Proposed amendments to the Constitution of the Congregational Christian Church of Samoa were at the heart of discussion at the General Assembly of the Church’s annual conference in Malua, yesterday.
One of the amendments proposes the automatic awarding of the pensioner’s benefit to Ministers who reach 30 years of service to the church.
The change also seeks to give similar benefits to the wife of a deceased Minister who had passed after serving the church for 30 years or more.
The proposal came from the district of Victoria, Australia. It was seconded and supported by the district of Manukau, New Zealand.
During the debate, Rev. Elder Toailoa Peleti did not support the idea.
As a pensioner, he said if such a change were made, the dignity and respect that comes with being a pensioner would be eroded.
He suggested that if the amendment is passed to allow benefits for the long service provided by ministers, Pensioners should be treated differently.
“My question to the General Assembly is how do you define the 30 years of service,” asked Rev. Elder Peleti. “Is it defined by the five years you are in Malua and then you add the other years from the different villages you serve?
“Can someone clarify this? It also appears from the proposal that the benefit is for the wife of the minister and not the pastor when they pass away.”
But another Minister disagreed. He told the Assembly that the amendment proposes to honor long service to the church.
“This is considering the fact that some with long service pass away earlier before they reach the age of 70,” said the minister. “They have done their service to the church and we don’t know the will of God and His calling on them.
“There are whispers about those who had served for more than thirty years but did not get the benefit they should get for long service.”
Still, Rev. Elder Peleti was not convinced.
“I maintain my position,” said the pensioner.
“The proposal has good intention and that is we should honour the men and women who have served the church for a long time but I feel that we should put it aside for now. There is always another time for it.”
At this point, the Chairman of the Finance Committee and Member of the Council of Deputies, Le Mamea Ropati, took the floor. Le Mamea was mainly concerned about the church’s ability to fund the initiative.
“The financial status (of the church) - when the pensioner initiative was established - was for those who are 70 years old,” the Chairman recalled.
“The funding (for pensioners) came from Taulaga Au Taumafai and it was later changed (pensioner) to 65 years old. I tell you that the Taulaga au Taumafai does not have enough to fund it. The money spent on the pensioners is a lot more than what was planned for.”
Taulaga au Taumafai is one of several offerings in the church that is branded under different names where the contribution goes towards certain or specific developments and initiatives.
According to Le Mamea, when the Taulaga au Taumafai is not enough for the Pensioners, it forces the Church to use funds set aside for missions for this purpose.
“I sit here and listen to the many views that there should be benefits for long service of 30 years. That’s fine.
“I also hear some opinions that it should include others like those who assist the minister (a'oa'o). There is nothing wrong with that but please be mindful about the burden that it will place on church members and our finances.”
The General Assembly continues its discussion today.