- Protestant Christianity was introduced to Jamaica following the British takeover from Spain in the 1650s. By then, the number of native Jamaicans had been radically reduced; over the next century, they were replaced with African slaves.The Church of England came with the original British authorities, as with other colonies, but the island was unique in that the second group to arrive was the Society of Friends (Quakers), who were a persecuted group in both England and the American colonies. The Anglicans have remained a substantial movement, but they have fallen behind a number of more recently introduced Evangelical churches and even the Roman Catholic Church, which was reintroduced to Jamaica in 1837. The Quakers have remained a small movement in spite of an infusion of energy from the United States toward the end of the 19 th century.Jamaica was one of the early targets for 18th-century Protestant evangelism. The Moravians arrived in 1754 and the Methodists in 1789. Both churches developed among the plantation slaves, benefiting from their opposition to slavery. George Lisle (c. 1750-1828), a former slave who worked with the British in South Carolina and was repatriated to Jamaica after the American Revolution, began the local Baptist movement.A spectrum of Protestant and Free Church groups launched work in Jamaica in the 19th century. Of these, the Seventh-day Adventist Church, whose work dates from the 1880s, has been the most successful. It is second in size only to the Catholic Church. Pentecostalism was introduced early in the 20th century, and the New Testament Church of God, associated with the Church of God (Cleveland,Tennessee), is now the third-largest church.Contemporary Jamaica is quite pluralistic, its 2.5 million residents scattered among more than 100 denominations. More than 50 indigenous Christian groups have appeared; a few such as Revival Zion and the New Testament Church of Christ the Redeemer have a substantial presence. Several of the older Protestant bodies (Presbyterian, Congregational, Disciples of Christ) merged in 1956 to form the United Church in Jamaica and the Cayman islands.A few of the older Protestant mission churches have reorganized with local control, including the Church of the Province of the West Indies (Anglican) and the Methodist Church in the Caribbean and the Americas. These along with the Jamaica Baptist Union, the Moravian Church, and the United Church are members of the World Council of Churches, and make up the backbone of the Jamaica Council of Churches. The more conservative bodies have united in the Jamaica Association of Evangelicals aligned with the World Evangelical Alliance.Among the more interesting groups in Jamaica is the Spiritual Baptists, an indigenous Caribbean movement that originated in Trinidad. It mixes Protestant beliefs with African practices and emphasizes spiritual healing. Operating in that same space between Protestantism and traditional African religion are the Rastafarians, most known for their hair (grown to resemble a lion's mane, called dreadlocks), Rasta music, and their ingestion of ganja (marijuana). Identified with the black liberation cause in the 1920s, the movement has gone on to become an international phenomenon.See also Caribbean.Further reading:■ S. C. Gordon, God Almighty Make Me Free: Christianity in Preemancipation Jamaica (Bloom-ington: Indiana University Press, 1996)■ D. A. McGasvran, Church Growth in Jamaica (Lucknow, India: Lucknow Publishing House, 1961)■ R. J. Stewart, Religion and Society in Post Emancipation Jamaica (Knoxville: University of Tennessee Press, 1992).
Encyclopedia of Protestantism. Gordon Melton. 2005.