The number of Samoan congregations of the United Church of Christ is growing, and the Rev. Sepulona Tanuvasa thinks there is no better time than the present for the group to stand on its own two feet. The pastor of The First Samoan Church of Los Angeles UCC is a main proponent of a General Synod 2013 resolution that seeks to separate Samoan Ministries from Pacific Islander and Asian American Ministries (PAAM) and recognize it as a historically underrepresented group of the UCC. And he is hoping and praying that General Synod delegates agree with the idea.
"We believe by doing this we will elevate the understanding of our community in the UCC and take ownership of our faith in the denomination," said Tanuvasa. "We believe this is the right time to write the resolution so we can be recognized as part of the historically underrepresented groups."
Proposed by the Southern California Nevada Conference, the resolution seeks to separate Samoan Ministries from PAAM and calls for Samoan Ministries' membership on the board of the Council of Racial for Ethnic Ministries (COREM). Samoan Ministries has been related to COREM through PAAM from its inception. If the resolution is passed, Samoan Ministries would become the 10th historically underrepresented group in the UCC.
"Whereas PAAM's 16 ethnicities have always been hospitable and inclusive of their Samoan partners, nevertheless, Samoans feel they have sufficiently unique needs and experiences to have a separate voice in COREM," the resolution states.
"Having that one voice involved in the conversation at the highest table within the denomination is an encouraging reality among our community," Tanuvasa adds. "We do believe it is important for us to be separate but, at the same time, continue to participate at different levels."
There are five distinct Samoan voices and experiences within the UCC, referred to as the "Five Streams" of the Samoan Ministries in the UCC. They include the Congregational Christian Church of Samoa in the U.S. mainland, the Congregational Christian Church of American Samoa, the Congregational Christian Church of Samoa in America, the Council of Samoan Ministries, and Samoan Ministries Table of the Southern California Nevada Conference UCC. The majority of Samoan congregations are located in Southern California, and Tanuvasa said nearly all of them worship in the Samoan language.
"We still find comfort at the table when we can all speak Samoan," Tanuvasa said. "We hope to be recognized so we can strengthen our base and find joy in doing ministry at different levels of the denomination. We are trying to continue to move forward with the hope and prayers that we will make our decision as a community to do what is beneficial and what is good for the Samoan mission and ministry within the UCC."