James G. Fulfer was one of the last American Church administrators to serve in the non-Hispanic territories of the Inter-American Division.
Fulfer was the last American president of the Leeward Islands Mission of Seventh-day Adventists, 1958-1961; president of the Caribbean Union Conference of SDA, 1961-1966 and president of the Franco-Haitian Union, 1966-1968.1 Fulfer and his family came from the U.S.A. to the eastern Caribbean when the region was experiencing one of the most politically turbulent times in its modern history. These primarily British colonies were seeking political independence.
Caribbean nationalism was being promoted as well as the widely held view that most institutions should have Caribbean leaders in order to move forward. The Fulfers showed a clear understanding of these changing times and exhibited a sensitivity in dealing with matters related to these issues. Their willingness to help continue the evangelistic growth and development of Adventism in the eastern Caribbean won them the praise of all who worked with them. They carried these personal attributes to their leadership role in the Haitian Union before returning to the U.S.A. to continue to serve the Church.
Early Life and Education
James G. Fulfer was born December 6, 1921 in Akron Ohio. He served the Seventh-day Adventist Church over a long and distinguished career as a pastor, department leader, and president of both conference and union. Before entering the ministry of the Seventh-day Adventist Church, he served his country in the United States Army Air Corps as a dental technician. He attended Washington Missionary College (now Washington Adventist University) and graduated from Southern Missionary College in 1950, before beginning his early ministerial career. He later received a master of divinity from Andrews University.2
Service in the Inter-American Division
Before beginning service in Inter-American Division, Elder Fulfer served as assistant publishing secretary and district leader for eight years in the Georgia Cumberland Conference with headquarters in Atlanta, Georgia3. He lived in Crossville Tennessee. In 1957, Fulfer was appointed president of the then Leeward Islands Mission with headquarters in Barbados, West Indies. His was a heart of a servant. He is quoted in the Southern Tidings November 27, 1957 as follows: “As we leave for mission service, we covet an interest in your prayers that we may do our part in finishing God’s work, and that we may all go home together. Our prayers are with you as we leave the Southern union.”4 James G. Fulfer is reported to have left from Miami November 29, 1957 for Bridgetown, Barbados to begin his IAD service. His wife and three children followed on December 17, 1957. Mrs. Fulfer was an elementary school teacher.5 During his term of office at the Leeward Islands Mission, the mission status was upgraded to that of conference.6
Elder Fulfer’s next assignment in 1961, was president of the Caribbean Union Mission of Seventh-day Adventists with headquarters in Port-of-Spain Trinidad, West Indies. Under his leadership, the Port-of-Spain Hospital was completed and molded into an efficient community care institution. The Caribbean Union Mission was also upgraded to conference status under his leadership.7 In 1966 elder Fulfer was called to serve the Franco-Haitian Union as president, a position which he held until his permanent return from mission service in 1969.8
Later Years and Death
After James G. Fulfer’s permanent return to the North American Division from mission service, he completed a Master of Divinity degree at the Theological Seminary of Andrews University, Berrien Springs, Michigan. He continued to serve his church in various administrative positions including director of Adventist Disaster and Relief Agency (ADRA) for Haiti. Elder Fulfer completed his service record in pastoral ministry in the Southern Union. He lived in retirement with his wife in an Adventist retirement community in North Carolina. He died on February 8, 2010 in Hendersonville N.C. having served his church faithfully.9 At the time of his passing he was a member of the Fletcher N.C. Seventh-day Adventist Church. He was survived by his wife of 66 years, the former Olive May Tyson, one sister, Mildred Fulfer, one son Bob Fulfer and two daughters Nancy Merz and Ellen Story, six grandchildren and several nieces and nephews.10
Benoit Emmanuel Clement. L’ Eglise Adventiste d’ Haiti a’ la Croisée des Chemins 100 ans d’ Histoire, 1905-2005. Port-au Prince, Haiti: Media-Texte, 2005.
Elliot, H. T. “From Home Base to Front Line.” ARH, December 19, 1957.
“Fulfer, James G.” Obituaries. Southern Tidings, December 2010.
Fulfer, James G. and Olive. “Fulfers Leave for Work in Mission Field.” Southern Tidings, November 27, 1957.
Murray Eric John. The history of Seventh-day Adventists in Trinidad and Tobago,1891-1981. Maracas Valley, Trinidad: College Press, 1981.
Phillips, Glenn O. Seventh-day Adventists in Barbados: Over a Century of Adventism, 1884-1991. Bridgetown, Barbados: Caribbean Graphics and Letchworth Ltd., 1991.
Roth, Arthur H. “The New President in the Caribbean Union.” Inter-American Division Messenger, June 1961.
“The Franco-Haitian Union.” Inter-American Division Messenger, November 1966.
Emmanuel Clement Benoit, L’ Eglise Adventiste d’ Haiti a’ la Croisée des Chemins 100 ans d’ Histoire, 1905-2005 (Port-au Prince, Haiti: Media-Texte, 2005), 67, 116.↩
“Fulfer, James G.,” Obituaries, Southern Tidings, December 2010, 29.↩
“The Franco-Haitian Union,” Inter-American Division Messenger, November 1966, 6.↩
James G. and Olive Fulfer, “Fulfers Leave for Work in Mission Field,” Southern Tidings, November 27, 1957, 7.↩
H. T. Elliot, “From Home Base to Front Line,” ARH, December 19, 1957, 32.↩
Glenn O. Phillips, Seventh-day Adventists in Barbados: Over a Century of Adventism,1884-1991 (Bridgetown, Barbados; Caribbean Graphics and Letchworth Ltd., 1991), 116.↩
Arthur H. Roth, “The New President in the Caribbean Union,” Inter-American Division Messenger, June 1961, 12.↩
“The Franco-Haitian Union,” 6.↩
Eric John Murray, The History of Seventh-day Adventists in Trinidad and Tobago,1891-1981 (Maracas Valley, Trinidad: College Press, 1981), 120, 178.↩
“Fulfer, James G.,” Southern Tidings, 29.↩