Thank you and please be seated.
I recognize my cabinet colleagues;
I pay my respects to the Superintendent, the reverend Garth E. Rolle;
1st Assistant Superintendent and Senior Pastor of Salem Union Baptist Church, Reverend Heuter B. Rolle;
The executive team of the Bahamas Baptist Union;
Other reverend gentlemen and ladies;
Members and friends, good evening.
I come in peace with a purpose and bring greetings, congratulations and extend my highest regards to this union on behalf of the government and people of The Bahamas to the officers and members of the Bahamas Baptist Union of Churches on the occasion of your 130th Annual Session of Conference.
The government of The Bahamas is pleased to share in your celebrations as we are indeed one in national service.
I applaud your epic and glorious journey of faith and your eventful walk with God that has produced sanctuaries on practically every island of The Bahamas.
Notwithstanding your struggles, trials, tribulation and snares, the Bahamas Baptist Union has built an amazing legacy and culture of Kingdom building that is worthy of emulation and praise.
I encourage Superintendent Reverend Garth E. Rolle to carry out this Baptist Union’s divine and glorious assignment – the faithful proclamation of the good news of the Gospel of the Grace of God – with much prayer, supplication and fasting in good and in bad times. In so doing, your faithfulness will ensure that the enduring fellowship of congenial, true-hearted believers working for the glory of God and the good of humanity will be your continuing legacy for generations to come.
The theme for this year’s convention, “A Heart For The Harvest”, taken from the New Testament Gospel of Matthew 9:35-38, simply underscores and speaks powerfully to the divine and glorious assignment of the Bahamas Baptist Union in the spiritual vineyard of God for the past One Hundred and Thirty Years.
It is heartening to observe that after 130 years of evangelism, teaching, missions, community outreach, youth development, Sunday School, Church leadership and Christian Education, the Bahamas Baptist Union of Churches is still fired up, strong and energetic with a heart for the harvest.
Given the myriad of social challenges in and outside the home that confront us, prayerful and dedicated men and women of God, such as the prayer warriors in the Bahamas Baptist Union, are needed more than ever before.
My government thanks you for your service and labour of love.
It is our 50th Anniversary of nationhood and I believe it is therefore fitting for me as the nation’s chief to pause for a moment to tell the story of the iconic Baptist Union which is linked to the story of the Baptist Society and how they changed the cause of Bahamian history through your liberation theology.
Your forefathers made a compelling case that social justice had its genesis in the word of God and that it was impossible to separate biblical precepts and the testimony of Jesus from the principle social justice.
They argued quite persuasively that oppression, tyranny and apartheid imposed on God’s people were in direct violation of biblical teachings and therefore had no place in a civil and Christian society.
Your principled stand formed one of the bedrocks of the progressive movement, the march towards Majority Rule and Independence.
The principle of social justice continues to underpin and drive much of the country’s social and economic policies to this very day.
Please permit me to expound with one quick example:
Just yesterday, my government broke ground on a 60,000 square feet Health Campus in Freeport, Grand Bahama at a cost of some $210 million. This health campus will provide out-patient and urgent care, including oncology services.
Our amendment to the NHI Act provides for critical care of chronic illnesses and amendments to the Mental Health Act modernizes the manner in which we approach and treat mental illnesses.
This policy – along with our initiative to upgrade all 91 health clinics around the country, build 5 more clinics and break ground on a second major hospital in New Providence in the coming months – has its roots in the philosophy that access to quality and affordable healthcare is in fact a human right and not a privilege for the well to do.
This health policy is rooted in social justice and is consistent with the manner in which we are mandated by our Maker to care for one another.
In fact, I submit to the delegates that government policies are always supposed to address the critical and deeply personal issue of human dignity.
Failure to do so will result in the worst deficit of all – a moral deficit in national leadership.
That is why the work of the church and its close working relationship with the government are so vitally important.
There are persons, institutions and some countries that frown on our health policy and social philosophy as “social medicine”, but we believe that we are doing the right thing for God’s people because if God be for us, who can be against us and win.
I revert to the rich legacy of this institution of faith.
The 5th April 1892 was a watershed year for this union as Christian men and women of goodwill from all walks of life came together in conference, through faith and in obedience to the divine decree to go into all the world and preach the gospel. You never looked back and you never wavered in your faith.
For the benefit of the younger generation, former slaves were instrumental in the religious cultural development of The Bahamas and in many cases, their work predated the arrival of foreign Christian missionaries.
Giants in the church community such as Frank Spence in 1780, Prince Williams in 1790 and Sharper Morris were among the earliest pioneers that laid the foundation of this union of faith.
This aspect of your evolution is important because it clearly demonstrates that the story and legacy of the Bahamas Baptist Union are inextricably linked to the legacy and story of The Bahamas which is that all things are possible through Christ Jesus who strengthens us.
More than one century later, with four districts covering The Bahamas, supporting the work of scores of churches and schools, the Bahamas Baptist Union remains strong, faithful and fully committed to consistently meeting the needs of the Bahamian society and beyond.
The success of the Bahamas Baptist Union over the last century gives every reason for optimism for the future growth and development of this body of faith, as you align your objectives with those of national development and the kingdom of God.
I wish the Bahamas Baptist Union every success on the occasion of your 130th annual convention as you chart the course for the next 130 years of kingdom-building, growth and development.
May your thoughts, deliberations, exchange of ideas and vigorous debates be guided by divine wisdom and delivered in a spirit of brotherly and sisterly love, truth and goodwill all to the honour and glory of God.
On behalf of my wife Ann-Marie, Deputy Prime Minister Hon. I. Chester Cooper, the government and people of The Bahamas, congratulations to the Bahamas Baptist Union of Churches on the occasion of your 130th Annual Session of your Conference.
May Almighty God continue to bless your work as He continues to bless the Commonwealth of The Bahamas.