|A veteran Seventh-day Adventist Church leader in the Caribbean is slated to be the sixth governor general of Jamaica, the island nation's prime minister announced during a parliament meeting this afternoon.
Patrick Linton Allen, 58, current president of the Adventist Church's West Indies Union, will replace Governor General Sir Kenneth Hall, who requested resignation last year due to health reasons, Prime Minister Bruce Golding told members of Jamaica's House of Representatives.
Allen is expected to take office in late February, Golding said.
Appointed by Elizabeth II, Allen will serve as the queen's direct representative in Jamaica on ceremonial occasions, such as the opening of parliament and the presentation of state honors, according to the Jamaica Information Service. While the role is non-political, Jamaica's constitution does allow the governor-general to appoint and oversee officers of civil service.
|Adventist church leader Patrick Allen will serve as Jamaica's sixth governor general beginning next month. The educator and public servant said he plans to emphasize human rights and community involvement in his new position. [photo: Nigel Coke/WIU/IAD]
Allen said his Adventist faith would "undergird" his new role. "Any decisions I make will be cast in justice, equity and compassion," he said.
Restorative justice is one area Allen said he expects to devote considerable attention to, working within Jamaica's justice system to mediate between perpetrators and victims. Allen said he shared Adventist world church president Jan Paulsen's commitment to social justice and would commit his "leadership and influence" to emphasizing human rights and community involvement in his new role.
The office of the world church president released a statement this afternoon congratulating Allen on his appointment. "We pray for God's continued blessing as he carries out his new civic responsibilities," the statement said.
Allen brings a strong educational background to the position. After attending Moneague Teachers College in Jamaica, Allen later earned three degrees -- including a doctorate in Educational Administration and Supervision -- from Adventist-owned Andrews University in Berrien Spring, Michigan.
Allen has served in many posts within and outside the Adventist Church, including president of the Central Jamaican Conference, director of Education and Family Life at the West Indies Union Conference and district pastor, overseeing more than 20 churches and companies.
|Governor General Sir Kenneth Hall presents the Order of Distinction to Allen, right, in 2006 for his contribution to the nation. [photo: courtesy Jamaica Observer]
Allen also serves on a number of national and international boards and committees, including the Executive Committee of the Adventist world church and the Police Civilian Oversight Authority, which serves to assure that the police force functions within the law and citizens' rights are maintained. Allen also acts as Justice of the Peace for the Parish of Manchester, Jamaica. In 2006, the government of Jamaica conferred on Allen the honor of Commander of the Order of Distinction for outstanding service to his country.
Allen's teaching career began in 1972 and includes a stint as adjunct professor at church-run Northern Caribbean University (NCU), then West Indies College, from 1991 to 1993.
Reacting to news of Allen's appointment today, NCU President Herbert Thompson told the Jamaican Gleaner he expects Allen will bring a "new moral vision" to Jamaica.
Calling the appointment "historic," president of the church for Inter-America, Israel Leito, said the queen's choice of Allen reflected the Adventist Church's respected presence in Jamaica. Nearly one in every 12 people in the country is Adventist, and the church is noted for its involvement in the community and collaboration with government efforts to quell crime.
Last August church leaders organized a national Day of Prayer in response to climbing murder rates and widespread poverty in the country, an effort involving more than 650 Adventist churches. Earlier in the year, Jamaican health officials marshaled Adventist pastors to train as counselors in a nationwide effort to address social problems.
During a 2007 meeting between Paulsen and national leaders, Governor General Hall said Adventists were ideally positioned to offer guidance and moral leadership to the country's young people. Hall also congratulated the church's visibility within the community. The church has become so ubiquitous, he said, that "if you are giving directions in Jamaica, often you say, 'Turn after the sign for the Adventist church.'"
Allen is the second Seventh-day Adventist to serve as governor general in the Caribbean region. From 1993 to 2007, James Carlisle served as governor general of Antigua. Three other Adventists currently serve in Jamaica's House of Representatives.
Allen is expected to resign his position as West Indies Union President shortly, and a special executive session will be held next month to name a successor, Leito said.
"We wish Dr. Allen all the best, realizing the serious challenges he will have," Leito added. "The church will always be praying for him in this position."