NEWLY-ordained Methodist Church ministers were yesterday reminded to be transformed within before they can serve God and the people.
Speaking in the iTaukei language to 22 newly-ordained ministers at the end of the four-day annual conference at Centenary Church in Suva yesterday, church president Reverend Doctor Tuikilakila Waqairatu said the ministers should play their roles as proclaimers of the good news.
Mr Waqairatu told the ministers they should be the light in their community and be responsible leaders in their churches.
He also reminded them that it is wrong to preach about men being superior in the family and undermining women in a family.
Mr Waqairatu said the women were their helper, their assistant with whom ministers shared responsibilities with in raising a God-fearing family.
After accepting it had faulted along the way and sought forgiveness within the church's ranks following the 1987 upheaval when the church leadership was taken over by nationalist Methodists, the conference, which finalises all church policy, decided it would strengthen its core role of servitude.
Mr Waqairatu — whose vision is to turn the church into a "green church" by banning smoking and drinking kava in its premises and help move its members away from excessive kava drinking — stressed the decisions of the conference in his sermon and called on all Methodists to embrace changes in their lives.
The church's communications secretary, Reverend James Bhagwan, later reiterated to The Fiji Times the church's stand on issues that had affected its members and clergy.
He said ministers must not abuse or take advantage of the respect members of the community had for them.
"The ordination service is always important because those of us who are ordained, it is a renewal of a message for us," Mr Bhagwan said.
"We are reminded that in order to transform society, we have to be transformed from within.
"In his (Mr Waqairatu) sermon, he was affirming the call to serve and trying to really impart the idea of loving the word and living it before talking about it.
"So it's basically walking the talk. We are called as ministers to walk the talk. That is the challenge for everyone that serves."
Mr Bhagwan said challenges faced by many ministers who get caught up in adultery, fornication, marital affairs and many other crimes are because they are not committed to their calling, which is to serve God and the people.
"In order to preach the gospel, we must love the gospel and this is a challenge for us. That those who are called to serve really commit to serving.
"There are challenges along the way, we don't earn a lot of money so sometimes money becomes a temptation, and we are in positions of leadership so sometimes power can be a temptation.
"We are looked up at with admiration and respect and sometimes we take advantage of that and we take it the wrong way.
"So we must not abuse the position of leadership and authority that we are given, we are here to minister and serve God and the community loves us to lead."
Mr Bhagwan said it was when church leaders failed to commit or re-commit their lives to their calling was when they gave in to temptation.
"Often, what happens is that people are not committed to their calling, and so they fall into temptation. And when that happens, the community is affected, the church is affected and lives are affected.
"If there is a situation of adultery or abuse of any kind, those people involved are disciplined strongly.
"It's taken to the standing committee, the ministerial session and brought to our attention once the investigation is done and they can be recommended for dismissal."
The four-day annual conference ended yesterday with a thanksgiving church service at the Centenary Church in Suva.