Fiji Times

SUVA, Fiji (September 1) – The Methodist church has made the right decision to shelve a proposal to increase levies for its members.

Already the country's largest Christian denomination has been copping much criticism from other church leaders and civil society organizations for imposing too much financial commitments on its members in the form of levies and donations towards church-managed funds.

The latest proposal is to increase annual levies for each church member irrespective of age or status in the church from FJD$10 [US$5.85] to $15 [US$8.80].

Even with the levy at $10, not all church members are able to pay. It is the reason some church circuits around the country are unable to meet the allocated amounts the church expects them to raise each year.

Especially in the rural areas, church members struggle each year to raise the sums which the church headquarters in Suva allocates for them.

This the church leaders attending the annual conference on Bau island have realized and thus have stalled any further increase in levies on the members.

The church last week raised over FJD$2million [US$1.17 million] during the choir competition held at Ratu Cakobau Park. It is one of the biggest amounts raised during the choral festival held each year prior to the conference proper.

Apart from the levies and various fundraisings during the year, members who enter the choir competition are required to fork out more from their pockets. They have to pay for their choir uniforms, transport to and from the competition venue and for those from the outer islands, accommodation and meals.

Add these all up and one may have an idea of the financial burden imposed on a member.

Although it is not compulsory to give to the church, most members are traditionally obliged to give.

The church has acquired assets which it hopes will eventually generate sufficient revenue to fund its many missions and activities including the running of its schools.

It eventually wants to lessen the financial burdens it imposes on its members and allow families to concentrate on improving their living standards and focus attention more on the education of the children.

The more distractions there are to the family because of commitments to the extended family, the vanua and church, the less time and resources there are to dedicate to the family. This has been identified as one of the major causes of family breakdowns and related social problems.

Family members deserve better.

September 1, 2006

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