Not one waiting ear missed the long-awaited declaration. . . “The South Leeward Mission, having met all the requirements for conference status, is now the South Leeward Conference,” announced Dr. Elie Henry, President of the Inter-American Division, on May 1, 2019. To seal the auspicious transition, Dr. Leonard Johnson, the Executive Secretary of the Church in the Inter-American Division, presented the Certificate of Status to Dr. Carson Greene who was elected as the first President of the South Leeward Conference.
Several congratulatory remarks and reflections were shared. Dr. Kern Tobias, the President of the Caribbean Union of Seventh-day Adventists, penned, “It is with optimism and hope that we celebrate this historic occasion in the life of this Mission. You are ready to transition to the South Leeward Conference.”
Dr. Carson Greene commended the faithfulness of members, “This was a journey that we pursued together, and after God, I want to acknowledge the hard work and sacrifice of all of our faithful members. You responded well to the challenge of sharing the gospel story with your neighbours and friends and, through your combined efforts, we have been able to baptize over 2,496 souls for the kingdom from 2011, when we became a mission, to 2018. Your sacrificial giving has enabled us to achieve the level of financial stability that is required by the larger organization. I am pleased to report that our members have given faithful support in the area of their financial stewardship. It was Pastor Desmond James who was at the helm in the early days and he laid the foundation.”
On March 6, 2011 when the North Caribbean Conference (NCC) was divided and the South Leeward Mission (SLM) was formed, Pastor Desmond James was called from the NCC to become the first President of the SLM. In 2017, the beloved Pastor Desmond James returned to serve as President of the North Caribbean Conference. The NCC constituency has been celebrating the achievement of the Mission.
An excerpt from Pastor James’ letter of congratulations was highlighted, “We are honoured to have been with you through ministry and service. We will forever cherish the wonderful friendships and unforgettable memories of ministry forged during your genesis – a moving moment for SLM as they transition to conference status; an “aha,” proud and historic moment for the North Caribbean Conference as our daughter achieves organizational independence in record time. To God be the Glory!”
The South Leeward Mission experienced steady growth and the membership is 11,678 as of December 31, 2018. The level of support from the members of the church is astounding and the work in the Conference is expanding rapidly. The membership is distributed as follows: Antigua – 8,301, Barbuda – 58, Montserrat – 770, St Kitts – 1,795, and Nevis – 754. When we compare the total population of the islands in the South Leeward Conference (164,103) at the end of 2018, with the total Seventh-day Adventist membership (11,678) for the same time period, there is one Seventh-day Adventist to every 14 persons. The 2011 Census recorded the Seventh-day Adventist Church as the second largest Christian denomination in Antigua and Barbuda (12.4%); the fifth largest in Montserrat (10.5%); and, the eighth largest in St. Kitts and Nevis (4.7%).
Moving from Mission to Conference did not happen overnight. It was the result of a strategic focus and the hard work of many. The South Leeward Conference of Seventh-day Adventists is now the umbrella body of the Seventh-day Adventist organization in the islands of Antigua, Barbuda, St Kitts, Nevis and Montserrat.