The Open Bible Standard Churches of Jamaica (OBSCJA), an autonomous national organization, is an Association of Churches in Jamaica and their ministers based upon mutual agreement voluntarily entered into by its membership for the purpose of the propagation and dissemination of the Gospel of Jesus Christ, through the preaching, teaching and living of the Full Gospel message, as outlined in the Articles of Faith.
Open Bible Standard Churches Inc., originally consisted of two movements; namely, Bible Standard Churches Inc. founded in Eugene, Oregon, in 1919 and Open Bible Evangelistic Association, founded in Des Moines, Iowa, in 1932.
Similar in doctrine and government, the two groups merged on July 26, 1935, adopting the name, ‘Open Bible Standard Churches’. The headquarters was establishment in Des Moines, Iowa.
In 1948, two men from the parishes of St. James: Lindsay Moncrieffe and William Newman, sent a letter to Reverend Dr. Charles M. Leaming, a founding father of Open Bible Standard Churches in the USA A stirring part of the letter said, ‘We have heard your messages on the radio and would love for you to come to Jamaica and help us’.
Shortly after receiving that letter, Dr. Leaming got in touch with Rev. Samuel Black, a Baptist preacher and former speaker of the House of Representatives in Jamaica at that time. He also impressed upon Dr. Leaning the need for help.
There were many pioneers who, out of great sacrifice, virtually forsook loved ones and gave up lucrative jobs to spread the gospel in Jamaica. Two such pioneers were the Reverend and Mrs. Ivan Morton. For them, it was like answering a ‘Macedonian Call’.
Dr. Black was invited to speak in the United States. His message to the congregation was, ‘Come Down To Jamaica and Help us’. Rev. and Mrs. Morton at that time received the call of God to take up the challenge. In May 1949, one year out of Bible College, they landed at Montego Bay to start a work, which today has spread to eleven of Jamaica’s 14 parishes.
The early efforts of the Mortons were bolstered in 1949 when Rev. Dr. Charles Leaming led an evangelist team to Montego Bay. Included in the team were Rev. Eddie Outhouse and Rev. Harvey Klapstien. Three weeks of evangelistic services were held at the Town Hall in Montego Bay. Among the first groups of converts were Mr. and Mrs. Pervis Gordon, who subsequently pastured the Unity Hall Open Bible Church for many years.
The building of the Open Bible Movement in Jamaica was not an easy task. It meant many long hours of hard work for the young Mortons. Their aim was to evangelize and this they did with great zeal. The Mortons became the first Missionary Pastor, whose ministry began with street meetings and night services in the Town Hall. People were responding to the teaching by missionaries and in December 1949, a tent was erected at the inter-section of Water lane and Dome Street. Two years later, the First Church of the Open Bible was built on the same lot of land and dedicated to the service of the Lord. Rev. Morton, a builder, labourer in the construction of the Church.
The Association was incorporated by an act of the parliament of Jamaica in October, 1957. This Act was amended in May, 1980 to make the Open Bible Standard Churches of Jamaica nationalized and autonomous. The Jamaican Association, however, remained affiliated to and in fraternal relation with the Open Bible Churches, with Headquarters in Des Moines, Iowa, United States of America (USA).
The Association is comprised of fifty-two churches, located in eleven of Jamaica’s fourteen parishes and the Cayman Islands, one theological training institution (College of Theological & Interdisciplinary Studies – CTIS), a non-profit organization set up for social outreach (Care and Opportunity Outreach Limited) eighty-one Ministers, twenty-five Christian Workers and a total membership of over seven thousand. There is an estimated number of six thousand (6,000) active adherents.
The prerogatives of OBSCJA includes:
(a) To approve all scriptural teaching methods and conduct and disapprove all unscriptural teachings, methods and conduct.
(b) To encourage and promote the evangelization of Jamaica and its associate territories.
(c) To establish and maintain such departments, organizations and institutions as may be necessary or desirable for the propagation of the Gospel, the promotion of Christian fellowship, the alleviation of poverty, sickness and human suffering, the advancement of education, the dissemination and the improvement of the health and well being of its Members and of the Community.
The Annual Conference of OBSCJA is the highest governing body of the Association. It is the meeting of its membership (Ministers and Lay Delegates) where the elected national leaders are required to report on their stewardship. This includes the pursuance of the Associations’ objectives and the prudent management of our resources.