Kingston. 24 February 2023: The Jamaica Baptist Union (JBU) at its 173rd General Assembly elected and appointed the Rev. Merlyn Hyde Riley as its new General Secretary. Hyde-Riley is the first woman to be appointed to this post in the JBU.
As the chief coordinating officer of the Union, Hyde-Riley is expected to provide administrative, strategic and spiritual leadership to the nearly 40,000 strong denomination with 340 churches; and to give oversight to the daily operations of the Union’s secretariat.
She is also expected to work closely with the President, Officers and Executive Committee to shape the Union’s mission strategy and to formulate and implement policies to guide the work of the Union.
Rev. Hyde Riley comes to the position with a wealth of leadership experience locally and internationally; and in both secular and faith-based organizations: she has served as the JBU’s Associate General Secretary for 15 years and has been acting as the General Secretary since October 2021.
Rev. Hyde Riley was also the first woman to be elected as President of the largest and oldest umbrella group of churches in Jamaica, the Jamaica Council of Churches (JCC) and is currently one of two vice moderators for the World Council of Churches (WCC), a critical position in the four-member strategic apex of the WCC.
Endorsing her appointment, JBU President, Glenroy Lalor, noted that Hyde Riley has been well prepared in heart and mind to serve the Union as General Secretary at this time.
“Her service in local and international ecumenical movements, her commitment to the JBU, her strong work ethic and her abiding and growing spirituality have prepared her for this office. She has been prepared by the Spirit for such a time as this”, President Lalor affirmed.
She has also led and served on several committees and Civic Boards, in the JBU, the World Council of Churches and the Baptist World Alliance. She currently serves as a member of the Board of Governors of the United Theological College of the West Indies (UTCWI); the Teachers Services Commission and the National Council on Education.
A gender specialist with a master’s degree with distinction in Gender Studies, a first degree in Theology and another in Arts and General Studies from the University of the West Indies, Hyde Riley has been a strong advocate of gender mainstreaming among Baptists and in secular organizations.
In responding to the appointment, the newly minted General Secretary re-affirmed the work and worth of the women of the JBU “whose model of Christian Service opened the eyes of many to the reality that God has gifted both women and men to do the work of the Lord”, she declared.
Her strong academic background, experience as an accredited pastor and moderator of several churches, as well as her grounding in the teaching profession will serve her very well in this position that requires critical thinking skills, mobilization strategies, effective communication skills, mediation and conflict management skills and strong interpersonal relationships.
Rev. Hyde Riley shares the vision for the JBU to grow numerically, missionally and spiritually and to provide space for its members to flourish.
“I also have a vision for the Union to take the lead in recapturing the imagination and passion of our forebears that will find expression in our work for justice, peace and the empowerment of our Jamaican people so that they can fully realise a life befitting people created in the image of God”, Hyde Riley said.
Her immediate objectives are to lead the development of a strategic plan to guide the work of the union for the next five years and to re-energise the ministers and membership towards a path of renewal; “many of whom have for various reasons become disconnected or lost their passion for church”, Hyde Riley explained.
However, Rev. Hyde-Riley is not naïve to the challenges confronting her in achieving these objectives. Financing the development and implementation of the strategic plan and mobilising human resources, she said are no easy feats.
“Getting people to reengage is never easy, especially at a time when people are disengaging from church and institutions in a more individualistic and post Christian society. People sometimes have a wait and see approach and so it may take some time to galvanize people in our quest for renewal”.
Hyde Riley succeeds the Rev. Karl B. Johnson who served in that capacity for 20 years before returning to the pastorate. Johnson who had served with Hyde Riley for more than a decade, regarded the appointment as “a blessing to have witnessed this historic moment”.
“She’s sure-footed in her Christian walk; has a servant heart, a keen intellect and is dependable and organised in discharging her duties. There could hardly have been a more prepared person for that office and I offer her my full support and prayers”, Johnson said.
Hyde Riley is a member of the Gregory Park Baptist Church.