Methodist Church to Reconcile Rival Factions

Rev. Tuikilakila Waqairatu
The Methodist Church of Fiji is now preparing itself for the future by trying to bring its two rival factions together. A reconciliation process will start this year to set the tone for the church’s healing wounds of the past within and outside the church.

I'Taukei nationalists dominated the church from the 1980s, leading to the imposition of Christian laws on non-Christians in Fiji after the 1987 coups. In 1987, the then President of the church Reverend Josateki Koroi was ousted by Reverend Manasa Lasaro after the coup.

Following this they pushed for the Sunday ban to restrict all public events on Sundays. Leading up to the 2000 coup, there were also reports of some Methodist church ministers openly making racial attacks from the pulpit.

After the George Speight coup in May 2000, the then President of the Methodist Church, Reverend Tomasi Kanailagi visited the parliament complex where the members of the People’s Coalition government were held. A letter of support from Reverend Kanailagi to George Speight was also made public.

Over the past years, the Methodist Church has also called for Fiji to be declared a Christian state.

Prime Minister, Commodore Voreqe Bainimarama has stressed to the church to look after the spiritual development of their congregation and not to involve itself in politics.

With preparations now underway for the Methodist Church conference from the 26th to the 29th of this month, church General Secretary, Reverend Tevita Nawadra has told Pacific Beat that the first step towards reconciliation within the church will be taken during the Induction Service of the Church’s new President, Reverend Tuikilakila Waqairatu. As part of the installation, Reverend Joseteki Koroi will join immediate past president, Reverend Ame Tugaue in the ceremony.

Reverend Koroi’s presidency ended prematurely in 1987 when the church leadership split into two factions, with Reverend Koroi on one side and Reverend Manasa Lasaro on the other. As a result, Reverend Koroi has not yet exercised his role as a past president by officiating in the installation a new president.

When questioned on the ethno-nationalist views within the church from the 1980’s onwards, Reverend Nawadra said the Methodist Church is already focusing on ensuring that the church is seen more than just a representative of one ethnic group.

Note: in 1996,  93% of Methodists were ethnic Fijians; Methodists accounted for 63% of all Christians and 34% of all religions in Fiji. Since then, the church has lost some ground to other, more charismatic, Christian churches, most especially the Assemblies of God (click here).  See also this article published in the Fiji Sun.

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