At long last a bit of news from Jamaica in the Standard Bearer! Perhaps that is what is said by many of-the readers when this little dispatch comes to their mail-box. There is more than one reason why news is slow in forthcoming. In the first place, “news” has to be made, and that takes time. Then, too, not everything that might be considered news should be published in a magazine which travels as far as does the Standard Bearer. All things may be permissible, but all things do not edify. Furthermore, one must be a bit detached from the news to write objectively. When certain situations and attempts at solutions are very real and recent yet, one is liable not to see things in perspective. However, we do feel that we can now write a bit of news about Jamaica which not only satisfies mere curiosity, but which also will give some indication of the depth and breadth of our work here from a reformatory point of view. We will write about what happened at a church situated at Hope Hill, which church is about four miles up the mountain from White House, near the sea on the southern part of the island.
What we write concerning this church may serve as a “Case Study” which is rather symptomatic of the entire life of the churches on the island. One robin does not make a summer, it is true. Yet, we are here dealing with a certain basic pattern, which happens over and over, in greater or lesser degree.
Hope Hill was a church which was with the group of churches here on the island known as “The Protestant Reformed Churches in Jamaica” from the very beginning. When Rev. C. Hanko visited the island with elder Meulenberg, and when he spoke in Islington, also Hope Hill trekked across the island by mini-bus to hear him preach on “My sheep hear my voice . . .” Of course, this was a good sermon, good enough for Rev. Elliott to say, “There is only one truth, this is it.” And the people of Hope Hill said, “If minister say it is good, it is good for us.” And that was the beginning of our contact with the people of Hope Hill. Rev. Elliot was “minister” there for nine or ten years. However, he was not installed in office there. He was there only by agreement to “minister” to their needs, which came down to a visit once in four to six weeks to baptize and to “give Supper.” In reality Rev. Elliott was not as much a preacher there as were the two elders, W. Reid and McGennis. These were on the pulpit “preaching” every Sunday when Elliott was not there. Fact is, that prior to our contacting Hope Hill, these two men had been promised to be made ministers if they served well as elders as a certain award. It would be an emblem of having come to “higher grace.”
As time went on, Rev. Elliott more and more changed in his preaching. He no longer preached the Pentecostal-Holiness-Arminian teaching of the “second benefit,” the so-called “subsequent” grace which must be attained by much spiritual effort, fasting, praying, with the singing of the choruses, its rhythmic beat and the dances. Fact is, that he preached against all this as being sinful “superstitiousness.” And this lasted until the people of Hope Hill could take it no more. What really triggered things was that Rev. Elliott refused to baptize the children of girls of the congregation, who left home, church, and sought work elsewhere and then came home with their illegitimate children to be baptized either by themselves or by their mothers, godfathers, and godmothers. Rev. Elliott insisted that the young mothers confess their sins of adultery and unfaithfulness. This brought the mothers, grandmothers, and others into rebellion. It was a special thorn in the flesh of the church-mother! She allegedly condoned such sins of the young girls in the congregation—she who was a woman, who had received (sic) a vision to gather a church there, a woman to whom the Lord had given two elders. And these elders agreed with the church-mother. One of the elders had a grand-daughter who was involved. Small wonder that Rev. Elliott’s star went down in total eclipse very fast and permanently in Hope Hill.
Rev. Elliott was informed one Saturday by elder Reid, before he came off the bus, that he was not welcome in Hope Hill any more; that Lord’s Supper would not be served by him, and that Hope Hill was leaving the body.” Rev. Elliott was informed that Rev. Lubbers would be informed by Hope Hill about this, their decision. This letter never arrived; but undersigned sent a note to them, telling them that a committee would come and meet with them on September 19 at 11:00 A.M.; that the entire congregation should be present. We informed Hope Hill that the Revs. Frame and Ruddock, elders J. Reid and A.A. Wright would be the Committee. We also wrote, “Rev. Elliott will be there, but not as a member of the committee.” And I also wrote, “I hope to be accompanied by Rev. Cornelius Hanko from the United States, who will be spending three Sundays here on the island, visiting all the churches.”
On the specified date we met at Hope Hill. We trekked a mile across mountain trails, hills and deep ravines from our parked car. Certain allegations against Rev. Elliott were heard, aired, and judged of. None of these grievances was of any consequence; they were mere petty bickerings! However, there was one testimony which was very telling. It was a little speech by elder McGennis, which the following three points will sum up neatly:
1. That in his opinion Rev. Elliott had preached the good Word of God while in their midst. That he must say.
2. That nevertheless he did not desire Rev. Elliott any more.
3. That he and elder Reid both desired to become ministers in the church at Hope Hill, to baptize, and give Lord’s Supper. He felt that he was qualified, whereas he had arrived now at “higher grace.” And this was according to what Rev. Elliott had promised them many years ago.
In fairness to Rev. Elliott, it must be said that upon being questioned, he admitted such a promise could have been made, but only before there were Protestant Reformed Churches in Jamaica. At any rate, such was the issue in Hope Hill. And this was the break with the Protestant Reformed) Churches in Jamaica in essence. It was opposition to change, and it was rebellion which is as the sin of witch-craft. The threefold earmarks of the church were not desired; they were rejected.
This ought to be clear from the “five points” which the Committee adopted with the advice of Rev. Hanko and the undersigned. Here follow the points:
1. That since the Hope Hill Congregation professes to be in agreement with the truth as maintained in the Protestant Reformed Churches and as taught by the Rev. Elliott, we urge them to continue faithfully and steadfastly in our fellowship.
2. That due to the strained relationship between Rev. Elliott and the Hope Hill congregation, in which he never was installed as a minister, we advise that Rev. Elliott agree to discontinue his labors here.
3. That the Hope Hill congregation agrees to have Rev. Lubbers come here as often as possible to establish them in the doctrine and walk in Christ according to the Scriptures and as taught in the Protestant Reformed Churches in Jamaica.
4. We advise the two elders to labor faithfully as ruling elders over the flock of Jesus Christ, but that they cannot be teaching elders or ministers in the churches.
5. And, finally, we advise Ethel Taylor that Scripture knows nothing about a church-mother as special office in the church. Let her labor faithfully in the office of believer along with all the others according to humility of faith and trust in God.
This advice was read to the congregation, and then Mrs. Taylor rose to assert that it was “she” who had had a vision concerning this church. She had had these faithful elders with her, and now she desired them to be ministers. These would receive her permission. Here was the “power behind the throne.” It is a vicious power which makes it impossible to have true officebearers worthy of the name.
What was done by Hope Hill? These decisions were sent to them; and they held a meeting, and the following letters tell what was done.
Hope Hill District
White House P.O.
Oct. 11, 1972
Dear Rev. Lubbers,
Greetings to you in the precious Name of Jesus Christ, hoping when this letter reaches your loving hand it may find you in the best of health.
Dear Sir, from we receive your letter me of myself agree with the five points. But few of the brethren don’t agree. But I don’t decide to leave this body, the Protestant Reformed Church and would like to find out if elder Reid and Elder McGennis will not stay in the church if you, Rev. Lubbers, will come and with who you desire, and brother Williams (a student G.L.) to come to the church. I should really (be) glad. And I am faithfully, Ethel Taylor.
Such was the reaction, independent reaction of Mrs. Taylor. However, elder Reid wrote for the group as follows:
Hope Hill District
White House P.O.
September 28, 1972
Dear Rev. Lubbers,
Complement of the Season. I hoping all is well with you both. Your letter I have received and also your gift. Dear sir, the good Lord bless you for it.
We have also read your points, and meet (met) together concerning it. Dear Sir, we have also (are also) satisfied with a part. But coming down to the end all the Brethren dissgree (disagree). So I am sorry that we could not agree with everything.
I am your same, faithfully,
It is quite obvious that this letter is typically Jamaican, which is never exactly forthright and to the point. However, the last two points of the five of the Committee were unacceptable. Upon questioning them in a letter concerning what had actually been decided we received the following missive from elder Reid.
Hope Hill District
White House P.O.
November 14, 1972
Dear Rev. Lubbers,
Complement of the session and hoping all is well with you. Please, sir, your letter I have received and was carefully read it, hearing all what you say, sir. Please, sir, I should answer you both before now but I was waiting and the Brethren to decide before I answer you.
So we are finally decided to leave the body of the reformed body.
Please, sir, the good lord bless you all what good you have done to us all. And now Hope Hill is now quite (has quit) the body.
So please see you need not to come again, or to sent (send) anyone. Thank you. Well, I remain the your game brother in Christ,
Willam A. Reid
This was the fruit of all the labors of Rev. Elliott, of emissaries, and of the undersigned. It was the particular fruit of the Committee and the advice of Rev. C. Hanko. It was a Jamaican “no” of unbelief to the positive preaching and an attempt at reformation in their midst. It was a rejection of the office-bearers of Christ who would have the “key-power” in the preaching, and the exercise of the keys of the Kingdom in very deed. But it was not labor in vain in the Lord, for we are always victorious. Hope Hill has returned to the mire of the superficial and false holiness of the Pentecostal-Holiness-Arminian which prates about holiness but does not will to hear the poor-sinner Gospel of justification of the ungodly. It is the teaching of works, the leaven of Phariseeism, which has never had any power toward true holiness, but only unto self-righteousness. This holiness-teaching knows nothing concerning the true conversion which is the putting off of the old man and the putting on of the new man. Such are enemies of the Cross of Christ!
At the present time we have now been having some outdoor services on Sunday Morning near Hope Hill in Peterville. Here student Williams lives. The first time there we preached to some thirty-five people on Genesis 1. Six people, were present from the Hope Hill Church. Perhaps there is a remnant here who believe. We shall see. We know that our guiding-star is, “As many as were ordained unto eternal life believed.”
All churches are not as here. But there are others who walked in this same pattern: Cambridge, Shrewsbury. We may have more to say about Shrewsbury another time. May this essay have served as a “Case Study” of the negative fruit of our preaching and presence on the island.