It was in the early part of 1963 that the entire matter of future mission endeavor in Jamaica was discussed by the Mission Committee.
On the one hand, the committee felt that work should be continued in this field since the Lord had obviously opened the door for us to propagate among these “churches” the truth of His Word as it is precious to us. All the correspondence we received from them gave evidence of a persistent desire to receive our literature and our instruction and also to have closer contact with us. Such fundamental truths of Scripture as the infallibility of the Word, the sovereignty of God, the atoning death of God’s Son, the work of grace wrought by the Holy Spirit in our hearts, the calling to live sanctified, godly lives, and the hope of eternal glory are truths that are precious also to them. In the knowledge of these truths they desire to grow and therefore sought closer contact with us.
On the other hand, the Mission Committee also realized that there were problems involved in further labor in this field. For these “churches” had broken all relationships with any other denominations and “missionaries.” They did so the more readily because of their desire to affiliate with us. And by breaking with these churches they were compelled to adopt a new name and their ministers were forced to seek new recognition as ministers before the magistrate of Jamaica. They were no longer allowed to perform marriages or to issue baptism certificates until their ministerial status was once more established with the authorities of the island. Legally, as far as the authorities were concerned, these churches no longer existed as churches and these ministers were no longer recognized. Only by adopting a new name and by obtaining government recognition as ministers could they continue to function as churches of Jamaica.
And there was also the problem of the geographic, ethnic, and religious differences between these churches and us. Jamaica is, after all, five hundred miles south of Miami, Florida, and separated from us by the sea. Moreover, the people of Jamaica are of a different race with different customs and practices. And finally, their background is not the Calvinistic background that is so fundamental to our entire world and life view. These differences cannot be ignored. Through closer contact with each other, some of these differences can be removed, but some can disappear only in years to come, and others will never be eliminated.
Considering all these aspects of the problem, the Mission Committee decided that an indigenous church should be organized in Jamaica, institutionally separate from bur denomination, but still maintaining fraternal relationships with our churches. This fraternal relationship can include the exchange of delegates at ecclesiastical assemblies, the instruction of likely candidates for the ministry in our seminary, the sending of material for the instruction of their children, and extending aid to them, both financial and otherwise. Furthermore it was decided that anyone sent to the island should:
“1. Inquire re government regulations re setting up of denominational relation with the people of Jamaica.
“2. Observe who of the ministers on the island is the most likely candidate to come to the States for instruction in our School.
“3. Observe the reaction of the people in Jamaica re our proposal (to organize independent churches as the Protestant Reformed Churches of Jamaica) to Synod.” See Acts of Synod, 1963, page 84.
When the people of Jamaica were informed that the Mission Committee was contemplating the proposal to our Synod to continue working with the “churches” of Jamaica as independent churches, this idea was gratefully welcomed by all. From past experience they had learned to fear any association with other churches which would be of but a temporary nature. Moreover, they had learned from bitter experience that they did not care to be dominated by some dictatorial power outside of their churches. The Presbyterian form of Church Government appealed to them, both as being Scriptural and as being proper for their needs.
But in the meantime other interesting developments arose that may also be mentioned here. Personally, I feel that our churches should be well acquainted with all that has been done in Jamaica thus far, and also that they should be kept informed of all further work to be accomplished there. This is a matter that pertains to all of us, and therefore when the report is brought to the next synod and the question of future, labor in this field is considered, all our people should know what is decided and what is to be done. Therefore this little piece of history, which has no direct bearing on the developments in this field, but nevertheless belongs to the related events, should be mentioned here.
I am referring to a letter received from Rev. H.N. Morally in April of this year. This is the man who had introduced us to the churches in Jamaica, as you till recall from our previous writings. Although living in England, he still claimed these churches as his realm of labor. Therefore when he was informed of our suggestion of organizing indigenous churches on the island he wrote us as follows:
“Let me advise you that at present I have mission work on the island. Our annual conference was held there during the past month and I was elected General Superintendent, and Rev. Elliott as Assistant Supt. He carries on my duties under my instructions during my absence. We have a constitution which we obey. This work is the fruit of Rev. Elliott and myself over the years. We name it “The Bible Holiness Church of Jamaica” and our work is flourishing although self-supporting.
“I must be frank and careful in allowing a body from abroad to intervene in our work again on the island. I allowed The Evangelical Methodist Church of Penna., U.S.A., to aid my work in Jamaica: and all I received from their hands was ingratitude. However I have all confidence that your Board will not allow me to have cause for regret. Mark you, on my recommendation the churches on the island rely and once confidence is imposed on me I shall live up to their expectation and never let them down even if we are to remain self-supporting. The Evangelical Methodist Church put us on watchfulness.
“At present we have 15 churches in Jamaica with over 300 members, seven ministers and several elders and deacons and deaconesses, Brother Thompson is still with me. We have about 400 children at our Sunday Schools there. I am prepared to let your Board have the entire work on the island without delay provided however that your Board will agree to the following:
“1. That all ministers, deacons and other workers elected and serving our churches on the island will retain their present status in the Protestant Reformed Churches of Jamaica when formed.
“2. That the panel to represent the churches should on the Classis have one representative of the mother church in the U.S.A., and two representatives of the Jamaica Churches elected by their Classis to act as liaison members of the Classis of the Jamaica churches. In other words, your representative from the U.S.A. would speak for you, and our two representatives would seek the interest of the churches in Jamaica with other members of the Jamaica Classis; the three representatives to work in close unity and harmony
“In closing let me say that unless items 1 and 2 as set forth in this letter are fully agreed upon by your Board and the decision received by me after your Board meeting in June, I would not advise Mr. Elliott or any of my churches on the island to organize any Protestant Reformed Church on the island, neither would Rev. Elliott or any of our ministers take part in same. We are united and not divided. If we cannot have good grounds to affiliate on we shall not affiliate but carry on our work as we have done as the Bible Holiness Church of Jamaica. On the other hand, if your Board decides to work on the conditions herein set forth, please advise me in time so that I can get Rev. Elliott to make arrangements and to inform all workers on the island accordingly.”
Two things became very obvious from this letter. First, that whatever happened to the churches of Jamaica. Rev. Morally in England wanted to maintain his claim to these churches as his own. Moreover, this minister in England intended to use Rev. Elliott in Jamaica as his representative on the island. Immediately we informed Rev. Morally that his proposals were entirely contrary to all the rules of our Church Order and that we would have no part of it. But we also sent this letter of Rev. Morally to Rev. Frame and to Rev. Elliott in Jamaica, including our objections to his proposals. Rev. Elliott immediately informed us that he had received word from Rev. Morally demanding that he break all relationships with any churches in the States, but that he had no intention of doing this. He informed us later that he had broken with Rev. Morally and sought contact only with us.
Rev. Frame’s answer to this letter of Rev. Morally is worth quoting. He wrote:
“Your letter of May 16 came into my “hands and all the contents of the same were carefully noticed.
“I am very much surprised at hearing of such a constitution which you enclosed in the letter you sent to me. Will you reject such a constitution and have nothing to do with Rev. Morally.
“I will speak the truth in the name of Jesus, I will not lie against anyone. From the day that I was born until now I have not known Mr. Morally. I never saw him, and he also never saw me. I only heard about him. I saw Rev. Elliott fifteen years ago. From that time on I never saw him again. I will not affiliate with men professing that they are Christians and resort to lies. I have never been to any meeting where Morally was selected as organizer of any church. I would that you and your Board should not affiliate with Mr. Morally. He is only seeking money, and to have the rule over others. He is a hireling and not a shepherd. Some of the churches he mentions in his letter are in the Evangelical Methodist Church, the others are in the Bible Holiness Church. Will you, please, let them remain there they are. I wish that you and your Board would not recognize Mr. Morally in the Protestant Reformed Churches. I have six churches on the island and we are interested in having someone from the Protestant Reformed Churches visit us. I am in full agreement with the idea that we should become an independent, self-governing church in Jamaica. I will not agree with the idea of having two representatives of the church of Jamaica and one from the States. Will you and your Board rely on me to make the necessary preparations for organizing the Protestant Reformed Church in Jamaica? I wish that you and your Board would not recognize the constitution they sent you. We will not have fellowship with Morally. Please notice the conclusion of Rev. Morally’s letter, that if your Board would not agree with his conditions he would not advise any of his churches to organize into a Protestant Reformed Church of Jamaica. It seems as if Morally wants to overrule your Board. I wish that you, would see his motives, and have nothing further to do with them, for he is not a shepherd but a hireling. I am yours in Jesus’ Name, Rev. J.E. Frame.”
This letter speaks for itself. In the meantime, the next synod was about to convene. But more about that next month.