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The Advent of Methodism and the I Taukei: The Methodist Church In Fijian Nation-making

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posted on 2023-01-11, 13:55 authored by Beverley Williams
Abstract: This thesis is an historical anthropology of the role of the Methodist Church in Fiji, from the arrival of Methodist missionaries in 1830. At that time Fiji was a fragmented society. Fijians lived in villages on various islands, so there was no cohesion within the society. The insertion of Methodism into traditional Fijian society irreversibly changed the society, and this thesis traces the key changes that occurred. The rise to prominence of Chief Cakobau from Bau Island marks the beginning of unification of a fragmented Fiji. He formed the first Fijian government in 1871.The British Colonial authorities and the Methodists were also centrally involved in unification and the development of a national society as they set up structures to govern and evangelise the Fijians. However, the thesis argues that with the arrival of Indo-Fijians as indentured labourers to Fiji in 1879, the seeds of polarisation were planted and Indo- Fijians were left out of the frame of Fijian society. The thesis traces the involvement of Methodism, always in close relationship with the state in the twin processes of unification and polarisation. The coups that have changed the political landscape of Fiji served to alter the relationship between the Methodist Church and the state. A schism occurred in the Methodist Church following the 1987 coup, where violence against some ministers occurred, and the Methodist constitution was suspended. Members belonging to i taukei Methodist hierarchy who insisted on Fijian paramountcy to the exclusion of Indo-Fijians have been separated irretrievably from members of the Methodist hierarchy who believe in an inclusive society irrespective of race. Increasing diversity of socio-economic status allied with hierarchical divides and different interpretations of the Church’s mission have generated conflict in the Church and society at large. Diminution of the power of the Methodist Church in Fiji has occurred since 1987, and there are both internal and external factors at work which continue this trend. The various factors influencing the Church in the present along with its future prospects are discussed.

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Originally part of the Australasian Digital Theses (ADT) database.


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School of Social Sciences.

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La Trobe University

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