C.C.C.S. calls emergency conference
The Congregational Christian Church of Samoa (C.C.C.S) has called an emergency conference at Malua for 15 and 16 October 2020.
The conference was revealed in a letter by the Secretary General of C.C.C.S., Reverend Vavatau Taufao, to elders of the Church. Dated 17 September 2020, a copy of the letter written in Samoan was obtained by the Samoa Observer.
“The Fono Tele for 2020 [had] been cancelled due to the COVID-19 global pandemic; however due to the pending works that require the approval of the church, such as the budget for works in Financial Year 2021,” a translation of the letter reads.
“The Chairman of the Elders Committee has [therefore] approved the Fono Tele to be held on 15-16 October 2020.”
In June, the C.C.C.S. confirmed the cancellation of their general conference which had been scheduled in May.
When contacted for comment, Rev. Taufao demanded to be told who had provided the Samoa Observer with a copy of the letter.
The General Secretary for the Church also declined to comment on rumours that the church was planning to charter a plane for the event.
In his letter to Church officials, Rev. Taufao acknowledged that despite the economic impact of the coronavirus, especially overseas, the commitment of church members is evident from the taulaga (offering) for 2020.
He said that due to the State of Emergency, which limits the number of attendees to 100, some Committee members will use video conferences to participate.
“For Samoa, the Fono Tele conference will be held at the Maota Fono in Malua’ and there should be 14 members from each of the six Committees amounting to 84 people,” said Rev. Taufao. “Other members can join in using the zoom if they want to participate.”
Issues to be discussed during the Fono Tele will include endorsing the Committee works and reports from between May 2019 to May 2020.
This is to ensure that by the time of the next General conference there are not many issues on the agenda in case the closure of borders continues to May 2021.
According to Rev. Taufao only “urgent matters” will be discussed during the Fono Tele. They will also elect committee members and that nominations should be submitted on 25 September, 2020.
One of the issues that some Church Ministers hope to be on the agenda is the taxation of Church Ministers, which the church opposes in defiance of Government policy.
The Government passed a bill in 2018 requiring previously exempt Ministers to pay taxes on their income. The C.C.C.S. opposed the policy in principle at its General Assembly.
Thousands of members of the church across the islands and from New Zealand, Australia and the United States normally gather in May every year at Malua for the church conference.
Last year District Court Judge, Leota Raymond Schuster, dismissed a case against a group of C.C.C.S. Ministers following an application by the Ministry of Revenue, to withdraw two charges against each defendant for not paying income tax due to a lack of evidence.
Following the dismissal of the case the Prime Minister, Tuilaepa Dr. Sailele Malielegaoi, said the Government did not intend to leave the matter alone and would continue to prosecute the Ministers.
Last month the Chairman of the National Council of Churches Deacon Leaupepe Kasiano Leaupepe, appealed to the C.C.C.S. church Elders to “obey the law” and “pay their taxes”.