Church defends political position
The General Secretary of the Congregational Christian Church of Samoa (C.C.C.S.), Reverend Vavatau Taufao, has called for a change of mindset from people who say the church should stay away from sensitive political decisions.
“When it comes to church and politics, members of the public often say that a Pastor shouldn’t be politicking. That mindset should change,” he said.
“Personally, how can we not be involved in politics when we are living in a political time? I’m not saying that Church Ministers go to where they are carrying out politics, but we have to provide the balance. In my opinion, we are supposed to be the watchdog.”
Rev. Taufao made the point during an interview with the Samoa Observer following a meeting with the Special Parliamentary Committee, where the biggest denomination in Samoa, opposed the L.T.C bills. They asked for the bills to be shelved.
During the meeting, the General Secretary said members of the Parliamentary Committee, whom he did not name, alluded to the notion that Church Ministers should not meddle with decisions made by the Government.
“We responded, expressing our disappointment in that mindset should change,” he said.
“With respect, we shouldn’t be punched around by politics while we just sit here and watch. The gospel and the church cannot sit idly when people are being hurt.”
According to Rev. Vavatau, a lot of the Government laws have encroached on the church’s territory.
“So the Church cannot just sit there when church matters have been affected,” he said, referring to the Government’s law to tax Church Ministers alofa (love offering).
“The E.F.K.S. took a stance when they legislated the taxing of pastors who are looking after churches in villages. The church cannot just sit back because the pastor looking after the church belongs to the church. He works for the church, follows the church’s policies and also we are talking about something that belongs to the church.”
The General Secretary reminded the “alofa” from church members belongs to the church.
“So we cannot have these things that are particular to the church being meddled with (by the Government) while the church just sits back and does nothing.”
Rev. Vavatau said the C.C.C.S. does not regret taking a stand against the L.T.C Bills, saying they wanted to ensure the record reflects the Church’s disapproval of the bills.
“Our position was for these laws to be withdrawn,” he said. “People can say that these are all assumptions but that’s okay. I believe assumptions weren’t born from a vacuum, they didn’t just create themselves. These were built upon events that have happened.
“So whatever happens in the future, let the records bear witness that the E.F.K.S. expressed our opinion and we warned about the dangers and risk that could happen.
“Personally I was very happy (we’ve expressed ourselves) even though there was a suggestion that the church does not have the power over these laws, it’s not about that. This not about the church’s power over whatever, this is a humble request out of our concern about the impact on people whom the church and the gospel should protect.”
Rev. Vavatau also sounded the alarm bells about the implication of the L.T.C. bills, especially when it comes to sensitive family and village matters.
“One of our concerns is that, if something happens and there are fights between villages and families, the lawmakers would not go to mediate,” he said.
“I speak with the utmost respect for the work of the Police and Village Councils, but the church does not take its role lightly when it comes to these things.
“We’ve used a case of a church Minister who was burnt trying to save someone. This is why the church is protective of its work. So we cannot just sit back. That is what I meant by saying people have to change their mentality.”
Preaching, he added, should not be confined within the four walls of a church building.
“Personally, I have to be involved,” Rev. Vavatau said. “When I preach, I must be involved. If my message is not involved, then it just hangs in the air…because we are living by and through the political era, legacy.”