Commonwealth of the Bahamas
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Consisting of more than 700 islands and 2,400 cays the Bahamas is located in the Atlantic Ocean off of the southern tip of Florida. When the islands were claimed by Britain in 1690 they were populated with Arawak Indians. Prior to that time, in 1647, a colony of English and Bermudan religious refugees was set up as the first permanent settlement. Since the seventeenth the islands have had a unique history. At that time the islands were known to be a haven to pirates. During the American Revolution of the 1770s thousands of British loyalists left the American mainland and settled in the islands. The islands were also held for short periods of time by the United States and by Spain before Britain resumed control in 1783. From 1940 to 1945 the former King Edward VIII, then the Duke of Windsor was the Royal Governor of the Bahamas. In 1983 the islands became an independent nation but are still a part of the Commonwealth and recognize Queen Elizabeth II as the Constitutional Monarch. The islands are governed by two legislative bodies known as the Senate and the House of Assembly.
While the islands consist of more than 3,000 separate land masses, some only a few feet above the surface of the water, the islands cover an area of almost 14,000 sq km (5,300 sq miles). The population of the Bahamas is projected to rise to 306,000 by 2005. The Bahamas enjoy a higher than average economy among the island nations and that has attracted a number of illegal immigrants, especially from nearby Haiti. Fishing and agriculture are important sources of revenue however most income is derived from offshore banking, insurance, other financial services, an open registry fleet and tourism. In 1995 3,600,000 foreigners visited the islands accounting for 40% of the country’s economic base.
Among the religious population of the islands there is a large mix of Christian traditions with the largest being Baptist affiliated groups, accounting for nearly one-third of the population. Both Anglicans and Roman Catholics account for about twenty percent each with the rest being divided between Methodists, Church of God and other mostly Protestant traditions. It is said that the Bahamas is one of the world’s most religious countries thus religious freedom is treasured in the island nation.
Among the earliest advances of the Stone-Campbell Movement in the islands were radio broadcasts and later Bible correspondence courses sponsored by the American a cappella Churches of Christ. The first baptism of the Stone-Campbell Movement was of U.S. born William Miller, in 1959, who completed a correspondence course while living in the Bahamas. After a time of study in the United States Miller returned to the Bahamas and began a personal program of evangelization leading to the conversion of a few and the formation of a congregation in Nassau.
Other Christians were known to be scattered throughout the islands but sufficient numbers were not in place to form a second congregation until 1979 when Samuel and Whitney Hastie came to Freeport to work with an oil refinery. Later Don Starks led a campaign in Freeport which resulted in 32 baptisms. A second campaign in 1980 resulted in 19 additional baptisms. From 1980 until 1986 the Freeport congregation was assisted by Don Parker. Others working with the Freeport church have been Baptiste Joseph of Granada, Ellison Delua, Trevor Coske and Oliver Ferguson, Sr.
A third congregation was begun at Dead Man’s Cay (Long Island) with the Burrows family giving much leadership to that congregation. In 1981 Andrew Major began working with the Kemp Road congregation in Nassau. In about the same year David and Dinah Caskey moved to Marsh Harbor on Abaco Island and established a congregation. The Caskeys have been active in radio broadcasts, the distribution of Bibles, tracts and Bible studies and other work. With the help of a small airplane Caskey visits several island schools and speaks on drug and alcohol education, holds meetings, offers counseling, conducts education and hosts simple first aid clinics. The a cappella Churches of Christ began a thirty year effort in the Bahamas in 1981 with three established congregations. Presently there are twelve congregations with others planned for the future. More than two thousand people have been baptized in the last twenty-five years.
The American Christian Churches and Churches of Christ are also represented among the islands of the Bahamas through the work of Ed and Dona Spencer from 1962 to 1976, by James and Sarah Redmon of the Bahama Christian Mission doing work in Nassau from 1964 to 1987, and by the Dewey and Deborah Mullikin family from 1985.
International Churches of Christ have congregations in Nassau and Freeport.
Global Ministries of the Christian Church (Disciples of Christ) has a partnership with the Caribbean Conference of Churches http://www.ccc-caribe.org/eng/index.htm , the recognized Regional Ecumenical Organization (REO) of the Caribbean and one of the major development agencies at work in the Caribbean today. Currently comprised of 33 member churches in 34 territories across the Dutch, English, French and Spanish speaking territories of the region, it was founded in 1973.
Clinton J. Holloway
National Profiles Editor
Revised by Gary Holloway, September 12, 2013, updated February 7, 2014
For further historical reference:
Churches of Christ Around the World, Lynn, Mac, 21st Century Christian Publications, Nashville, TN, 2003.
A cappella Churches of Christ
Bahama Mission, David and Dinah Caskey
Website: http://www.mindspring.com/~flying preacher/
P.O. Box 5001, Highbury Park, The Bahamas
Telephone: 393-2486; 393-8041
Box F-2493, Freeport, The Bahamas
Christian Churches and Churches of Christ
Bahama Christian Mission, James and Sarah Redmon
Or at Bahama Christian Mission
P.O. Box 1261
Lake Wales, FL 33859