Change came softly on a Caribbean breeze February 26 as the nation of Jamaica installed a Seventh-day Adventist pastor as its governor-general, it’s head of state, in a ceremony attended by thousands and broadcast nationally.
Patrick Linton Allen, until recently president of the Adventist Church in the West Indies and a veteran church pastor and administrator, became the sixth governor-general as a band from the Jamaica Defense Forces played the national song and a choir from Adventist-owned Northern Caribbean University sang.
Allen was named to the position January 13, under recommendation of Jamaican Prime Minister Bruce Golding and the approval of Queen Elizabeth II, whom Allen will represent on the island. He replaces Sir Kenneth Hall, a professor and educational administrator, who is retiring for health reasons.
Allen’s new job also involves appointing and disciplining officers of the civil service, and calling or dismissing the Parliament. As the Daily Observer noted in a front-page story announcing Allen’s inauguration, his “assent is necessary for laws to come into effect” and “only in a few cases is he empowered to act on his own discretion.”
Allen is a native of Fruitful Vale, in the Portland district, and a three-time graduate of Adventist-owned Andrews University in Berrien Springs, Michigan, United States. He served as president of the Adventist Church in the West Indies since 2000, as well as serving as chairman of NCU. Pastor Derek Bignall, who gave the benediction at the installation, has succeeded Allen in both posts.
Allen is the second Adventist to serve as a governor-general in the Caribbean. The other was Sir James Carlisle, a dentist and layman, who is the former governor-general of Antigua and Barbuda, having served from 1993 to 2007.
Ceremony and tradition were hallmarks of the event. Prime Minister Golding and his wife, Lorna, an Adventist, were in attendance, along with other national dignitaries.
Allen takes office at a time of great national concern: the economy, as with much of the world’s trade, is in upheaval, with tourism and trade affected by the slowdown in the United States, Britain and Europe. Crime and violence also are issues; the morning of Allen’s inauguration brought front-page news of a violent death at a party boat in Kingston harbor.
?Jamaicans are hurting—economically, financially, socially, mentally and spiritually,? Allen said in a speech delivered at the conclusion of the ceremony. His address sounded several traditional Adventist themes, albeit in secular language.
On the continued violence in Jamaica, he said the nation has room ?for conversations ? in order to resolve our disputes without resorting to the use of violence. We have a reputation of being friendly to visitors, so why can?t we get along with each other and help each other??
?There is nothing wrong with Jamaica that cannot be fixed by what is right with Jamaica,? he said.
Prime Minister Golding said, ?our governor-general serves as an icon of national unity, someone who stands above partisan and sectoral differences, someone who embraces the entire nation and whom the entire nation can embrace.?
Earlier in the week, according to the Jamaica Information Service, the government?s news agency, Allen told Adventist leaders at Northern Caribbean University ?the decision to accept the Prime Minister’s offer was not easily reached, but was the result of much prayer and agonizing.
??We are confident that the path that we are now ready to pursue, will be alright because God is leading. It is the Lord’s doing, and not ours,?? the JIS quoted Allen as saying.
And as Allen?s remarks concluded, he offered a commitment to his nation and his people, saying, ?I believe in Jamaica. I believe in the people of Jamaica. I am committed to doing my best as I carry out my responsibilities. I am confident of the support of my wife and best friend, Patricia, as I uphold the dignity of this office, and the confidence which has been placed in me.?
Adventists have a long history in Jamaica and nearly one out of every 12 citizens is an Adventist.