Ethnic Background: Native Samoan
Conference: California Pacific
Probationary Date: 06/15/1980
Full Membership Date: 06/12/1983
Number of Eligible Quadrenniums: 1
Hawaii Loa College, Kaneohe, Hawaii —- B.A., 1976
Claremont School of Theology, Claremont, CA —- M.DIV., 1980
(Claremont School of Theology, Claremont, CA — D.MIN., 2023)
Local Church as Senior Pastor:
Othello UMC, WA ,1980-1983
Leavenworth Community UMC, WA, 1983-1988
Lahaina UMC, Maui, HI, 1988-2000
Keolumana UMC, Oahu, HI, 2001-2002
Wahiawa UMC, Oahu, HI, 2002-2006
Wesley UMC, Oahu, HI, 2006-present (Reconciling Congregation)
Annual Conference (California-Pacific):
Acts of Repentance Task Force, chair
Committee on Ministry (mentor), member
Planning and Strategy, member
Samoan Pulega, Pacific Islanders Commission
Youth Ministry coordinator, 1988-2000
Wesley Foundation Board (Univ. of Hawaii), member since 2006
Committee on Investigation
Pacific Islanders Commission
Elected Delegate to WJC, 2012, 2016
Commission on Religion and Race
2022 Mildred Hutchinson Award recipient, Methodist Federation for Social Action
WJC delegate 2012 and 2016
WJC representative to the General Board of Discipleship Ministries
General Board of Discipleship Ministries, member, 2016-present
GBDOM Strategic Programming Committee, chair
Finance committee, chair
Community and Ecumenical Involvement:
Protect Kaho’olawe Ohana Protest:
Protest against the continuing desecration of the sacred island of Kaho’olawe as training ground for US Naval bombing exercises since 1941! The bombing officially ended in 1993, when the U.S. Congress voted to cease military use of Kaho'olawe and authorize $400 million for cleanup.
Protect Kaho’olawe Ohana Restoration:
Trips to Kaho’olawe to help heal and restore Kaho’olawe by planting trees and vegetation. The cleanup toward restoration of Kaho’olawe remains daunting, as the US military has not been able to remove thousands of buried live ordinances.
Protect Honokahua Burial Site:
Protest development and construction on sacred lands — heiau (places of worship) and burial grounds. I joined the protest against the beachfront construction of The Ritz Carlton Resort at Kapalua, Maui. Initial excavation discovered a number of human bones; yet it was kept secret and construction continued. When the number of recovered bones amounted to over a hundred human remains, it was evident construction was on burial grounds, that was the Honokahua Burial site. The original Honolua Methodist Church chapel was built, and still stands, near the entrance to the burial site. The Ritz Carlton was moved uphill. We wrapped the iwi (bones) of the ancestors with tapa and fine mat, and returned them to their sacred burial ground.
Faith Action for Community Equity:
I am involved in the leadership of FACE — an inter-faith community organization that seeks to identify community needs and concerns, and organize our churches and community organizations to engage and address these issues together. The churches I served, Keolumana UMC and Wahiawa UMC, and Wesley UMC where I presently serve, are member unites of FACE. Community needs and concerns come from "listening and conversations" among members of churches and community organizations. Needs we identified and addressed over the years include: renovation of public housing, construction of shelters at bus stops to protect the elderly and others from the weather, drivers license written exams in at least 10 different languages, installment of traffic lights, speed bumps, well marked crosswalks, to slow down traffic in areas with high traffic fatality among the elderly, affordable housing, health care, criminal justice reform, immigration, environmental justice, and recently, calling for the shut-down of Naval Fuel Tanks, that are leaking fuel contaminating water supply for Honolulu residents, and threatening contamination of a main aquifer, only 100 feet below.
Protect Mauna Kea: Our Hawaii District Acts of Repentance Task Force traveled to the Big Island on Sept. 2019 to stand with Kanaka Maoli and Kupuna (elders) in protecting Mauna Kea (Sacred Mountain) from construction of a “Thirty Meter Telescope”.
Apology Resolution: The Hawaii District Acts of Repentance Task Force drafted an Apology Resolution in 2018, that calls the United Methodist Church to repentance and to apologize to Kanaka Maoli for the Methodist Church’s role and active participation in the illegal overthrow of the Hawaiian Kingdom and colonization of Native Hawaiian culture, community, traditions, wisdom and spirituality, with imperial white supremacy Christianity. The apology calls upon the United Methodist Church to become aware of Native Hawaiian culture and community through education, and engage in acts of solidarity, restoration and reconciliation, as we build beloved community.
Other Relevant Experience:
Why are you being called to the episcopacy at this time? What is it that you especially bring to the role of bishop with the current challenges facing our denomination and the Western Jurisdiction right now?
We face a myriad of challenges as a denomination and as the Western Jurisdiction: division in the denomination, systemic racism, racial inequality, colonization, white supremacy, imperialism, authoritarianism. Native children were forcibly separated from their families and placed in boarding schools — where many suffered abuse, hundreds died and buried in unmarked graves. In Hawaii, the illegal overthrow of the Hawaiian Kingdom and illicit "annexation" of a pseudo Hawaii republic led to Hawaii becoming the 50th State of the US. The sovereignty of the Hawaiian Kingdom remains, and is recognized by the United Nations as a Sovereign Kingdom-Nation under Occupation by the United States. The Church is connected and is responsible for these tragic realities — that originated from western-European empire-colonial expansion and fueled by the Enlightenment and the Church's Doctrine of Discovery. All of this aimed and directed toward domination, control, and annihilation of Indigenous peoples, cultures, and nations. As a Native person, born and raised in Samoa, I grew up with stories told by my father about colonization and occupation of Samoa by Germany, and later England, under the protectorate of New Zealand. Also stories about the "Mau" – the Samoan non-violent movement against colonial rule and for Samoan independence — from late 1920s to early 1930s. The theme was: "Samoa mo Samoa" (Samoa for Samoans). On Dec. 28, 1929, the New Zealand army shot at the peaceful gathering of the "Mau", killing 11 and many wounded. Among the dead was the leader of the "Mau", Chief Tupua Tamasese Leaofi III. The resistance continued for another 30 years. I can still recall the thrill of sitting on my father's shoulders as we joined the celebration at Apia, the capital, of Samoa's Independence, on New Year's Day, January 1, 1962! Samoa became the first South Pacific island nation to gain independence.
I share this because this passion for justice and freedom for Indigenous Peoples, and against all powers of colonization and domination, has informed my life and ministry and hope for beloved community, the realm of God's peaceable kin-dom centered on love. As much as I tremble with fear at the miraculous possibility of serving in the episcopal role, I also tremble with awe in helping to restore justice, freedom, and love in the community and mission of the Church, and among Indigenous People and all people, and the beloved community we share with the earth and the natural world.
I want to bring to this role as bishop, first of all, sincere repentance of the Church for its failure to proclaim the good news of love, the song all Indigenous peoples have sung and harmonized.
Describe how the last two years have affected your ministry.
I have been involved especially in the last two years here in Hawaii with ministries of justice and compassion among Native Hawaiians and Pacific Islanders, as well as environmental justice through Faith Action for Community Equity. I have also been involved with the work of the Cal-Pac Conference Commission on Religion and Race in naming and identifying racism and racial inequality in the structure, organization, practice and mission, of our Annual Conference. As a member of the General Board of Discipleship, we are coming to terms with the European- colonial, white supremacy, and imperial expansion influence in our Christian theology, worship and Christian education curriculum resources, mission and outreach, and discipleship focus.
I have come to the realization that much of my pastoral ministry has been limited to the confines of the church and local community that I've been appointed to serve. As the Discipleship Ministries theme, "Seeing all the people," suggested by the late Junius Dotson, former General Secretary of the General Board of Discipleship, it's not about fixing and maintaining churches — it's about "Seeing All the People". It's about building relationships in community, spending time to listen and share stories, as we build beloved community that extends beyond the walls of our structures. This is the heart of discipleship — being present in the community and share aloha, love, through listening and sharing of stories. It's not about "making disciples", but "being" disciples through "seeing all the people". Jesus called his disciples with the invitation "to follow" — to follow Jesus into the community of those on the margins, the outcasts and disinherited, and simply see them as God's beloved children, spend time with them and listen to their stories. Often time, healing comes by the simple caring presence of the other, and being given the opportunity to tell one's story to the other who listens with love and compassion.
My ministry has expanded beyond the local setting, to the larger community of the world, the planet, the cosmos of which "God so loved".