In the Bahamas, former Adventist leader laid to rest in state recognized funeral

Silas N. McKinney served the denomination for more than 41 years.

Nassau, Bahamas | John Garcia/Inter-American Division Staff

The former president of the Seventh-day Adventist Church in the Bahamas and the West Indies Union, Silas N. McKinney, was laid to rest in a state recognized funeral this weekend. High-ranking government officials and church leaders were in attendance. Pastor McKinney died on July 16, 2016 after battling an illness for several years. He was 89.

Present at the funeral service included representative of the Queen of England and head of state Her Excellency Governor General Dame Marguerite Pindling, the leaders of the official opposition Hon. Hubert Minnis, former Governor General Author D. Hanna, as well as cabinet ministers and ambassadors.

A state recognized funeral is the third level on the list of precedence of government supported funerals and is accorded to members of parliament, upper chamber (the senate) serving permanent secretaries and other high ranking public officials or civilians.

“Pastor Silas McKinney and Brother Neville Scavella were pacesetters, were pioneers who were defining what an Adventist was,” said Prime Minister of The Bahamas Rt. Hon. Perry G. Christie, as he brought condolences to the family during the service at the Hillview Seventh-day Adventist Church in Nassau, Bahamas, yesterday.

Prime Minister Christie credited the church for creating “a new movement with two conferences and a union headquartered here in The Bahamas.” Christie congratulated the Adventist Church for being a “major contributor in how the church should interact with the state and for being a strong advocate for religious liberty,” an accomplishment started by Pastor McKinney.

Known as a true evangelist, a champion for the cause of Jesus, and a vibrant church leader, McKinney was the first Bahamian president of the church in the Bahamas. He later went on to be the first Bahamian to ever become president of the former West Indies Union, comprising Jamaica, The Bahamas, Turks and Caicos, and the Cayman Islands.

Israel Leito, president for the Church in Inter-America, commended the Bahamian government for not only allowing for freedom of worship but for the respect it extends to Adventists in The Bahamas.

“The Seventh-day Adventist Church is very grateful for the privileges granted to the citizens of this country that we can even mourn our loss in peace with dignity and in love for each other,” said Leito. “We don’t take this privilege of honoring elder McKinney for granted and we are grateful to God for blessing humanity with such a man as Silas McKinney. He was an exemplary leader in all aspects of church life.”

Adventist world church president Ted N.C. Wilson stated in a letter addressed to Mrs. McKinney how “the world church has been enriched through Pastor McKinney’s labors.”

“Pastor McKinney’s many years of working for the Lord are a testimony to God’s power in using an individual in powerful ways for His remnant church,” stated Pastor Wilson.

McKinney served the church for over 41 years as district pastor, mission president, conference president, union executive secretary and union president. He also served as chairman of the West Indies College, now Northern Caribbean University (NCU), and Andrews Memorial Hospital in Jamaica.

“I wish to remember Elder McKinney as the leader whose ministry and leadership was characterized by his commitment to the mission of the Church in the West Indies Union and his passion for the overall welfare and development of all sectors of the workforce,” said Everett Brown, president of the church in Jamaica, as he reflected on the life and work of McKinney soon after his passing.

As a former member of the West Indies Union Executive Committee, Pastor Leonard Johnson, president of the Atlantic Caribbean Union headquartered in Nassau, said he had the privilege of witnessing Pastor McKinney in action as an effective chairman.

“He surely knew how to keep a committee going without giving the appearance of rushing the discussion or even denying wise contributions,” said Johnson. “His sense of humor, coupled with a knowledgeable grasp of church policies and operations, allowed for smooth and lively meetings. He was passionate about his church and equally so about the then West Indies College.”

McKinney is survived by his wife Ruth, whom he was married to for 60 years and their four children, six grandchildren and one great granddaughter.

Nigel Coke contributed to this report.