Reverend Vavatau Taufao - Standing up for the Church
In January this year the Samoan Government became the first in the region to introduce taxation laws targeting church ministers.
Due to the country being predominantly Christian, the new tax policy came under a lot of criticism from the religious fraternity, but the churches gradually acceded — except for the Congregational Christian Church of Samoa (CCCS) or Ekalesia Faapotopotoga Kerisiano Samoa (EFKS).
The General Secretary of the Church, Reverend Vavatau Taufao, became the face of the Congregational Christian Church of Samoa’s opposition to the new law and on those grounds is a nominee for the Samoa Observer People of the Year 2018.
In May this year — after the Church’s annual general conference — Reverend Vavatau declared that the Church are ready to face the “fury” of the Government.
He said the Church with its 56,818-strong membership made its decision at the end of the Fono Tele and they stand by that decision despite the potential ramifications — which include the seizure of the church ministers’ personal assets.
“Let the Government implement their law. As for the E.F.K.S. church, we stand by the decision reached at the end of the Fono Tele,” he said.
“We will wait until the Fono Tele next year (May 2019) to review that decision. If there are consequences in the meantime, we have to remember that Jesus said I’m sending you as sheep among wolves. The pastors are prepared to carry the cross.
“But remember what Jesus told Peter. He said I would establish my church upon this rock and give you the keys; even the gates of hell wouldn’t prevail against it.”
The Church’s position was announced by Rev. Vavatau during a special programme aired on the Church-run television station E.F.K.S. TV.
During a press conference immediately after the annual conference, Rev. Vavatau said that in the C.C.C.S., there is no such thing as one’s discretion.
“That is why I have pride in my church because we practice the true meaning of democracy. We are a democratic church, the decision was not decided by one person, rather the entire church.”
Rev. Vavatau said about 90 per cent of the church leaders reject the law that was brought down by the Government, after it was put to a vote during the general assembly.
“It was way over the majority who rejected it, approximately 90 percent of the attendees who voted. So the decision is not by Elders of the Church, it is the decision by the Fonotele.”
The General Secretary maintained that church members want to know the rationale behind the new law.
“The reason has to link to church beliefs. There is no teaching by Jesus that points to the taxing of Church Ministers.”
According to Reverend Vavatau, “Jesus teachings is clear, what belongs to God, give it to him.
“And the common belief among church members of their alofa to the Faifeau, is that they give freely with the notion this is their way expressing of their love for God. That is why they give and more reasons why they do not want the Church Ministers to pay taxes.”
Rev. Vavatau said it is the right decision.
“For me personally, I am very proud of my church, they stand by their faith and I am very proud of that,” said Reverend Vavatau, while fighting back tears.
“I am proud of my Church,” he reiterated.
He reminded the teachings of the Bible not to compromise the Gospel.
“We can’t compromise the Gospel to satisfy human necessities.”