventist pastor as a Governor General] has never happened before. But the Inter-American Division is so pleased that one of our leaders through the high standing of the church, has reached such a distinction that he could be considered for such a position.”
Leito added, “We wish Dr. Allen all the best, realizing the serious challenges he will have--to be the leader with non-political authority but still in leadership position for a whole nation. The church will always be praying for him in this position.”
Orville Parchment, assistant to the president of the General Conference of Seventh-day Adventists, said the world church leadership was happy at the news: “On behalf of Pastor Jan Paulsen, President of the Seventh-day Adventist Church, and our worldwide church family, we congratulate Pastor Allen on his new appointment. We pray for God’s continued blessing as he carries out his new civic responsibilities.”
Allen, who turns 58 on Feb. 7, replaces Sir Kenneth Hall, who was appointed Governor General in February of 2006, and who reportedly resigned for health reasons. Ironically, Sir Kenneth presented Allen with the Order of Distinction on the country’s 2006 Heroes Day for his contribution to the church and religion in Jamaica.
According to the Jamaica Information Service (JIS), the Governor General “represents the Queen on ceremonial occasions such as the opening of Parliament, the presentation of honors and military parades.”
Jamaica’s constitution gives the position additional powers, the JIS reported, including “appointing and disciplining officers of the civil service, in proroguing [dissolving] Parliament and so on, but only in [a] few cases is he empowered to act entirely on his own discretion. The Governor-General also exercises the prerogative of mercy on behalf of the Queen” including “the power to grant [a] pardon to any person who has been sentenced to death.”
Golding, who has held the Prime Minister’s office since November 2007, is married to Lorna, a Seventh-day Adventist. The Goldings are regular attendees at Adventist worship services. Allen said the church’s work to improve life in Jamaica brought his name to the leader’s attention.
“I suspect [Prime Minister Golding] has grown to appreciate the [Seventh-day Adventist] church and its function in the country over the years,” Allen said. “The church in Jamaica is very significant and playing a role in nation-building. One of our strategic roles is ‘the church in the community.’ The work we have been doing and the execution of that strategic issue has caught the attention of the government.”
Allen recounted that Golding “said to me that what he needs for the nation is what he thinks I can bring to bear: the integrity, the moral bearing and the leadership.”
A nation of 2.8 million people, Jamaica is a constitutional parliamentary democracy; which gained its independence from Britain in 1962. It remains a part of the British Commonwealth of Nations, and Queen Elizabeth II is its monarch; the Governor General represents the Queen.
PREDECESSOR GIVES AWARD: Allen was given the Order of Distinction by Governor General Sir Kenneth Hall (left) during Heroes Day in 2006, for his contribution to the church and religion in Jamaica. [Photo: Jamaica Observer]
Allen was educated at Moneague Teachers College in Jamaica, and church-owned Andrews University, where he studied for undergraduate, graduate and post-graduate degrees. He holds a Ph.D. in Educational Administration and Supervision, a Masters degree in Systematic Theology, and a Bachelors degree in History and Religion.
He is an ordained minister of the Seventh-day Adventist Church. He was elected to the position of President of West Indies Union Conference of Seventh-day Adventists in October 2000 and re-elected in 2005.
Prior to that, Allen served in many other posts within and outside of the Adventist Church. He served as President of Central Jamaica Conference, Director of Education and Family Life at West Indies Union Conference, and District Pastor. As a trained teacher he also served as principal of Schools, and Adjunct Professor at West Indies College, which is now Northern Caribbean University. Allen currently chairs NCU’s board of trustees.
“I’m extremely proud, on behalf of Andrews University, to have one of our alumni three times over be considered for this important position,” said provost Heather Knight. “As a fellow-Jamaican, I have warm thoughts about the office of Governor General. It’s held in very high esteem.”
Sir James Carlisle, who served as Governor General of Antigua for more than14 years and was knighted by Queen Elizabeth II for his service, was the first Seventh-day Adventist to hold the head of state position. “That’s wonderful news,” he responded when a reporter called to inform him of Allen’s selection.
“It’s a wonderful office of witness as well,” Sir James told Adventist Review. “Your very presence there is a witness. Most people know who Adventists are.”
Sir James added, “Jamaicans love their institutions. They have tremendous respect for their institutions. I’d be very surprised if he doesn’t have a lot of knowledge; [although] there’s nothing like doing the job.
Jamaica is not only home to the West Indies Union and church-owned Northern Caribbean University, but also claims about 11-percent of Jamaicans as members. Allen said he was conscious of his new visibility as Governor General.
“It is a great day for Adventism and also for the church in Jamaica,” Allen said. “I think the members are going to be very excited about this, and they will also come into an awareness that they are going to be … scrutinized and the searchlight will be on. It is an opportunity to witness in areas where we were not able to access easily. I think that is the most exciting part of all of it. We’ll be able to introduce our faith and learn more about who we are, especially in the higher echelons in society. It bodes well for the church.”
He conceded, “There will be some challenges, but I doubt they will be insurmountable. We have a God who is always looking out for us and He will give the wisdom.”