Dr Patrick Allen will step down Wednesday as head of the Seventh-day Adventist Church, in preparation to become Governor General of Jamaica, confessing it was his most difficult decision ever.
"This was the most difficult decision I have ever made in my entire life, but many things are factored in that decision," Allen told hundreds of cheering, autograph-seeking Adventists weekend, in his first public address since accepting the post being vacated by Sir Kenneth Hall.
"I sought prayerful guidance from God, my family and the church hierarchy who are very supportive of the decision. I have humbly accepted this noble position and I promise to do my best to honour my God and serve my country faithfully," said the 58-year-old Allen who sounded stuffy from fighting influenza but was in a cheerful mood.
Allen, president of the powerful West Indies Union Conference of Seventh-day Adventists, was away from Jamaica when Nationwide Radio broke the news that Hall had resigned, citing ill health.
Prime Minister Bruce Golding later that day formally confirmed the resignation and announced that Allen would take the oath of office on February 26, setting off a stream of praises and criticisms.
Dr Allen demits church office after eight years as head of Jamaica's largest denomination, with a membership larger than the populations of most Eastern Caribbean countries.
Jockeying for a new president has started but no one was willing to say on the weekend if any front-runner had emerged. But Adventists who are known to be conservative and faithful to their traditions, could settle on the number two man, Derek Bignall who is secretary of the Union, to complete Allen's second five-year term.
Allen and Bignall participated Saturday in a Service of Ordination at the Andrews Memorial Adventist Church, St Andrew, where four pastors - Channing Allen, Ray Davis, Hanson Drysdale and Kevin White - were ordained to the gospel ministry.
The service was Pastor Allen's last such ordination as president. On Wednesday he will perform his last official function when he hands over the election of his successor to the president of the Inter-American Division of the Adventist Church.
In his address to the service, the soon-to-be governor general acknowledged that his appointment had engendered much discussion, both among Adventists and the general public for various reasons. But that was good for the country, he said.
"From the discussions that have taken place, it is evident that there is uncertainty and a lack of knowledge of Adventism and Adventist lifestyle, and there is the fear that this will be imposed on the country and influence the execution of civic and constitutional responsibilities.
"There has been much debate in the media supporting and opposing the appointment and/or just expressing opinion. This is beneficial to the country in many ways because it helps individuals to know the governor general-designate better and help to educate the country about the role and functions of the person who occupies this office," Allen said to applause.
"I seek your prayerful support that the Lord will go before me and do His work Himself through me. I thank you for your support over the past eight years as I served as president of this Union - we did well under God."
Following his speech, Allen was given a standing ovation by the packed church. Members formed long lines to greet him, many of them seeking his autograph as a keepsake.
Delivering the message, Bignall challenged the ordinands to be good examples not only in preaching and teaching, but also in their lifestyle.