World Council of Churches Office of Communication
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29 March 2001

Modern social customs a challenge for the church
WCC delegation visits Cook Islands/Rarotonga

cf. WCC Press Release, PR-01-10, of 19 March 2001
cf. WCC Press Update, UP-01-05, of 27 March 2001

"Knowing Jesus means to be involved in radical transformation", the general secretary of the World Council of Churches (WCC), Rev. Dr Konrad Raiser, said in a sermon delivered in the Cook Islands Christian Church (CICC) at Avarua, Rarotonga, on Sunday, 25 March. Raiser is visiting the Cook Islands/Rarotonga on a trip to the Pacific region that began in Samoa and American Samoa (19-23 March) and will conclude with a two-day visit to Tahiti, 28-29 March.

The WCC delegation led by Raiser has been told of the challenges facing the church because of transformation in the society around it. In their dialogue, Raiser commented that "our faith must always be transformed or it becomes a rigid set of customs".

Raiser describes his visits to WCC member churches in all parts of the world as "pastoral visits like the ones a local pastor makes to members of his parish", familiarising himself "with the situation of member churches" and personalising the WCC.

In discussions on Monday, 26 March, with the Honourable Ngamau Muokoa, the government minister with responsibility for religious affairs, women, youth, sports and public works, the WCC delegation was told that the government and church share concern for the impact of globalisation on local society, the transportation of nuclear waste through the Pacific region, and domestic violence.

However, members of the Religious Advisory Council who attended the meeting also pointed to a difference of opinion between church and government on the need to change Sunday laws, with opposing views, for example, on allowing work on Sunday, in response to modern social customs.

Earlier, in a briefing by the president of the CICC, Rev. Tangatatutai, the delegation learned about the country's distinctive hymns - himene tuki - which blend traditional, pre-Christian-era, eight-part harmony with Christian lyrics. Rev. Tangatatutai, who is also the acting principal of Takamoa Theological College, told the WCC delegation that the CICC is now able to share its music more widely thanks to a digital recording studio provided by the WCC and installed in the offices of the CICC on the grounds of the theological college.

Members of the CCIC Women's Fellowship told the delegation that other grants from the WCC had provided "seed money" for income-generating projects to produce tie-dyed fabric and finely woven coconut products. Revenue from sales of these products support local congregations as well as the many CCIC congregations in Australia and New Zealand served by clergy couples sent from the Cook Islands to work with Cook Islanders now living abroad.

The WCC delegation was received by Sir Apenera Short, formerly the Queen's representative for the Cook Islands, and Lady Maui Short, leader of the Ariki, the traditional ruling house.

The delegation leaves Rarotonga on 27 March for Tahiti, where their tour of the Polynesian region will conclude on 29 March.

Members of the delegation:
Rev. Dr Konrad Raiser
Dr Elisabeth Raiser
Ms Kristine Greenaway, Director, WCC Communication
Mr John Taroanui Doom (Tahiti)

For more information contact:
the Media Relations Office
tel.: (+41 22) 791 6153 (office);
e-mail: media
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The World Council of Churches is a fellowship of churches, now 337, in more than 100 countries in all continents from virtually all Christian traditions. The Roman Catholic Church is not a member church but works cooperatively with the WCC. The highest governing body is the assembly, which meets approximately every seven years. The WCC was formally inaugurated in 1948 in Amsterdam, Netherlands. Its staff is headed by general secretary Konrad Raiser from the Evangelical Church in Germany.