From rasta to pastor – The Royal Gazette


Personal Journey: Kenneth Manders Re-Elected President of the Bermuda Conference of Seventh-day Adventists

The Bermuda Conference of Seventh-day Adventists held its third quadrennial session last Sunday.

The purpose was to elect the executive officers of the denomination for the next four years.

Kenneth Manders has been re-elected president of the Bermuda Conference for the third time, a position he first accepted in 2014.

“I am extremely humbled and grateful for the opportunity to continue to serve my conference, the Bermuda Conference, the conference that gave birth to me,” he said.

Pastor Dejaun Tull was re-elected Executive Secretary and Aaron Spencer Treasurer.

For Dr. Manders, the office of president is the culmination of an incredible journey in Adventist faith, which began with his conversion and baptism in 1979.

“Believe it or not, before accepting Christ, I was a Rastafarian. I went from rasta to pastor, as I like to say.

“The lifestyle of righteousness, living a peaceful and natural life is what attracted me to Rastafarianism. But the initial transition was when I started to study the Bible more deeply and I came to believe that Jesus Christ is the Messiah.

“I had to make a choice between Rastafarianism and the Bible. I came out of the Rasta movement and became a “dreaded Jesus” because I recognized that I believed in Christ.

Kenneth Manders (Photograph provided)

On July 14, 1979, Dr. Manders was baptized into the Seventh-day Adventist Church, after much Bible study and reflection.

“I was invited to an evangelistic series where Pastor Mac Wilson was preaching Bible prophecy. He preached from Daniel and Revelation. The message of the Adventist Church was clearly explained to me and I discovered how powerful the Adventist message is and chose to be baptized. Bible truth just has a way of setting people free.

Although he joined the church, it took some time before Dr. Manders became fully involved.

“Rastas believe your body is the temple, so we didn’t have to go to church. So I got baptized and just read my Bible on my own until someone came and showed me Hebrews 10:25, which says, ‘Let’s not give up on assembling ourselves .’ That’s when I started going to church more often.

“I really had a strong desire to be a Christian who keeps the commandments and I wanted to follow, to the best of my ability, the plan laid down in the Bible. It is a simple religion. Love God with all your heart, love your neighbor as yourself, accept that Jesus died for your sins and come out of all that is not of God and the Bible.

This desire eventually led Dr. Manders into official church ministry, although that was not his original intention.

“When I joined the church I was working at Southampton Princess in the Boiler Room, but there was a desire in me to move on. I didn’t know what it was, but I knew it was time to move on. Around the same time the workers went on strike and I made the decision not to return.

He quit his job on a Friday and the following Tuesday received a call with an opportunity to work as a colporteur, a seller of Christian books. He decided to give it a try.

“It was more than selling books, it was meeting people, learning about their needs, and praying for them and their salvation. It was evangelism. It was ministry.

“This experience led me to become a Bible worker and decide to go back to school. At the time, I had no intention of becoming a pastor, I didn’t even have a GED. But I got one and went to Oakwood University to learn more and hone my skills.

He continued, “Long story short, I just knew that God had called me to work for him and it went from selling books to Bible work to preparing me for the gospel ministry.”

Dr. Manders received a Bachelor of Divinity in 1992 and received his Masters from Andrews University in 1994.

The following year, he returned to Bermuda with his wife Claudette and their young children and took on his first pastoral position – associate pastor of the Southampton Seventh-day Adventist Church. He was also given the role of youth director for the Bermuda Conference.

In 1997, Dr. Manders was assigned to the Somerset Seventh-day Adventist Church. In 2002, he moved to Hamilton Seventh-day Adventist Church, where he pastored for 13 years.

In April 2005, he was elected Executive Secretary of the Bermuda Conference, then elected President in 2014.

In this third and final term, he hopes to focus on evangelism and equip others for ministry.

“Winning souls is always the goal. Evangelism is the blood of the church,” he said.

“In order to evangelize effectively, we must train ministry leaders. My job is to equip others at the cathedral. I want to see the church move from membership to discipleship.

When asked if he was surprised by the trajectory of his life, he replied, “Yes, indeed!”

“If you had told me in the 1970s that I was going to be a pastor, I would have asked you what you were smoking!” Dr. Manders burst out laughing.

“I never dreamed of all this. The truth is, I never really wanted all of this, but God called me to do it. And I wanted to follow God’s call on my life.

“Being a minister of the gospel is simply sharing the greatest story of my life, which is my encounter with Jesus. My ministry is only an outgrowth of my relationship with Christ. I recount my experience over and over, every day, and I’m still excited about it after all these years.


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