ONE OF US
On Wednesday morning, June 30, 2021, when I heard of the passing of our dear friend, Dr. Joel Edwards, I began to reflect on him as a faithful saint, a personal friend and an Apostle of Hope from the Jamaica diaspora..
Joel was first invited by IPMI to address the inaugural Pastors' and Leaders' Prayer Symposium by Dr. Samuel Vassel in New York City, June 2008. His impact immediately led the Board to invite him back the following year as guest speaker at the Annual Prayer Breakfast. He returned on subsequent occasions, the final one in June 2019. He also served on the Advisory Board of IPMI since 2009 and remained a key consultant in matters related to the global expansion of IPMI, including the development of the Jamaica Diaspora Day of Prayer and Fasting (JDOP), a global prayer initiative facilitating prayer among Jamaicans living particularly in the United Kingdom, Canada, and the United States for the spiritual renewal and transformation in their homeland.
In a comment made by IPMI's President, Rev. Newton Gabbidon, in 2006 about Joel, he stated:
“A very impressive evangelical thinker, Dr. Edwards’ work is critical to the survival of evangelicalism in the U.K, now under the threat of humanism and Islam…. His thoughts are also relevant to the Jamaican context.”
SUJOURN IN THE UK
Joel was born in 1951 and lived his early childhood years in the humble environment of Jones Town Kingston Jamaica. He migrated to the UK with his mother in 1960 and eventually completed his theological degree at the London Bible College. He served as a Probation Officer in the UK for just over a decade.
He served in his adopted country as a pastor in the New Testament Church of God and General Secretary of the African Caribbean Evangelical Alliance (EA), before becoming the UK General Director of the EA. He distinguished himself as an apostle of hope, militating aggressively for the poor, oppressed and often marginalized in the society. “Everything swings on the idea that God is a God of hope”, he trumpeted.
As a regular presenter on the BBC, and on public platforms, Joel disturbed the political, social and church landscapes with one of his most piercing convictions:
“To ignore faith is an act of social vandalism against a society in search of community, purpose and wholeness.”
PASSION FOR HIS HOMELAND
As a member of the Jamaica diaspora in the UK, Joel never forgot his homeland. In 2003, he visited the then Governor General, Sir Howard Cooke to share his burden and intent for national transformation. In his subsequent visits, though he remained much in the background, he became one of the consistent voices among Jamaican Church leaders seeking to establish “a Forum of Jamaican Church leaders toward engagement in national affairs”.
It is in this context that I met him, and in 2004 invited him to address a local Conference on the theme of the Jamaica Diaspora. There he impressed us with an interesting perspective on the “Windrush” generation that migrated from the Caribbean to the UK in the 1950’s.
“It was God moving a vibrant Christian people to enliven and renew the dead and shuttered English church. Is not that so like God?”
From then we began to work together in the common cause of the diaspora and the homeland. We traded visits between Jamaica and the UK which solidified our friendship and provided initiatives which influenced the development of Church leadership at home.
It was also during this time that he was introduced to the IPMI President as well as to Dr. Myles Munroe, President of the International Third World Leaders Association. He made an impact speaking in conferences staged by both these global organizations.
DOCTOR OF DIVINITY
It is not surprising that on 23rd June of 2006 the Caribbean Graduate School of Theology (CGST) invited him to be the guest speaker at their Graduation Ceremony and bestowed on him an Honorary Doctorate:
“As a man of excellence in intellect, with integrity of faith, compassion in ministry and determination in leadership in our generation.”
In his very profound address to the Graduates entitled “Transformation in a Degenerative World” (Lk.19:11-26), he challenged the entire academic audience:
“If we are to see transformation in a dysfunctional world we must resist the temptation to bury our rich gifts in our institutional rags. We must do business for our children’s future.
PRESERVING HIS LEGACY
Among the many literary artifacts that will preserve his legacy is the publication released just prior to his departure as General Director from the EA: “An Agenda for Change”, in which he pleads:
"Evangelicals must re-imagine themselves as good news people and ask what that should look and feel like in the world today".
It is our responsibility as we celebrate the life and accomplishments of Dr. Joel Edwards, to build on this foundation laid by him.
Read IPMI's Articles on Prayer by Dr. Joel Edwards