Jamaica Baptist Union
Whenever Jamaican Baptists talk about their early beginnings two significant points in history come to mind: 1783 and 1849. It was in 1783 that the first Baptist missionary arrived, a freed black slave from the USA and an ordained minister. In 1849 the Jamaica Baptist Union was founded. By that time, Baptist work was well established in the country with congregations in almost every parish and an enviable testimony of having played a leading role in the abolition of slavery (in 1834). Three of Jamaica's national heroes were Baptists and the denomination was in the forefront of addressing the educational, economic and social needs of the emancipated people. Baptist work benefited from a partnership with the Baptist Missionary Society (UK) which dispatched its first missionary to the country in 1814 and was instrumental in establishing, in 1842, the Jamaica Baptist Missionary Society, an agency to take the gospel to Africa. The Jamaica Baptist Union is very firm in terms of its autonomy with regard to missionary partners. As early as 1842 it declared its financial independence from the Baptist Missionary Society. The JBU itself has a history of sending out missionaries to various islands of the Caribbean and to Africa.
Like all Baptists throughout their history, the JBU has sought to be faithful to the truth of the gospel and to pattern the church on the principles of fellowship found in the New Testament. As a church it is committed to the proclamation of the word - by which God and humankind confront each other - and to social action. The congregations have remained dedicated to the task of confronting persons with the claims of the gospel by employing various evangelistic methods and they are engaged in a wide array of ministries and projects as part of their witness. Many of the congregations are involved in health-related ministries, skills training centres, economic projects, basic/primary/high schools, to name a few. Baptists have two basic things which they share with the peoples of the world, namely common humanity and shared environment. Like other religious groups in general, and other Christians in particular, Baptists differ, however, from the rest of humankind in their understanding of the origins and purpose of humanity in the environment. This particular understanding, along with the basis for arriving at such an understanding, both allows for and defines Baptist distinctiveness, as well as enabling Baptists to affirm common truths with other persons.