The Experience of the United Church in Jamaica and the Cayman Islands

By Stephens, Norbert | The Ecumenical Review, March 2010 | Go to article overview
Save to active project

The Experience of the United Church in Jamaica and the Cayman Islands

Stephens, Norbert, The Ecumenical Review


Two significant features are associated with the unions which constitute the United Church in Jamaica and the Cayman Islands.

Firstly, the formation of the church took place over two unions--1965 and 1992--and brought together three Reformed Denominations: the Congregational Union of Jamaica, the Presbyterian Church of Jamaica, and the Disciples of Christ in Jamaica. This is significant, as the missional identities of these churches were shaped within a dehumanizing environment controlled by European political and economic systems of colonialism and slavery.

Secondly, this union spans two nations: Jamaica and the Cayman Islands. At the time of the first union, Jamaica was an independent nation while Cayman was under British rule. The two antecedent traditions were established within the islands by British missionaries: the Presbyterians by the Church of Scotland, and the Congregationalists by the London Missionary Society.

This brief article seeks to answer two critical questions relating to mission and unity:

a) Was more effective mission the goal at the time of the church's union?

b) How far does the church's ecclesial identity serve its mission today and help it meet new mission challenges?

Mission and Union

It is worthwhile to make a distinction between unity and union. It is normal for one to expect unity within a union, but it is not necessary to have a union in order to achieve unity, nor do unions necessarily guarantee unity. Genuine union requires unity, but union is not the only way of experiencing unity; a working ecumenical partnership proves this theory. However, genuine and effective mission--namely, the pursuit of the demands of the gospel--gives rise to unity, a consensus of mind and action.

Was the first union between the Presbyterians and the Congregationalists and the subsequent union with the Disciples of Christ merely a fusion of the old--a composite of the bankrupt or unviable--rather than a fashioning of something new? Were these unions merely exercises in "renewal without change"?


The evidence suggests that the union of the three Reformed denominations over two periods is marked by "socio-ecclesial contradiction". The accepted missional principle that mission gives rise to unity was certainly not the push factor which led The Presbyterian Church of Jamaica and The Congregational Union of Jamaica to form a union in 1965. The union was a classic case of contradictions:

* The churches which came into union were formed by missionaries. The union formed was organic rather than mission driven.

* The new church largely remained clergy centred, a significant factor in the de-skilling of the people for ministry and mission, whereas a missional church is essentially people centred.

* The new church did not fully consider the implications of what it meant to be an independent church as part of the design. The church was economically dependent on external sources, faithful to a model which did not include self-management and did not promote self-reliance.

The driving force which led the denominations to union was centred on survival issues on a number of levels.

Socio-ecclesial Factors

There were eight mission challenges facing the churches at the time the first union was being considered:

* the need for ministers from Europe;

* declining congregations;

* lack of funds;

* ministers in charge of multiple congregations and supervising others;

* overlapping denominations (churches competing for the same people);

* attraction of the middle class through the focus on education, which led to the absence of lower classes within the congregations (Presbyterian Church);

* emerging influence of mission churches from the United States;

* local and Afro-centric religions.

The rest of this article is only available to active members of Questia

Sign up now for a free, 1-day trial and receive full access to:

  • Questia's entire collection
  • Automatic bibliography creation
  • More helpful research tools like notes, citations, and highlights
  • Ad-free environment

Already a member? Log in now.

Notes for this article

Add a new note
If you are trying to select text to create highlights or citations, remember that you must now click or tap on the first word, and then click or tap on the last word.
Loading One moment ...
Project items
Cite this article

Cited article

Citations are available only to our active members.
Sign up now to cite pages or passages in MLA, APA and Chicago citation styles.

Cited article

The Experience of the United Church in Jamaica and the Cayman Islands


Text size Smaller Larger
Search within

Search within this article

Look up

Look up a word

  • Dictionary
  • Thesaurus
Please submit a word or phrase above.
Print this page

Print this page

Why can't I print more than one page at a time?

While we understand printed pages are helpful to our users, this limitation is necessary to help protect our publishers' copyrighted material and prevent its unlawful distribution. We are sorry for any inconvenience.
Full screen

matching results for page

Cited passage

Citations are available only to our active members.
Sign up now to cite pages or passages in MLA, APA and Chicago citation styles.

Cited passage

Welcome to the new Questia Reader

The Questia Reader has been updated to provide you with an even better online reading experience.  It is now 100% Responsive, which means you can read our books and articles on any sized device you wish.  All of your favorite tools like notes, highlights, and citations are still here, but the way you select text has been updated to be easier to use, especially on touchscreen devices.  Here's how:

1. Click or tap the first word you want to select.
2. Click or tap the last word you want to select.

OK, got it!

Thanks for trying Questia!

Please continue trying out our research tools, but please note, full functionality is available only to our active members.

Your work will be lost once you leave this Web page.

For full access in an ad-free environment, sign up now for a FREE, 1-day trial.

Already a member? Log in now.

Are you sure you want to delete this highlight?