given the historical context along with an assessment of his contributions to the broader theological enterprise.
Each presenter addressed how Roberts’ commitment to liberation and reconcilia- tion in his early theological constructions contributed to the life and witness of the academy and the church. The different per- spectives of the presenters yielded robust discussion, varieties of interpretation, and invited thoughtful questions and conversa- tion from the attendees.
Pioneer Baptist Missionary Presenters at a forum on the work,
mission and legacy of George Liele
declared him the first Baptist missionary. Liele, a freed slave from the United States, planted the first Baptist church in Jamaica in 1783.
Noel Erskine, professor at the Candler
School of Theology at Emory University in Atlanta in the United States, said that “with his migration to Jamaica in 1783, Liele became America’s first missionary, 33 years before Adoniram Judson sailed for Burma and 10 years before William Carey of England sailed for India.” Liele, who was ordained in 1775, is
also regarded as the first black person in the US to be ordained a Baptist pastor, and likely the first black Baptist pastor in the world. He planted churches in Savannah, Georgia. His ministry in the US influenced others
who went on to do significant Baptist work, including David George, baptized by Liele and who left Savannah for the Canadian Province of Nova Scotia and then later to Sierra Leone in Africa, where he started Baptist churches in both countries. Others included Jesse Peters in South Carolina, Hannah Williams in England and Andrew Bryan in Savannah. Moses Baker, another freed slave from the US who was converted under Liele’s ministry in Jamaica, was instrumental in starting Baptist work in the western part of the island. Liele had concentrated his work in the capital Kingston and surrounding areas in the east.
According to Horace Russell, retired professor of historical theology at Palmer Theological Seminary near Philadelphia in the US, aspects of Liele’s model for ministry were adopted by the British missionaries who arrived in Jamaica early in the 19th century in response to appeals for assistance with the growing Baptist work on the island.
14 BAPTIST WORLD MAGAZINE
Jamaican Revolutionary Hero By Brian Kaylor
During the Annual Gathering of the
Baptist World Alliance in Ocho Rios, Jamaica, Baptists from around the world learned about Sam Sharpe, a 19th
Baptist deacon and preacher who played an influential role in ending slavery in Jamaica and other parts of the British Empire.
From touring historical the man memorialized sites to
hearing presentations by Baptist scholars to listening to greetings from Jamaican governmental officials, Baptists learned about
Jamaican 50 dollar bill. In December of 1831, Sharpe led a strike for wages among enslaved persons in Jamaica. The movement, often called the “Baptist War” due to the leadership of Baptists like Sharpe, ended in May of 1832 with around 600 enslaved persons – including Sharpe – executed and hundreds of churches and church properties were destroyed. Many scholars, including the three who spoke during a BWA forum, believe the brutality in response to Sharpe’s movement sparked a backlash among the British public that resulted in the abolition of slavery in the British Empire.
from three scholars: Reid-Salmon, Garnett Roper of Jamaica, and Paul Fiddes of the United Kingdom.
“Sam Sharpe is commonly regarded as
a deacon, a preacher, a liberator, a national hero – these are roles that define him,” explained
Reid-Salmon. “These roles,
of course, followed by the term – I call a derogatory, dehumanizing term – a slave.” Reid-Salmon quickly added, however,
that Sharpe did not allow his enslavement to define him. “Sharpe
never regarded himself or
his fellow “struggle men” as slaves or enslaved persons,” Reid-Salmon argued. “This condition did not define him. . . . The idea of freedom is what defined Sharpe.” “Sharpe was free long before slavery was abolished,”
“And the abolition of slavery did not free him. It was he that freed the slavers and the system of slavery.”
Allusions to Sharpe also occurred during a welcome event hosted by the Jamaican Baptist Union. Comments from Prime Minister Portia Simpson Miller, read by Member of Parliament and the Minister without Portfolio with responsibility for Sport, Natalie Neita Headley, referenced Sharpe among Baptist National Heroes. Simpson Miller argued that “the principles which drove” Sharpe and other Baptists “into action back then remain as necessary today.” Jamaica Governor General Sir Patrick Allen also alluded to Sharpe during his remarks. During the BWA forum, Roper much
focused of his remarks on
Sharpe’s nonviolent effort to challenge slavery.
The Sam Sharpe Monument in Sam Sharpe Square, Montego Bay, Jamaica
“What Moses was to his people is what Sharpe was to those who were in slavery in the British Empire,” Delroy Reid-Salmon, a Jamaican who now lives in the United States, explained during a BWA forum. The forum on Sharpe, a joint roundtable of the commissions of the BWA Division of Freedom & Justice, included remarks
“The most striking thing to me about Creole Sam Sharpe is that he stands out as a gentle man in a world of remarkably savagery,” Roper stated as he explained how remarkable it was that Sharpe did not start a violent revolt. “Violence in response to violence as a methodology had exhausted itself,” Roper explained. “Violence produces more violence. It neither succeeded in overthrowing slavery nor in getting the enslaved to accept their lot.” “The means we use must resemble the ends we seek – that is the real genius of Sharpe,” Roper posited. With his nonviolent approach, Reid-
Salmon argued Sharpe was a “post-figured Christ” as much as some Old Testament figures were often “pre-figuring Christ.” “His life and work bore witness to
librated Christ through events that corresponded to Christ’s life,”
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