Thursday, July 30, 2009

No conference

from w
After weeks of standoffs the Methodist Church in Fiji has given in and will take a delegation to Rewa to announce that the Conference will not take place. Many people will be disappointed about the huge choir competition being off. Last year I enjoyed watching some of the choirs and especially appreciated one group of singers which included handicapped people. Singing in harmony together - like the Choir of Hard Knocks - raise the spirits indeed.

Do people get their money back on the cancellation of ferry tickets, plane tickets, bookings? Of course the fund-raising can continue as the generous supporters will still donate to help with next year's budget. Nadi Methodists have raised $200,000 as their gift. And people can still watch and pray.

No conference
Publish date/time: 31/07/2009 [17:08] from Fiji Village website

The Methodist Church Standing Committee has just finished its meeting at Epworth House in Suva, and decided that the Annual Church Conference will not be held this year. Church Assistant General Secretary Reverend Tevita Nawadra said a delegation of church ministers who are members of the standing committee are expected to go to Rewa tomorrow. Reverend Nawadra said the committee members will make a traditional presentation to Burebasaga high chief Ro Teimumu Kepa to inform her that the annual conference is officially cancelled.

The delegation will be led by former Methodist Church President and head of the Nadi Church Circuit Reverend Laisiasa Ratabacaca.

Ratabacaca also chaired today's Standing Committee meeting. Today's Standing Committee meeting took place minus the senior church executives who were last week charged for allegedly breaching the Public Emergency Regulation.

Reverend Tevita Nawadra said earlier today that they had a meeting with the Prime Minister and members of the Military Council this week, where they assured them that the standing committee will discuss the options to replace the format of the Church conference. The permit was granted based on these discussions. Reverend Nawadra said during their discussions with Bainimarama and the Military Council, they have also assured them of their support in the government's efforts to take the country forward.

(added Saturday) The Fiji Times adds some explanations of how the church will be able to manage some of the business in the coming months.

No conference
Saturday, August 01, 2009

THE Methodist Church has decided not to go ahead with its annual conference this year. This was confirmed to the Fiji Times yesterday by church assistant general secretary Reverend Tevita Banivanua. This is the second time the annual conference has been put on hold, the first following the coup in 1987.

Former church president Reverend Laisiasa Ratabacaca will lead a seven-member standing committee delegation to officially inform the vanua of Rewa, which was to have hosted the conference.

Mr Banivanua said the church will now expand the current 32-member standing committee to include all heads of the 53 divisions to discuss issues usually tabled at the annual conference. "We have only two legal frameworks that approve decisions for the church - the standing committee and the annual conference. Since there will be no conference, we have no choice but to expand the standing committee," he said.

The expanded standing committee will meet according to the scheduled dates of the conference this month. "The choir competition and soli will be held in various divisions," Mr Banivanua said. He said the decision to cancel the conference stemmed from directives from the State and the fact that church ministers were being arrested for breaching the public emergency regulation.

"It even went to the extent where the voice of the church was prohibited from being highlighted in the newspapers and airwaves, for instance our radio programme Raici Jisu Matua that airs every Sunday on Radio Fiji One," he said. "This is why the church decided to hold back on this year's conference."

Church executives met State officials on Tuesday in a "cordial meeting" which agreed to reintroduce the church's Sunday radio programme.

Without the conference, Mr Banivanua, said the church's coffers would suffer. He said the church collects about $800,000 at its annual conference. "That will be revised downwards significantly and the onus will on the members for their support," Mr Banivanua said. "We will also be doing some tightening of our budget for the programmes funded by the church." He said members from the US and Australia, invited to open and close the conference, would still come to participate in the choir competition and offer their soli. "We live by faith and believe God will find other ways to achieve what we want to achieve," Mr Banivanua said.


Andrew Thornley said...

From a historical perspective, a disturbing precedent has been set with this decision. In 1987, the Church made its own decision to change Conference arrangements.
In 2009, the Church has bowed to extreme (if not persecuting)pressure from secular authorities, some of whom have been extremely hostile to Fiji Methodism.
What kind of precedent does this set for future years?
The key principle that needs to be maintained was set down as long ago as 1839 by Rev. John Hunt, when he firmly rejected attempts from a high chief (representative then of secular authority) to change Bose Ko Viti decisions: Hunt stated then, "We believe that God honours his own ordinances and that a District Meeting [the equivalent then of the Bose Ko Viti] is God's own ordinance where the interference of the great head of the church my be confidently expected". In calling off the 2009 Conference, the Methodist Church is effectively countermanding its decision of earlier years when Rewa was nominated to host the Conference. The principle established by Hunt has been sorely compromised and where does the church go to from here?

Andrew Thornley said...

I need to get that spelling absolutely correct in my previous post:
" A District Meeting [the equivalent then of the Bose Ko Viti]is God's own ordinance where the interference of the great head of the church may be confidently expected".

Peceli and Wendy's Blog said...

Hello Andrew,
That's a good reference to John Hunt's stand.
The Fiji Methodist Church leaders are up against a brick wall, nine of their leaders effectively silenced. However if each division could have prayer, singing, a soli, perhaps ordinations, business matters could be dealt with by email? It's difficult of course not to have the annual meeting to receive reports and make plans. And the Annual Conference is a wonderful time to meet friends and colleagues. Peceli has been going to it almost every year for a decade or more, and of course we were there in '64 for the big celebration.
Indeed, where do they go from here!

Andrew Thornley said...

Thanks Wendy for those reflections. Yes, the business of the church will get done one way or another but this action by the Interim Regime is intended to destroy an institution by forcing it to disunify. No other church in Fiji is subject to such underhand methods (but maybe they will be too if they attempt to speak out; is that why they are so quiet?)
I am kai vavalagi and feel helpless in this situation but my deep feelings were hoping that the Methodist Church would say, to adapt Martin Luther's words: "Here We Stand; We can do no other"!

Peceli and Wendy's Blog said...

Courage possibly takes many forms. One way is to stand up and insist that there is gross injustice and probably face the brunt of protest. Another might be to keep quiet in order to protect family, even though this is seen as acquiesence (is that how you spell it)i.e. or giving in. There are many heroes as models, men and women, in history and modern times, who speak up loudly. Other heroes might be the ones who lose one day because they see further ahead as so far the story isn't finished. We cannot see the consequences of our decisions but fear sometimes makes us tremble.

laminar_flow said...

Funny about the Martin Luther quote by Andrew.

Ironically it was Martin Luther who nailed down his manuscript the Church door.

Is this a similar reformation period drastically needed for the Methodist Church in Fiji by obstructed by these layers of career driven theologians?

Peceli and Wendy's Blog said...

Hello Laminar,
Do you know these guys? Ame, Tui, Tomasi, and others? There's been too much exaggeration in how these men are portrayed. I wouldn't call them 'career driven theologians' either.

laminar_flow said...

You're knowing them does have its own bias about their characters in MCF.

I do not know them personally, nor do I want to; because their reputation proceeds them.

Do you think a reformation is needed within MCF?

Andrew Thornley said...

I have appreciated the responses to this issue and understand that they come from different perspectives. It is sometimes impossible to see eye-to-eye on these matters.
Certainly, the Methodist Church of Fiji has made mistakes in the past and they are starting to face up to them now as we witness attempts to secure reconciliation with Rev Josateki Koroi before he retires to his home village on Vanua Balavu.
But the Methodist Church is not alone in needing Reformation. All institutions need to constantly reexamine their policies and their mission goals on a regular basis. Look for example at the recent troubles that have affcted Catholicism in many countries of the world as the extent of sexual abuse becomes evident. The Roman Catholics are going through a difficult period of repentance.
If we look at the current leadership of the Methodist Church in Fiji, we see three well-educated men and possibly one of them could be called an academic. The other two have been involved in grass-roots ministry for most of their lives. I would not call any of them "career-driven" - indeed the three men are quite humble and I believe that they will lead the church forward to better days in the years ahead.
Although I maintain that a viable path for the church was to adhere more strongly to its past history as explained in my post above, I respect the fact that two of the most senior ministers in the Fiji Methodist Church, Rev Dr Sevati Tuwere and Rev Laisiasa Ratabacaca have counselled a path of "stepping-back". Let us see if the Interim Prime Minister has the qualities to "step-back" himself and allow the Church to restructure its meetings. People will still want to come together through August but in smaller gatherings. Is the Commodore going to be man enough to recognise that this is no threat to his power but an urgent desire on the part of the people to express their deepest Christian sentiments and feelings?

Peceli and Wendy's Blog said...

from Wendy
One of my favourite songs is from Enya's Shepherd Moons songbook and I play it occasionally at church.
How Can I Keep From Singing? Though it's claimed to come from America and only about 150 years old, I thought it harks right back to Europe when some communities of Christians were persecuted - such as my ancestors in France who were Hugonauts. Anyway, it's one of my favourite songs.

4 min 6 sec - 23 Aug 2006 -

Pictures of elves from "Lord of the Rings" to "How Can I Keep From Singing" by Enya.