The full English text of Archbishop Fereimi Cama's General Synod Te Hinota Whānui charge follows below:
During these last few months when uncertainty and confusion reigned and where many of us in our respective communities and globally felt a sense of loneliness and fear, we, as the Anglican Church, our three Tikanga Church met and heard the calls for a greater presence in the lives of the congregations when we were told to close our churches.
We could not have felt any more distant to our neighbour than during those initial few weeks of close down.
It is from the depth of our loneliness and our fears that you, as leaders of our church became the Church and reached out in so many innovative ways to those close to you, to your parishioners and to the wider community.
I commend your leadership and those whom you represent here at this General Synod. They expressed and embodied the teachings of our Lord, reached out to the poor and the downtrodden and walked with the marginalized. In many ways, you embodied the callings of the prophet Micah to “Act Justly, to love mercy and to walk in humble fellowship with your God”.
I pay tribute to Archbishop Emeritus Winston Halapua and the late Archbishop Jabez Bryce in whose footsteps I walk, and in whose teaching I am now a teacher to others. They contributed in their own ways to defining the vaka of the three tikanga Church of ours.
I also pay tribute to my colleagues Don and Philip for bringing their youngest sibling under their wings. I am indebted to them for their constant guidance and wise counsel.
When COVID-19 reached our shores, we all felt that it was a temporary thing and up until our last General Synod Standing Committee in February, we all felt that this pandemic was like many others and that we would quickly recover from it and move on with our lives.
We were so confident in the medical sciences. We were comfortable in our lives and comfortable in the institutions and systems that we have built over the last few decades. We accepted the social systems and models. All we wanted was to get through the pandemic and go back to our status quo.
How we were all so wrong in our reading.
Six months into the pandemic and we still have not seen the end of the pandemic.
14.2 million infected, 8.2 million recovered and a staggering 608,000 deaths from this pandemic. As of the 21st of this month, Fiji has 27 cases with 19 recoveries and no deaths. Tonga and Samoa still remain COVID free.
Fiji, the worst affected by the sharp down turn in the tourism industry and closure of the borders, will see an estimated 115,000 Fijians –– one third of our workforce –– that have had their hours reduced or lost their jobs entirely. Remittances are projected to fall by 15 per cent.
What is the writing on the wall my sisters and brothers? What are these numbers saying to us as a church?
Whilst many of the mainline denominations struggled with this challenge, some of the denominations were able to use social media platforms to spiritually “be in touch” with their communities.
Now that the strict quarantine measures are lifted, it would be interesting to see how the mainline churches will integrate the learnings from the COVID-19 lockdown as tools for mission and outreach.
It is clear that the nature of the church in the Pacific has shifted as a result of COVID-19.
This week, our Pacific Islanders in New Zealand have submitted a petition to the New Zealand Parliament calling for compassion towards overstayers in New Zealand.
With some 35,000 signatures, this petition is an indication of the mood of New Zealanders dealing with the poor and the marginalized communities as we are called to act justly and love mercy.
To some of us in this Synod, this issue is close to our hearts. We have found a way to address the plight of refugees in our societies, what can we do as a church for the overstayers?
There is a need for our church and our society to develop a model of society that values the human being as a steward of God’s creation and our environment to be at the centre of any future development model.
An increasing awareness of the inequalities of a capitalist driven economy is a conversation that can be heard in the streets and other places more so than just in academic and NGOs circles.
When we are free from COVID-19, are we going back to the same type of society?
What are the changes we need to see in our island countries?
What are we saying as a Church when our societies are calling for such a change?
As the three tikanga church, we will need to look at creative ways of being the church. We will need to pivot our ministries to the new realities on our lands and our ocean.
We, as a church will need to become better stewards of God’s creation. We need to find innovative solutions using traditional methodologies for self-sustaining church communities. We will need to apply that model of stewardship to our very own parishes and dioceses.
Sisters and brothers, members of this Synod:
We need to build a more resilient Church.
As the Church, we will need to pivot our focus to encourage greater self-reliance and self-sufficiency in the short to medium term with a view to developing greater resilience of our parishes, dioceses and the three tikanga church in the longer term.
We need to look into avenues to develop the assets of the church in close collaboration with the respective parishes towards making the church self-sustaining within the next decade.
We need to place an emphasis on all academic institutions of the church to develop curricula around self-sufficiency such as the promotion of class gardens and school plantations.
In this regard, priority should be given to increasing and sharing traditional knowledge around food security in schools under our tutelage.
Our various governance bodies should be tasked with such responsibilities. For the Tikanga Pasifika, our pivot (toward sustainability and self-reliance) will be our priority.
I will task our Standing Committee of the Diocese together with the Trustees of the Church to develop a strategy for financial stability of the church.
Finally as a Church, we should strengthen resources of the Anglican Mission Board to develop short to medium term strategies for our three -Tikanga church aimed at providing seed funds towards the development and use of our assets.
As we meet today, our people will be praying for God’s guidance and for God’s presence in our deliberations. We in turn will need to discern God’s calling to us to be prophetic in our decisions to chart the course of our three-Tikanga vaka to a resilient future.