The Congregational Christian Church of Samoa (C.C.C.S.) has stripped all roles from their General Secretary Reverend Afereti Uili over an allegation of a sexual nature made by an unnamed woman.
The decision, made by the Elders Committee, was confirmed by a Member of the Committee, Reverend Elder Kerisiano Soti during an interview with the Samoa Observer.
Effective immediately, the Committee has removed the General Secretary role and suspended him from all his ministerial duties for five years. The decision means the Church will have to appoint a General Secretary first before their annual conference begins proper next week.
“The decision by the Committee that monitors ethics and behavior of workers was based on evidence presented (before them) about his behavior,” Rev. Elder Soti said.
“Even though Afereti denies the allegation, the girl involved has told us otherwise. So we’ve looked at the bigger picture and reached the conclusion that no Samoan lady would do such things for no reason.”
According to Rev. Elder Soti, the allegation had become the subject of a Court hearing.
“It has been referred to mediation and that mediation was not at the request of the girl’s side but by Afereti’s side,” he said. “That means it’s going to be a prolonged process but the Elders Committee feels that we have to make a decision now.”
The Elder said the Committee summoned both Rev. Uili and the girl involved to tell their sides of the story.
“Even though he’s denying the allegation, the decision has been made by the Elders based on how they feel about the situation,” said Rev. Elder Soti.
“We want to thank and acknowledge the work done by Afereti during his tenure, as a teacher, Principal of Malua Theological College and eventually the Secretary. But these things happen in life.”
Asked for a comment, Rev. Uili said he was informed about the decision on Tuesday afternoon.
“My argument is this, I’m innocent, I haven’t done anything wrong. There has been no proof for these allegations,” he said.
“I haven’t read a meeting resolution yet as to what the reasons are … but I suspect it has something to do with the allegation against me involving a girl.
“The decision they’ve made is based on their opinion that I have sinned but I strongly reject the allegation.
"Not only do I reject the allegation, as far as I’m concerned, nothing has been proven.”
When the allegation was initially made, Rev. Uili said he had pleaded with the Elders Committee to consider them carefully especially because none of it is true.
“I strongly reject them but it seems like they’ve made their decision based on their belief that the allegation is correct and I’m wrong.
As for the Court case, Rev. Uili said a decision is pending.
“We are still awaiting…we haven’t been told about a time for that matter. It was adjourned from February and it’s now May and yet nothing… I think they’re trying to look for someone for the matter.
Asked if the decision should have involved a wider consultation among church members, Rev. Uili said no.
“I think the Elders Committee have made the decision based on their role as the body that monitors the behavior of the workers and obviously they felt that I have behaved badly, I’ve sinned and it’s appropriate to remove the responsibilities and roles that had been given to me.
“I have no comment to make about who should do what and when.
“The decision is the responsibility of the Elders and they’ve reached their decision. So they have stripped me of my pastoral roles and also my role as the Secretary of the Church.”
Rev. Uili added that he harbours no ill feelings towards the Church and the Committee.
“Although I’ve been removed from the church, it doesn’t mean I hate the church. No, the Church belongs to Jesus Christ where God works through to reach people.
“There are things that happen in churches from time to time and decisions are made by people for people. When it comes to people, they make decisions based on what they feel is right.”
Lastly, he reiterated that the decision is premature.
“The decision is baseless. They should have attempted to determine if there is any truth to the allegation first before they came up with the decision. It has had a huge impact on me and my family.”
The decision comes as church members from all over the world congregate to Malua for their annual conference which begins on Sunday.