Saturday, January 14, 2012

The Fiji Methodist Church today

from w
Dribs and drabs of news emerge from the Methodist Church office in Suva or interviews but they certainly need a better PR to get their viewpoint out - and not just from the men at the top. What do the Methodist women think? What do the Methodist young people think? Here are a few things to consider. I don't think the title of the first copy and paste job from the Fiji Sun is very accurate. Change in the church - I don't think so. Old men dreaming dreams perhaps! The bits in italics are my comments.

January 15, 2012 | Filed under: Fiji News | Posted by: newsroom

A new president of the Methodist Church in Fiji and Rotuma is expected to be appointed in August. This is when the church holds its annual general meeting after a lapse of four years. The election of a new president was revealed by the church’s general secretary Reverend Tevita Nawadra yesterday.

He said sitting president Reverend Ame Tugaue had exceeded his term after the church meetings were suspended by Government under the Public Emergency Regulations (PER). The church’s constitution demands an elected president can serve for three consecutive years. The president cannot be re-elected after serving a term. The election of the president of the church could not take place last year due to the ban on the church’s annual conference. It resulted in the suspension of the annual conference in the last few years.

During this time, Government had called for a change in the church leadership, but this failed because the Methodist Church’s constitution stipulated that any change in leadership must be through election. Government has said the church must concentrate on being a church and stay out of politics.

“We need a new president. The appointment of a new president was to have been done last year but our president has carried on although his term has expired,” Reverend Nawadra said.

“The annual conference (Bose ko Viti) is significant in the church because it is where all decisions are made including the election of office bearers.”

Government has given the green light to the Church to apply for a permit after the lifting of the Public Emergency Regulations (PER) on January 7. The ban imposed on the church’s monthly, quarterly meetings and annual conference was because of the alleged involvement of senior members of the church in politics.

Meanwhile, the Church is trying to organise a meeting between two former church presidents, Reverend Josateki Koroi and Reverend Manasa Lasaro. Reverend Koroi, in an interview with Radio Australia, called on the Methodist Church to heal its internal rifts. His leadership ended in 1989 when he was succeeded by Reverend Lasaro. “We have contacted Reverend Koroi and he is prepared to come in. We are waiting for a reply from Reverend Lasaro,” he said. He said they hoped the two would reconcile before the annual general meeting in August.

(Is the journalist referring to something said way back in August or something said just this week. It could be an old story. This is the one I think it refers to: Methinks it’s time the old guys – over seventy or eighty - to stop talking and let the middle-aged and young talatalas speak instead. The future is not for the oldies who hark back to a Fiji twenty two years ago. Today life is difficult for many people and the focus needs to be not on leadership but grass roots living for the ordinary Methodist families. And they certainly need better PR so should they hire a vavalagi from USA or Australia, pay him or her big bucks to get good stories out there!!!. Have they even got a website, a facebook page, a blog site. I don’t think so.)

Call for Fiji Methodist church unity
Updated August 25, 2011 16:23:59

There's been a call for the Fiji Methodist Church to heal its internal rifts.

It comes from a former church President, Reverend Josateki Koroi, who was forced out of the leadership in 1989 by Reverend Manasa Lasaro.

He says Reverend Lasaro is part of the wing of the church which believes in ethnic Fijian nationalism, while he says there are others like himself who are more moderate.

Reverend Koroi says this week's cancellation of the Methodist conference by the interim Fiji government won't help heal the church's divisions, as that's something only the church can do.

Presenter: Bruce Hill
Speaker: Reverend Josateki Koroi, former Fiji Methodist Church President

KOROI: I think the government is putting the pressure now but the question of reconciliation within the church has been long overdue. In my last year as President of the church, the General Secretary of the Church at the time take over the church, close the door of the church for me for almost 12 months.

HILL: Would it be fair to say that the Fiji Methodist Church has two main factions; one which is a very strongly Fijian ethnic nationalist side, and the other which you're identified with, much more religiously oriented and moderate?

KOROI: Yes this is my stand and when I was against this breakaway, led by Lasaro, they were really a nationalist group and I stood against that and that was the main cause of the split within the church.

HILL: Well given that do you think that the government might have perhaps had a point when it said that it didn't want these churchmen who were identified with that branch of the church speaking at the conference?

KOROI: Well I cannot say, both of them have their own agenda of taking over the power, the army has gone off its proper role in the government and that's how it took over the government. I think a power struggle guided by some selfish motivation.

HILL: Can these two factions within the church, the ethnic Fijian nationalists and the moderates reconcile? Can the church achieve unity given these divisions?

KOROI: Yes the church should unite and stand on its proper foundation, then it can be the proper church. At the moment it's the cause of the weakness in the church, they have no conviction or mission, no vision as a church.

HILL: Do you think that the government's action in cancelling the church conference will help or hinder this process of the two wings of the church reconciling?

KOROI: I don't think it would help or hinder really, I can't see how the church would unite just because of the pressure from the government. The church ought to stand on its own and unite without any pressure or anything from the government. The church has been misled for the last few years now, starting from the year 1989.

(This story in the Fiji Sun is more recent.)

Fiji Methodist Church’s Reverend Tevita Banivanua speaks to Pacific Beat
Created: Thu, 12 Jan 15:41:33 UTC+1300 2012

Last Updated: 19 hours 57 minutes ago
Fiji’s Methodist Church has been told that despite the lifting of Public Emergency Regulations it will still need permits to hold meetings.
Since the draconian regulations were lifted on Saturday, a revamped Public Order Decree has come into force.

Fiji’s interim Prime Minister, Frank Bainimarama, says the Decree brings the former Public Order Act up-to-date but many are concerned it is a way of continuing the controls that had been in place under the Emergency Regulations.

The Methodist Church’s assistant general-secretary, Reverend Tevita Banivanua, told Radio Australia’s Pacific Beat, the police have rejected his request to make permit applications on behalf of his congregations.

“We were really overjoyed when we heard of the lifting of the PER (Public Emergency Regulations) but then when the actual thing came, it was almost a cut and paste thing,” he said.

“They have moved the PER, the one that affects us, to the revised Public Order Act 2012 so we are still caught in the middle.”
and another article - the point of view of a very capable and excellent talatala.

Methodists losing faith in Fiji

12 Jan, 2012 03:00 AM
METHODIST minister Reverend Tevita Nawadra Banivanua had every reason to hope that 2012 was to be the beginning of a new period of rapprochement between his church and Fiji's military regime.

Banned from holding meetings since 2009 and with its two most senior office holders facing charges of holding an illegal meeting, the church has been at the centre of a repressive regime of emergency regulations enacted by the unelected government of Voreqe ''Frank'' Bainimarama.

When Commodore Bainimarama announced the lifting of the public emergency regulations, known as the PER, the Reverend was thrilled. But since then, Reverend Banivanua has watched a new and permanent law be enacted, which essentially ''cuts and pastes'' the worst excesses of the regulations.

The decision by Commodore Bainimarama to retain the repressive laws has frustrated many in Fiji, who had hoped the government was finally beginning to move towards a more democratic style.

''I had hoped that the lifting of the PER would have encouraged us to believe in government. But we have lost trust,'' said Reverend Banivanua, the church's assistant secretary.

The relationship between Fiji's Methodist Church, which preaches to about two-thirds of Fiji's population, has been sour since 2008, when several leaders condemned Commodore Bainimarama.

The Reverend's interview comes the day after The Age revealed that the lifting of emergency rule in Fiji was proving to be a publicity exercise, with the military regime giving itself sweeping powers of arrest, detention and repression.

Senior police told Reverend Banivanua and other religious leaders that every Methodist church in Fiji - of which there are more than 2000 - will have to apply seven days in advance for a permit every time they want to hold a meeting.


Andrew Thornley said...

Dear Wendy,
What you say is true about the need for improved PR on behalf of the Methodist Church. For a while they had the media-savvy Rev. James Bhagwan assisting them but he is currently overseas on further study. Nevertheless the Koroi-Lasaro rift is one that has never been adequately dealt with and until there is some form of reconciliation the church will not feel ready to move on. There is an added sense of urgency about this as Rev. Koroi is preparing to "retire" to his home village of Mavana within the next year and any rapprochement will be more difficult to achieve at such a distance.
As for the change of leadership, that is very important, as the heir-apparent to the present Qase Levu is the General Secretary, Tuikilakila Waqairatu, a man always ready to speak his mind on issues of deep social consequence insofar as they affect the ordinary people of Fiji. If such comment on social issues tends to be critical of government policies, or lack of them, then of course the new Qase Levu will attract attention. He is one man who will not resile from the prophetic word.

Peceli and Wendy's Blog said...

They seem to be walking softly softly as if on eggshells, but I suppose being pragmatic is one way that Fiji people cope with their daily lives.
They have to get permission to have meetings still and one issue raised is that to visit the nearest police post - if you live on a small island such as in Lau - is not an easy task. It would mean hiring an outboard at least and buying some petrol!

timtam said...

On a different note re: Tithes and financial burden on church members.
I do believe babasiga had a post, couple of months/years ago addressing tithes.

Another story regarding those tithes is emerging from Samoa.

Is there a similar story in Fiji, or has this financial burden eased a bit?

Peceli and Wendy's Blog said...

The Fiji papers occasionally put out exaggerated articles on the burden people in Fiji have in their giving to their local church. I don't know if an accurate survey has actually been done comparing the different religious bodies in Fiji and the contributions by members. The media has targeted the Methodists about it but I tend to think some of the more 'American style' churches expect larger contributions.