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Rest well, KG

Adventists mourn the passing of former Union Secretary, WIC President

BY NIGEL COKE

Monday, April 08, 2013    

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THE leadership of Northern Caribbean University (NCU) and the membership of the Seventh-day Adventist Church in Jamaica, The Bahamas, Cayman and Turks and Caicos Islands are mourning the loss of an icon, Pastor Kenneth Granville Vaz.

Vaz, affectionately called KG, passed away at age 93 last Monday, April 1, 2013 after a long and illustrious career as an evangelist. He is also a former president of West Indies College (now NCU).

"It is with regret that we mourn the passing of Pastor Vaz," said Pastor Everett Brown, President of the Adventist Church in Jamaica and chairman of the university's board.

"Elder Vaz gave outstanding Christian leadership to the Seventh-day Adventist Church in Jamaica and in the other islands that made up the West Indies Union for many decades and we owe a debt of gratitude to this outstanding, erudite scholar, church administrator and evangelist, whose contribution to the growth and development of the church in Jamaica is second to none. May the peace of God bring hope and comfort to his children and extended family in their moment of grief."

"I am really saddened at the passing of Elder Vaz," said Pastor Leon Wellington, vice-president of the Inter-American Division of Seventh-day Adventists (IAD).

"When he left the presidency of West Indies College (WIC), he came to our church as pastor, and for us, the College came to us. As young people, he engaged us in stimulating discussions. It was he who ordained me as church elder, which impacted me so much that three weeks later I was enrolled in West Indies College as a religion major," Wellington said.

"I worked with him, and learned from him in several major tent crusades, serving as music director, pianist, Bible worker and driver. It was a delight and a privilege to have Elder 'KG' as my mentor," he continued.

In his 45 years of service to God and His church, Pastor Vaz served as district pastor, evangelist, lecturer, college dean, Union Director and administrator.

"I think Elder Vaz is indeed the most erudite theologian that we have seen in the West Indies Union," said Pastor Noel Fraser, a former president of West Indies Union Conference.

"He drained himself dry in teaching theology and what he knew about God. He has earned the right to be called a religious icon in the Seventh-day Adventist movement here in Jamaica because in all my time here in the work, no one has raised up (established) the number of churches he has. No one could preach and teach the word of God as he did then."

Vaz was born in Cave, Westmoreland on January 18, 1920. Upon completing high school, he enrolled in the religion programme at West Indies College. In 1942, he graduated and a year later, joined the workforce of the East Jamaica Conference as a ministerial intern. After completing his internship in 1944, he was transferred to West Jamaica Conference, where he served as district pastor.

He earned a Bachelor's degree in Theology from Oakwood College in 1958 and a Master's in Biblical Languages from Potomac University (now Andrews University), both in the US. In 1998, he was awarded a Doctor of Divinity (honoris causa) for exemplary leadership as an Adventist minister and educator whose influence reached beyond his home and office and community to the Caribbean.

Among his appointments in the organisation were: chair of the Religion Department at WIC — where he introduced the degree in religion -- ministerial secretary, and executive secretary of West Indies Union Conference. He served as President of WIC from 1964 to 1970.

Pastor Vaz has been recognised for establishing the Andrews University-affiliated Master's in Religion in Jamaica. He has also been awarded by the West Indies Union Conference and the IAD for his contribution to the growth of the church. The University has honoured Vaz by hosting the annual KG Vaz Lecture Series. The series was started in 1997 by then chair of the School of Religion and Theology Dr Eric Henry, who now serves as Associate Professor in the department.

According to Henry, "It was established because of the awareness of what Vaz has done for the university and the wider Adventist community, with the main objective being to keep Biblical scholarship alive."

Current dean of the School of Religion and Theology Dr Newton Cleghorne said: "Pastor Vaz was the epitome of erudition, academia and scholarship. His theological acumen is unchallenged and his attitude to progressive revelation of truth was unparalleled. His memory will be indelibly etched on the canvas of history and we wait with bated breath the realities of the first resurrection."

Pastor Vaz is survived by his children: Arlene, Duncan, Kenneth and Joan, and other relatives. His wife Agnes predeceased him.

The thanksgiving service for his life will take place at the NCU Gymnatorium this Thursday, April 11 at 10:00 am.

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