Ethnic Background: Pacific Islander (Tongan)
Conference: California Pacific
Probationary Date: 06/30/2008
Full Membership Date: 06/20/2011
Number of Eligible Quadrenniums: 1
1987:Associate of Arts (AA), Southwestern College, Chula Vista CA.
1989: BA-Biochemistry & Cell Biology, University of California San Diego.
1993-1994: Completed courses but no thesis for a Masters in Forensic Science; National University, San Diego.
2005: Master of Divinity. Claremont School of Theology, Claremont CA.
2005: Doctor of Ministry, Claremont School of Theology, Claremont CA.
1994-2000: Lay Leader for Tongan Language Fellowship, St.Marks UMC, San Diego CA.
1999-2002: Lay Delegate to Cal Pac Annual Conference.
1999-2004: Board of Congregational Development for Cal Pac.
1999-2010: Secretary for Pacific Islanders Commission of Cal-Pac.
2011-2015: Leadership Team, Cal Pac.
2002-2010: National Board of Congregational Development for UMC.
2011-2015: Connectional Table for Cal Pac.
2015-2021: Co-Chair of Pacific Islanders Commission of Cal-Pac.
2021-Today: District Superintendent of East District, Cal Pac.
Community and Ecumenical Involvement:
1986-1993: Board of Directors for Tongan Community, Gardena CA.
1989-1999: Hokule’a and Pacific Islanders Community, San Diego, CA.
1991-1994: After school Program for Youth and Young, Colton UMC, Colton CA.
2003-2005: Gang Prevention Program, Lennox Area, Lennox CA.
2014-Today: CLUE (Clergy and Laity United for Economic Justice) for Orange County
2020-2021: Pacific Islanders Community for Covid 19 Prevention, Orange County.
Other Relevant Experience:
1985-2000: Probation Department of San Diego County.
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?
The church is the body of Christ and not an institution. This is the defining element of my vision for service within the global church and beyond. I bring my deep spiritual identity and practice as the primary tools for serving the people of the church and beyond. The brokenness that the church is experiencing requires not my “might or power” but something so much bigger than myself. As such, I hope to embody a deep sense of faith in God’s ability to see us through this valley, and thereby restore calmness and assurance. I bring my deep respect for living in community, developing and maintaining relationships that will heal and advance the work of the entire body. My ability to teach, care and shepherd has been formed and reformed during my time as a probation officer, a local pastor and now a district superintendent. Work of justice and reconciliation is not merely about issues, but more about seeking healing and liberation from the sickness that dwells at the core of who we are as a church. Competency in diverse settings, learning the nuances required for effective management, is not merely a learned trait, but a lived out reality in my life as I navigate through this journey. So, I bring an additional perspective from an underrepresented community to expand the horizon of the Western Jurisdiction and help bring these communities from the margins to the center of the United Methodist Church.
I especially bring a sense of calmness to a church that has been facing challenges of declining, division, chaos and more. Through the role of bishop, I will attempt to move back to the basics of a relational community as directed by the Great Commandment in Mathew 22:36-40. As a the body of Christ, the church have attempted many different methods and we are still declining and continues to face serious challenges. By moving back to the teaching of Jesus Christ, we can build a relational community whereby we can move together as a community to face the challenges of the day. Despite all of the chaos and noise at the moment, the people of the UMC needs assurances that we can survive these through a relational community that is first connected to God and to the rest of humanity.
Describe how the last two years have affected your ministry.
In the last two years, I served as a local church pastor before being called to be the district superintendent of the East District in the Cal Pac Annual Conference. The different contexts of the tasks at hand gave me a perspective and movement towards numerous ways to continue answering God’s call in my life. At the local church, our members benefitted from a long appointment of 12 years at the same church. This was a multi-cultural, multi-ethnic, multi-language church. Over this long appointment, we developed deep relationships of respect and grace toward one another. So when Covid 19-hit, we moved as a community through various innovations to connect with the members via on-line or in-person. The church buildings were closed to all of our activities, so we did all of our worship and programs on-line. Using Facebook and Zoom we did our worship, meeting, and most of our programs. We were sensitive to the needs of various groups in our church, especially the elderly and the children in our various ministries. Our young adults and some of the youth helped with connection of the elderly folks to the internet, and on-line. Our clergy lead with flexibility and grace to allow failure and mistake as times to pivot to a more successful ministry. As a clergy, I did change as the demands of the day required. At times, I was a teacher, an encourager, a grieving friend, and at others, a strict disciplinary and a presence. We were also able to abandon some cultural practices so the whole can all benefitted. At the end of that year our ministries flourished in most aspects. As the missional strategist for the East District, a relational community seems to be the best way forward. I employed my story as a child growing up in a poor community in the South Pacific Island of Tonga as my guide. I shared with everyone how my mother send me to the neighbors to borrow some salt, sugar, kerosene or other basic necessities we needed. The neighbors kids would do the same to our house. We survived the natural disasters and the daily demands by sharing what we had. For the East District and beyond, the Great Commandment provided the theological foundation to a relational community as our goal. If we go back to the sharing our basic necessities as sisters and brothers in Christ, we can withstand any changes and challenges that would come our way. We have enjoyed some positive changes in our relationships, but we have a long way to go. I envision a church with genuine relationships now and in years to come. With all the chaos and division brewing today, I believe the church is from all times to eternity. A relational community will be the way forward for our survival.
Endorser: Tupou Seini Kelemeni
Relationship to Candidate: Friend and Colleague.
Endorser: Rev. LLC Hammond
Relationship to Candidate: Friend and Colleague
Endorser: Rev. David Richardson
Relationship to Candidate: Friend and Colleague.