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West Indies Union Elects Friend to Education

The Jamaica Observer writes, “Seventh-day Adventist delegates stuck to hallowed tradition here [January 28], naming their number two man, Pastor Derek Bignall, as president of the 260,000-strong West Indies Union Conference.”

Bignall, 60, who was previously Secretary of the Union, got the nod over three other contenders for the post vacated by [Adventist] Dr Patrick Allen – [Prime Minister] Bruce Golding‘s choice, supported by [opposition leader] Portia Simpson, for the next Governor-General of Jamaica when Sir Kenneth Hall steps down February 26.

Congratulations to Pastor Derek Bignall – a friend to education. Some see him more as one who will maintain the shop, not one who would transform it. However, he may just surprise them. Men who abide in the shadow of the great, at times blossom only when the shadow is removed. He is where he is because his mettle has been proved.

Dr. Allen in his role of union president established a very strong record of achievement. Pastor Bignal can match it and exceed it. If he gets his own term in 2010 he will have the time and a lot more resources to work with than Dr. Allen had. The growth of the church in numbers over the past ten years and the rapid social and economic mobility of many of its members are now paying off in significantly increased resources to the church.

Pastor Bignall has strong support among a broad cross section of the church and particularly the members in the under forty age group. As a youth director at both the conference and union levels, he became a role model for many. His capacity to empathize and to relate to the needs of young people has made him a favorite preacher at youth services, church conventions and major events. Even the public recognizes this. As a result he is in demand as a public speaker at secular events. Somehow he manages to blend his talent for comedy with his talent for preaching, producing a wholesome and fulfilling experience. Some of the older folk feel that he is not sufficiently ‘grave’ or serious. This feeling about him may well extend to many of his colleagues but this has not hindered his call to the high office of union president. I believe that he will excel in his new role. He deserves our prayers.

Continuing, the Jamaica Observer adds:

Huddling in cool Mandeville, Manchester the delegates from Jamaica, The Bahamas, Cayman and the Turks and Caicos Islands also elected a firebrand evangelical preacher, Glen Samuels, president of their West Jamaica Conference, to become Secretary, giving him a shot at the presidency when next it becomes vacant.

Bignall’s election was predicted by the Observer Monday and in his first interview minutes after getting the nod, he signalled he would seek to complete, and improve where possible, the programmes of the Allen administration that would have ended in two years time.

“To be asked to serve at the top of the union structure is a very big task, and for me it is a momentous and humbling experience,” Bignall told the Observer. “There are many others who are qualified and so it is a great honour for me.”

Bignall also hailed outgoing president Allen, describing him as “a transformational leader” who had lifted the image of the Adventist Church from an organisation known only for promoting Sabbath-keeping to one of national influence in the social life of the country.

“He has taken Adventism in Jamaica from the middle page to the front page,” Bignall said, in apparent reference to the appointment of Allen to be Jamaica’s head of state.

A graduate of West Indies College, now Northern Caribbean University (NCU), and of the Andrews University, Michigan, USA, Pastor Bignall holds a Bachelor’s Degree in Theology and a Master’s Degree in Education. He is currently pursuing a PhD in education at NCU.

As a pastor and church administrator, he has served the Seventh-day Adventist Church in East Jamaica Conference at various levels for over 34 years.

Bignall is regarded by Adventists as a dynamic public speaker who is much sought after not only in Jamaica and the Caribbean but also in the United States, Canada, and England.

He is married to Ianthe ‘Yvonne’ Brown, vice-president for university relations at the NCU. The couple have a daughter, Shelli-Gaye who is a final year education student also at the NCU.

As head of the Adventist church, Bignall will preside over 720 churches, a university, a hospital, 10 high schools, 22 elementary schools and numerous basic schools.

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