PACIFIC CONFERENCE OF CHURCHES – LEADERS’ MEETING
By Dr Deidre Palmer
I joined Church leaders from the Pacific gathered online from 1-3 December 2020 to reflect on the challenges of the impacts of COVID-19, and the ongoing issues faced by the regions in which our churches are serving.
Our theme for the conversation was “Towards a Resilient Household of God in the Pacific.”
It was encouraging to be with leaders representing churches in Aotearoa New Zealand, Australia, the Federated States of Micronesia, Fiji, Kanaky (New Caledonia), Maohi Nui (French Polynesia), the Republic of the Marshall Islands, Samoa, the Solomon Islands, Tonga and West Papua.
We worshipped together and spoke about the pastoral, prophetic and practical expressions of the Gospel of Christ, which we are embodying in our particular contexts.
We also affirmed our solidarity as sisters and brothers in Christ, part of the global communion of churches, that are responding compassionately to the social, economic, health and spiritual impacts of the global pandemic.
The issues for discussion over the three days were wide ranging, including theological education, gender justice, responding to domestic violence, being a Safe Church, and addressing the impacts of climate change and our ecological practices. We also discussed issues of human rights abuse in the region, self-determination, reparation for the impacts of nuclear testing and the ongoing threat of exploitation of natural resources and the threat of deep sea mining.
We heard an inspiring and challenging presentation by Dame Meg Taylor, Secretary General to the Pacific Islands Forum. Dame Meg highlighted the importance of the churches’ contribution to and collaboration with civil society She concluded with a reminder of our interconnectedness:
“For us in the Blue Pacific Household, there is only one way forward and that is together. We must work together at the local, regional and international level. Our humanity depends on this. We must hope for and build a resilient household of God in the Blue Pacific,” said Dame Meg.
In reflecting on the theme of the Conference, PCC General Secretary Rev James Bhagwan expressed his hopes beyond the pandemic.
“COVID has forced us as a family of God to look at our priorities and reset values ahead of 2021,” said Rev. Bhagwan.
“In the New Year we are called to care for those in greatest need – the hungry, thirsty, elderly, disabled – and create a world in which all are treated with justice and equity.
“Let us be God’s eyes and ears to see who is in most need of help. And then let us be God’s hands and feet, using our programmes to work miracles, no matter how small they may be.”