Telling the stories of the Anglican Church in Aotearoa, NZ and Polynesia

+Sione highlights Moana of Life

Bishop of Polynesia Archbishop Sione Ulu'ilakepa has charged the Anglican Church with a call to move from lamentation to hope, and to care for Creation, drawing all eyes to the Pacific Ocean and its huge impact on planetary health.

Taonga News  |  22 May 2024  |

Archbishop Sione Ulu'ilakepa has presented his Archbishops' charge to Te Hīnota Whānui meeting in Heretaunga - Hastings this week in written form, after a bout of ill health prevented him from travelling to preside at the Synod in person.

The Archbishops' charge focuses on the need for faithful people to persevere despite suffering, and to care for the moana, its depths to his shores, in recognition that what makes the Pacific Ocean healthy, brings health to all the world.

The Archbishop's charge follows below in full.

Charge to the 66th Session of the General Synod Te Hīnota Whānui

of the Anglican Church in Aotearoa, New Zealand and Polynesia

Archbishop Sione Ulu'ilakepa

I bring you warm greetings in the name of the Risen Lord and Saviour! I acknowledge the late Archbishop Fereimi Cama and Archbishop Emeritus Winston Halapua for their invaluable leadership in forging the core identity of the Diocese. I also take the opportunity to acknowledge Archbishop Philip Richardson.

Your Grace, you have led us over these years and brought he Church to where it is today. I am sure we will have the opportunity to thank you once again for this leadership as the General Synod.

Archbishop Don and I were in Rome together with the other Archbishops and Primates in a retreat. Much gratitude goes to my fellow brother Archbishop for your insight and wisdom. We are still on that journey and yet my cup is already full of the learnings and insight.

Journey from Despair to Hope

Members of the General Synod, tropical Cyclone Gabrielle that hit Aotearoa New Zealand and the ensuing devastation that it caused in its wake has marked our Church in more ways than one would fathom. Furthermore the recent flash floods that hit Fiji and Tonga is yet another example of the increasing intensity, severity and frequency of extreme weather patterns.

Theological Reflection on the journey from the last General Synod to today

In our very being, we as Christians, as Anglicans are keenly aware of the suffering caused by natural disasters. We often cry to our Maker for assistance and sometimes question God’s tough love for us believers. 

In Paul’s second letter to the Corinthians, Paul describes the struggles and hardships faced by believers, similar to carrying a treasure in jars of clay. The metaphor of jars of clay refers to human frailty and vulnerability. Despite facing difficulties such as being hard-pressed, perplexed, persecuted, and struck down, believers are not crushed, despairing, abandoned, or destroyed. Paul emphasizes that these trials serve a purpose in revealing the power of God and the life of Jesus within believers.

This passage from 2 Corinthians 4:7-18 resonates with the transition from lamentation to hope found in the biblical narrative, particularly in the context of the transition from the Book of Lamentations to the themes of hope in books like Isaiah.

Acknowledgment of Suffering: Similar to the lamentations expressed in the Book of Lamentations, Paul acknowledges the reality of suffering and affliction faced by believers.

Transformation through Suffering: Just as the lamentations in Lamentations give way to expressions of hope and trust in God's faithfulness, Paul illustrates how believers undergo a transformative process through suffering.

Confident Hope in Resurrection: Paul's confident proclamation of the resurrection echoes the themes of hope and restoration found in later prophetic books like Isaiah. Despite the present struggles and afflictions, we as believers are encouraged to fix our hope on the promise of resurrection and eternal glory, which surpasses and transcends their temporary sufferings.

The journey from lamentations to hope in the Books of Job and Isaiah reflect the cyclical nature of human experience. They acknowledge the reality of suffering and despair while also affirming the possibility of redemption and renewal. Through the struggles of individuals like Job and the prophetic visions of figures like Isaiah, we are reminded of the enduring presence of hope even in the darkest of times.

Ultimately, these texts invite us to trust in the faithfulness of God and to hold fast to the belief that, in the end, there is always reason to hope.

Key Priorities

This theological grounding on the transition from Lamentation to Hope as a foundational concept. Hereon, we project what that means to the concept of the Pacific Ocean, the Moana. Moana-Water of Life and Moana-Water of Hope helps us further define the priority for the Church. Some interesting facts about our Ocean:

1.    Size: The Pacific Ocean is the largest ocean on Earth, covering approximately 63 million square miles (165 million square kilometers). It spans an area larger than all of Earth's landmasses combined.

2.    Depth: The average depth of the Pacific Ocean is around 13,000 feet (3,960 meters). However, it also contains the deepest known part of any ocean, the Mariana Trench, which reaches a depth of about 36,070 feet (10,994 meters) at its deepest point, known as the Challenger Deep.

3.    Volume: The Pacific Ocean contains about half of the Earth's ocean water volume, making it the most voluminous ocean.

4.    Ocean Currents: The Pacific Ocean has a complex system of ocean currents that play a crucial role in global climate patterns. The El Niño-Southern Oscillation (ENSO) phenomenon, centred in the Pacific, has widespread effects on weather, rainfall patterns, and marine ecosystems worldwide.

In this Charge, I would like to put forward the notion of the Pacific Ocean -the Moana both as a Life Giving and Hope Giving Ocean.

Moana - Water of Life

The journey from lamentation to hope begins with acknowledging the degradation of oceans and coastal areas caused by human activities such as pollution, overfishing, habitat destruction, and climate change. This includes recognizing the suffering of marine life and coastal communities as well as the loss of biodiversity and ecosystem services.

Lamentation leads to a call to responsibility—to take action to address the root causes of ocean degradation and to care for oceans as stewards of creation. Just as Job confronted the suffering he faced and sought understanding from God, so too must we confront the environmental challenges threatening our oceans and take responsibility for our role in causing them.

Despite the current state of ocean degradation, there is hope for restoration and renewal. The message of hope in the Old Testament—from the promises of renewal in Isaiah to the perseverance of Job—reminds us that restoration is possible even in the face of adversity. By caring for oceans and implementing conservation measures, we embody this hope, working towards a future where marine ecosystems are restored, and coastal communities thrive.

Hope inspires action. As we journey from lamentation to hope, we are called to actively engage in caring for oceans—to reduce pollution, combat overfishing, protect marine habitats, and mitigate the impacts of climate change. Through collective action and collaboration, we can build a sustainable future for oceans and coastal communities, ensuring that they continue to provide essential resources and services for current and future generations. 

Moana - Water of Life

The Anglican Church of Aotearoa New Zealand and Polynesia holds a rich heritage and a diverse membership spanning multiple cultures and communities. Within this context, there are several areas of hope and opportunity for the Church:

The Anglican Church of Aotearoa New Zealand and Polynesia celebrates its diversity as a strength. As a three Tikanga Church our hope lies in fostering unity amidst this diversity, embracing cultural differences while finding common ground in faith and mission. Our constitution encourages us towards greater cooperation and collaboration.  By promoting inclusivity and understanding, this constitutional message that drives to the identity of the Anglican persona can serve as the cohesive element for the Church.

There is hope in the Church's commitment to mission and service, both locally and globally. Much like the Moana that interconnects with the rest of the oceans, our Church reaches out through its ministries, outreach programs, and partnerships. As a Church we can make a meaningful impact on issues such as justice, poverty eradication, and reconciliation. By embodying the values of compassion and service, the Church can be a beacon of hope and transformation in the lives of individuals and communities.

The Anglican Church of Aotearoa New Zealand and Polynesia has an opportunity to lead by example in environmental stewardship. With its strong focus on sustainability and care for creation, the Church can inspire positive change by advocating for environmental justice, implementing eco-friendly practices, and raising awareness about the importance of protecting the environment for future generations.

The Church has a crucial role to play in fostering reconciliation and healing, both within its own community and in wider society. This includes addressing historical injustices, promoting dialogue and understanding between different cultural groups, and working towards healing and reconciliation for those who have been marginalized or oppressed.

There is hope in the youth and future leadership of the Anglican Church of Aotearoa New Zealand and Polynesia. By investing in youth ministry, leadership development, and intergenerational engagement, the Church can empower young people to become active participants in shaping the future of the Church and society. Their energy, creativity, and passion offer great potential for innovation and growth.

The Call

Just as the biblical narrative traces a path from lamentation to hope, so too must we navigate through the challenges of our time with resilience and faith. Like the apostle Paul's metaphor of carrying treasure in jars of clay, we acknowledge our human frailty while embracing the transformative power of God's love and grace.

The Pacific Ocean, or Moana, serves as a powerful symbol of both life and hope. In embracing the concepts of Moana as both the Water of Life and the Water of Hope, we are called to action. We must confront the reality of ocean degradation caused by human activities and commit to restoring and protecting our marine environments for future generations. Just as Job sought understanding in the midst of suffering, so too must we confront the environmental challenges of our time with humility and resolve.

Hope inspires action, and as members of the Anglican Church of Aotearoa New Zealand and Polynesia, we have a unique opportunity to lead by example. By fostering unity amidst diversity, committing to mission and service, advocating for environmental stewardship, and promoting reconciliation and healing, we can be agents of positive change in our communities and beyond.

As we look to the future, let us draw strength from the resilience of the human spirit and the promise of redemption found in our faith. Together, let us work towards a world where justice, compassion, and sustainability prevail, guided by the light of hope that shines within each of us.

God bless you all.