Gradually overcome with frustration over the experiences of nearly one hundred (100) years of Adventist system of governance, the Saint Lucia field decides it is time to take matters into their own hands. They are demanding “Mission Status” – a form of territorial adjustment that they think will begin the ‘letting-go’ process. Whatever they think or feel about the experience they are having, it has never been the prerogative of the ‘dependencies’ of the Seventh-day Adventist (SDA) denomination to decide on matters of policy. This is the work of the ‘higher organization’, and no ‘trouble maker’ in the pews will change what has been established.
What makes this experience worth telling is the location, and the people involved. The church is by nature the champion of religious liberty. As they face the daily struggle to be heard, and to serve in the church, they are reminded of the Plantation System. And it wells up on the hearts of a Caribbean personality longing to be visited by the winds of change.
A great deal has happened in the lives of the people of the Organization of Eastern Caribbean States (OECS) Sub-region. Adult suffrage; independence from Great Britain – the list goes on. The capacity of the people has been raised in many ways. The light of the little “fire Fly” known to reign as king of the sky in those small, open, agricultural, commodity-oriented communities, is now displaced by lamp posts. Despite the progress made, the Administration of the SDA organization has not recognized that it is time to let go.
A simple act on the part of some of the members of asking the Criteria for territorial adjustment raises the brow of the administration. One more letter asking such questions, is one too many. Worse still is the unease caused by a meeting between the Administration and the lay evangelists looking for better conditions for their crusades. The accusations and frustrations are laid on the table in boisterous tones. The leader of the uprising has been identified. Lots fall on this particular local pastor. He must suffer the consequences, despite the appeals of the people to allow him to settle the unfinished business.
Coincidentally, an emergency meeting decides that Grenada must be granted mission status. All because of the ‘making of democracy’ by the People Republican Government (PRG). There is an invasion by outside forces. The decision is sealed.
Saint Lucia decides that the winds of change are blowing in their direction. They see the dismissal of the pastor as the perfect opportunity for demanding territorial adjustment. The timing for the journey home seems right. But a long and arduous battle ensues that lasts from 1982 to 1998.
The baby ‘born out of wedlock’ is the mechanism being introduced to take action. The three elders are up in arms. But it is only now that this ‘illegitimate’ child is born that the ‘letting go’ process gets on the way. As noted by John Leonce: “the road to Mission Status for Seventh-day Adventists on the island of Saint Lucia is paved with the asphalt of bitter tears, and the spittle of weary saints.” The Administration fights hard. The members are equal to the task: they find where it hurts. The administration takes refuge in the policy process and makes the procedures for granting mission status more onerous to fulfill. But the people are prevailing. Mission Status is granted. Religious imperialism is dealt another blow.
By Claudius ‘peto’ Francis