April 10, 2014 04:39:09 AM
Methodist Church in Fiji has reminded members in leadership positions to keep politics and the church separate.
In line with this, the church has advised those members appointed to leadership positions by the church’s Circuit Quarterly Meetings, Divisional Annual Meeting and National Annual Conference they must give up their leadership positions if they choose to stand in the nation’s forthcoming General Elections on September 17.
Although they will retain their status as lay preachers or lay pastors or ministers and deaconesses, these church officials will not have any appointment during the election campaign.
“This is to ensure that they are not tempted to abuse the power and influence they have in the church to further their political aspirations,” Methodist Church in Fiji General Secretary Rev Tevita Nawadra Bainivanua says.
“What we are talking about is those who serve in positions of authority such as stewards, treasurers, presidents of fellowships, cell group leaders and at higher level – members of church committees such as department advisory committees, the President’s panel or the Standing Committee. This will be part of our code of conduct for the church.”
Candidates will still maintain their membership in the Methodist Church and be able to participate fully in the life of the church.
“We are not discouraging our members from campaigning, far from it. If they are prepared to serve the nation with integrity, humility, compassion and servant-hood based on the principles of the Kingdom of God, we encourage anyone to do so. However they will have to give up any position of leadership. They can worship, sing in the choir, take part in Bible study and cell group meetings, teach in Sunday school, and participate in the Youth, Men’s and Women’s Fellowships, but not as a leader.”
Caution on sermon messages
Lay preachers, catechists, ministers and deaconesses have also been urged to ensure the messages they are imparting during their sermons are limited to the gospel and the church’s forthcoming jubilee celebration and not on elections or party manifestos in the lead up to the elections.
“We are to preach the Good News, the Kingdom of God and call people and society to live in righteousness, compassion and with justice. We are celebrating the Golden Jubilee of the Church’s independence from the Methodist Church in Australasia, so we are to preach the themes of Jubilee: freedom from oppression, slavery, debt, sin – God’s liberation; freedom for forgiveness, love, reconciliation – God’s favour; and freedom to consecrate, proclaim, tend the flock, save lives – God’s commission,” Rev Bainivanua said.
The church has also prohibited the discussion of issues relating to political campaigns during official church meeting.
Rev Bainivanua says the Bose Vakarau (Preparatory Meeting), Leader’s Meeting, Circuit Quarterly Meeting and Divisional Annual meeting are for discussing the work of the Church.
“Political meetings, campaign or information meetings must be done outside of these meetings so that no political party, candidate or lobbyist use the church for political purposes. They are welcome to speak to individual members as citizens.”
Rev Bainivanua further says church halls or properties of the church may be fired for the purpose of meetings or rallies, but worship services, official church meetings and programmes are not open for political campaigning.