The Seventh-day Adventist Church in the Trans-Pacific Union Mission (TPUM) has met at Fulton College, Fiji, to plan for the future. The TPUM is perhaps the South Pacific Division’s (SPD) most culturally diverse region, encompassing Melanesian, Polynesian and Micronesian people groups in the Solomon Islands, Vanuatu, Fiji, Samoa, Tonga and Kiribati Missions, as well as smaller nations.
The 2nd Session of the TPUM saw a number of changes in leadership and structure. The item that provoked the most passionate discussion from the Session floor was the TPUM executive committee proposal that three departments at Union level be abolished: health, women’s ministry and children’s ministry. The senior administrative officers of the Union would then take on “liaison” roles in these ministry areas and local missions would be encouraged to make more use of the strong leadership provided by the equivalent departments at Division level.
It was difficult to convince many of the delegates that the proposed change did not reflect a downgrade in the importance of health, women’s ministry and children’s ministry
TPUM president, Pr Waisea Vuniwa, urged the meeting to accept the proposal, saying that budgets are tight and that 50 percent or more of the money saved would be allocated to these same ministry areas at mission level.
It was difficult to convince many of the delegates that the proposed change did not reflect a downgrade in the importance of health, women’s ministry and children’s ministry, but the TPUM leadership’s clearly stated commitment to grassroots ministry eventually swayed the vote to the affirmative.
What was not discussed on the floor of the meeting was the fact that TPUM has added another department during the last five-year period: human resources. It may be that the Union in this case is redefining its role as more an administrative office for the region, rather than a provider of practical training and ministry resources.
Indeed, it seems there are some in the region who would prefer to see the TPUM structure cut back further. A suggestion from the Session floor to abolish all departments at Union level, except education, provoked much discussion in the dining hall afterwards, but failed to make it to a vote.
South Pacific Division president, Dr Barry Oliver, chaired the nominating committee, which operated in Fulton library while departmental reports were being made in the Session proper upstairs. The results of the nominating committee’s deliberations were voted through almost unanimously on the final day of the Session.
Dr Barry Oliver with the nominating committee
Incumbent officers were returned in most cases, but the TPUM’s largest mission, Solomon Islands, was subject to a clean sweep in which the president, general secretary and chief financial officer (CFO) were replaced. There was no suggestion that this was a result of poor leadership; in fact the opposite was the case.
The new president elected for the Solomon Islands Mission has yet to accept. Pastor Benjamin Asa will move next year from his general secretary role in Solomon Islands to his first presidency in Kiribati & Nauru Mission. Pr Asa says he was initially shocked at the nomination, but found his wife and children supportive of the move when he was called home to give them the news. Within 24 hours, he was sitting with members of the Kiribati delegation in the dining hall, learning from them the cultural and mission expertise that comes from working in the TPUM’s smallest and financially struggling mission.
Tonga has also received a shake-up with the general secretary, Pr Sione Moala, taking the role of president, and separate general secretary and CFO roles being combined in one secretary/treasurer role, which will now be taken by Tonga’s previous CFO, Mr Siaosi Masila.
The assembled delegates, while not giving their leaders a free ride, entered into their roles with diligence and a positive attitude. Even the most penetrating questions were posed with respect and recognition of the positive things that have been accomplished within the Trans-Pacific Union over the last five years. And the SPD and TPUM leaders present rose to the occasion, making their contributions with grace, humour and consideration. While meeting procedures were adhered to, there was an unstudied lack of formality about the occasion, with first names used and laughter a frequent feature.
Indeed, Seventh-day Adventists in the TPUM have much to smile about. While a lack of finances, facilities and staffing is a constant struggle, God is blessing the Church’s work in the region. The last five years has seen membership increase from 86,339 to 100,143 with nine more churches planted, not counting groups yet to achieve “company” status, of which there are many.
A full list of the appointments made at the TPUM Session follows:
TPUM dept directors/secretary
Ministerial Assoc Secretary – Pr Nos Terry Mailalong (incumbent)
Family life and HR – Pr Mike Sikuri (incumbent)
Youth – Pr Maeveni Kaufononga (incumbent)
Education – Yet to accept appointment
Stewardship/SS/Personal Min – Pr Luther Taniveke (from same portfolio cluster, Solomons)
TPUM Executive Committee members
Mr Alofa Tuamu – American Samoa
Mrs Ruiti Urlano – Kiribati
Pr Manu Latu – Tonga
Mrs Danielle Masoe – Vanuatu
Pr Rusel Kaio – Vanuatu
Pr Brian Chand – Fiji
Mrs Louise Vakamocea – Fiji
Pr Martin Losi – Solomons
Mrs Hillen Hilly – Solomons
Mrs Jaine Collin – Solomons
Mr Beven Tutuo – Solomons
Pres – Pr Uili Solofa (incumbent)
GS – Pr Sione Ausage (from District Director, American Samoa)
CFO – Mr Benjamin Tofilau (incumbent)
Kiribati & Nauru
Pres – Pr Benjamin Asa (from GS, Solomons)
GS – Mr Iobwebwe Ientaake (from Sec/Treas, Kiribati)
CFO – Mr Mosese Kolao (from CFO, Samoas-T)
Pres – Pr Aseri Sukunabulisau (incumbent)
GS – Pr Wame Sausau (incumbent)
CFO – Mr Semiti Taoi (incumbent)
Assistant to President – Mr Josateki Talemaitoga (from church pastor and Communication, Fiji)
Pres – Pr Sione Kakala Moala (from GS, Tonga)
Sec/Treas – Mr Siaosi Masila (from CFO, Tonga)
Note: the GS and CFO roles have been combined into one Sec/Treas role
Pres – Pr John Leeman (incumbent)
GS – Pr Damien Rice (incumbent)
CFO – Mr Teddy Kingsley (from CFO, Solomons)
Pres – Yet to accept GS
Pr Samuel Panda (from District Director, Malaita)
CFO – Mr Fraser Alekevu (from Assoc Treas, Solomons)