Church to look beyond the Walls

Postdate: 17/ 11/ 2005

The Editor Fiji Times Suva So depressing to read that the Methodist Church has pressed on regardless applying for a permit to protest after it had been refused on common sensible grounds (FT 12//11/05). And sadly the country has to put up with a church whose leaders have such a low view of human rights that they are so confused about what they can do and what they shouldn’’ do. The church has suffered long from a lack of transparency in who it accounts for its stewardship to society and what is needs is an enquiry into its affairs and an overhaul so that proper procedures are not corrupted by improper practices.

It needs openness and humility to admit that it could be wrong. Rev. Ame Tugaue, Methodist Church General Secretary said this past week that the church will respect the decision not to issue a permit. But along comes a Methodist Social Services Committee which is still under the control of Rev. Manasa Lasaro advising that the church should apply yet one more time for a permit. It’s a breach of it’s own constitution that the Methodist Church in Fiji should act on the advice of a working committee without proper debate at its Conference Standing Committee. But I suppose when you have a church controlled by a power based church oligarchy grown so used to making unquestioned decisions on behalf of the many. The leaders can become a law unto themselves. The church dares to put the rule of law to the test and backed by the threat that a killer flood of the same scales as Katrina ion New Orleans, USA will be visited on Fiji if the state authorities do not approve the church’s application to go ahead. Weird things, which only happen in Fiji. There are for instance the coup-makers who walk free and rewarded with high office after they had overthrown elected governments and one other is a church which thinks of itself as above the rule of law.

It seems that there are people who will not take no for an answer because they are so confirmed in their own self righteous indignation they are right and everyone else is wrong. The insatiable tendency of these misguided Methodist leaders to take to the streets to show off the might of their ethnic nationalist majority has very little to do with the humility and concern for the small and weak taught by Jesus in the Gospel. The church leaders have been down this road before in 1987 when they carried out extensive roadblocks to halt public movement in Suva on Sunday in defiance of the rule of law and civil liberties. If the church insists that homosexuality is such an important moral issue then why was it not given the space and time it deserves at the Methodist Conference recently? Any amount of time was given to fundraising for over a million but no time to deliberate on an issue of some public importance. And have the leaders listened to other voices on a matter where clearly there are views other than theirs? For example one issued by the New Zealand AIDS Foundation which condemned programmes trying to cure homosexuals as harmful to individuals who have taken part in them.

Another view which accepts that since 1973 homosexuality has been recognized as naturally occurring variant of human sexual orientation. Have they listened to the plea expressed by Pacific community leaders such as the Speaker of the House of Representatives, Ratu Epeli Nailatikau? Speaking in Auckland last month, he called on Pacific leaders and churches to “return homosexuals to their accepted place in society and encourage legislation for equal human rights for gay men and other minorities”. It’s imperative for the church to see things in a new perspective. The leaders can do this by detaching themselves, step back and reflect on the church and its mission in society today. We as Methodists overestimate the role that we play n the changing situations of history into which God leads us. What we need is little modesty, a sense of humour, relaxation and a little smile. Could it be that we are not the central figures on whom everything depends? Is it possible that we do not always bear the whole burden of responsibility on our frail shoulders? God is not interested solely in the church, but his concern reaches much farther. And perhaps our anxiety will diminish if we positively and more thankfully acknowledge what God is doing beyond the walls of the church.

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