Rev Dr Tuikilakila K. Waqairatu
11 Feb 2014
For Immediate Release
The Uniting Church in Australia is shocked and saddened to hear of the death today of the President of the Methodist Church in Fiji and Rotuma Rev Dr Tuikilakila K. Waqairatu. A former General Secretary of the Church, Rev Waqairatu commenced his term as President in mid-2012 and was inducted as President at the 2013 Methodist Conference in Suva.
Rev Waqairatu was admitted to the Colonial War Memorial Hospital in Suva two days before he passed away. He was 66 years old and is survived by his wife Ioana and daughter Salote.
UnitingWorld National Director Rev Dr Kerry Enright said Rev Waqairatu was one of the Pacific church’s great leaders and had been guiding the Methodist Church in Fiji and Rotuma in a remarkable process of reconciliation and renewal. “My dear friend Rev Waqairatu was committed to reform the church so it would befaithful to the Gospel and alert to changes happening in Fiji and across the Pacific,” Dr Enright said.
Rev Waqairatu was recently quoted as saying, “There have been mistakes in the past and we have not remained abreast with the changes, we have not evolved but it is time to change.”
The late President was also an audacious advocate for the place of women in the church and society and at the 2013 Conference challenged ministers to treat their wives with respect. “They think they have been called to serve while their wives are just there to cook, clean and do other domestic duties,” he said.
He said that wives of pastors represented the women in the church and more should be done to help build women's relationship within the church. He encouraged the pastors of the church to look after their wives and build a strong equal relationship.
Growing up in Naroi village on Moala Island, Rev Waqairatu was encouraged to become a minister by his father and grandfather and completed his secondary education at Central Fijian School – nowSila Central High – less than two kilometres from the Davuilevu Theological College where he would eventually study for the ministry and in due course became Principal.
During the recent Methodist Conference in Suva Rev Waqairatu was awarded an Honorary Doctorate of Divinity from Vision University in the USA.
This year sees the Methodist Church in Fiji and Rotuma celebrating the 50th anniversary of becoming an independent conference.
In a symbol of his humility Rev Waqairatu had planned to celebrate the anniversary by washing the feet of the superintendent ministers and lay leaders of the Church’s 55 divisions. He was intending to ask these leaders to go back to their divisions and continue the process until every church had held a washing of the feet, as a sign of humility, servant hood and seeking forgiveness.
UnitingWorld understands that, according to the procedures of the Methodist Church, the former President Rev AmeTugaue will act as the Interim President until a new President is elected.
UnitingWorld Associate Director Church Solidarity (Pacific) Mr Bruce Mullan said Rev Waqairatu’s death was an absolute tragedy for the Methodist Church in Fiji and Rotuma. “To be struck down just as he was leading the church in the changing context that is Fiji is a huge loss both to the Methodist and the ecumenical movement in Fiji,” Mr Mullan said. “People in Fiji, Australia and across the Pacific will be saddened by this news and the Uniting Church in Australia offers its prayers and deep condolences to the family and to our Partner Church in Fiji.”
UnitingWorld is available for further comment. Please contact National Director Rev Dr Kerry Enright on +61 2 8267 4267