Tuesday, November 3, 2015

Mending Bridges and Moving Forward

Off the Wall 11/3/15

Yesterday a mini-conference of Divisional Superintendents and Divisional Stewards of the Methodist Church in Fiji began in Suva’s Centenary Church.

The three-day meeting of these ordained and lay leaders of the 56 divisions of the church was opened by Methodist Church President, Rev. Dr. Tevita Banivanua.

In addressing the leaders Rev. Dr. Banivanua shared his map for the church’s new exodus, Na Lako Yani Vou.

Reflecting on the past few years, Rev. Dr. Banivanua said that the issue of the difficult times that the Church faced with government from 2009 to 2013 has prompted the Methodist Church to try and look at areas at where we can start anew and think anew. He posed posed the question of “what was the message that was in these difficult times”

“For me one of the main questions that we should ask was: “Why did God allow this to happen to a church that God had called to bring Christianity to this land in 1835?”

“Like that pre-Exodus time, the Israelites were going through very difficult times in the hands of the Egyptians. Likewise in the pre-Babylonian exile the Jewish people went through some very difficult times as well. Both these events were going on without the full knowledge of the Israelites of God’s intension. I believe that the same situation, faced by Israelites in the Exodus and after the Exile, is now faced by the Methodist Church in Fiji. “

Rev. Dr. Banivanaua said that the time had come to do some re-ordering of Society and help people called Methodist in Fiji to renew, re-create, re-invent and re-build, God’s Church.

“The Church that God wants to use today in Fiji is a Church who wants to know how God sees her. The Church that God wants to use today in Fiji is a Church that is ready to confess her problems, her difficulties. The Church that God wants to use today in Fiji is a Church that believes that the solution is there, with God. The medicine, the healing for her wound is with God.  The Church that God wants to use today in Fiji is a Church that calls its members – and everyone – to listen to the voice of the Holy Spirit.”

One of the key challenges that the Church must address, said Rev. Dr. Banivanua is the restoration of relationships.

Following on from the success of the reconciliation process within the Church last year as part of her Golden Jubilee, the the Methodist Church in Fiji has begun a process of rebuilding relationships that were strained or neglected over the past few years.

In recent weeks, Methodist Church President, Rev. Dr. Tevita Banivanua, General Secretary, Rev. Dr. Epineri Vakadewavosa and Deputy General Secretary, Rev. Ili Vunisuwai have visited the Prime Minister, the Commander of the Republic of Fiji Military Forces and the Leader of the Opposition.

Sharing the news at this year retreat for Divisional Superintendents and Divisional Stewards in Suva, Rev. Dr. Banivanua said  that building relationships is part and parcel of who we are as Christians:
“believers in and followers of the one who came to restore a right relationship between us and God; a relationship based on love. The Methodist Church’s building of relationships is part and parcel of our new journey, the Lako Yani Vou. It is part of our calling. “

Rev. Dr. Banivanua added that the building of relationships with other Churches is also important.

“Over the past years we have been working with ECREA (Ecumenical Centre for Research, Education and Advocacy) and the Roman Catholic Church, since the time of the late Archbishop Mataca to discuss ecumenism in a very concrete way – how we, as the different branches of the tree that is Christ, can have fellowship with  each other and especially, how we can work together and speak with one voice on important issues affecting Fiji. “

Methodist Church leaders have  been participating in the ECREA Church Leaders social gatherings where we have had discussions with many of the other churches about working together.

“Over the past year, we have been working within the Fiji Council of Churches, with our fellow members, on how to expand or extend the FCC beyond its traditional membership so that we can bring everyone together. The FCC is renewing herself as well, reviewing its constitution to make it more inclusive so that hopefully other churches, who have been left out, something that led to the forming of the ACCF, can join. This is our commitment to the prayer of Jesus, “that they may all be one.””

Rev. Dr. Banivanua said that beyond this the Church is also called to love and build relationship with others – those outside the body of Christ.
“It is my hope, that as president we will also be able to meet and have dialogue with the leaders of the two main non-Christian religious groups, the Hindu and Muslim communities this year on how we can walk together in this journey.”

In this process of rebuilding relationships, the Church’s relationship with the Vanua continues to be one we value and need to strengthen.

“The Vanua is an important part of our ministry and we hope that the Vanua will continue to be in our hearts and in our minds and be part of our journey.

“At the same time we are called to practice love in a radical way that impacts the Vanua. As Christian Fijians we need to be inclusive our understanding of the Vanua to include all the other ethnic groups that live in the Vanua. My vision is that the Methodist Church’s relationship-building process must be one that engages not only with government or a certain community but engages with everybody in Fiji. “

If the Methodist Church in Fiji is to move forward in its New Exodus, it will need its leaders and its members to fully commit to a shared vision as “people called Methodists” in Fiji.

The drua is ready, the map is ready, the winds are blowing. All that is needed now is for the crew to commit to the journey and follow their captain in this bold journey.

“Simplicity, Serenity, Spontaneity”

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