E.F.K.S. Church ready to face “consequences”
Apia, SAMOA — The E.F.K.S. Church and the Government are on a collision course with General Secretary Reverend Vavatau Taufao declaring they are ready to face the “fury” of the Government.
The General Secretary said the E.F.K.S., with a membership of 56,818 people, made its decision at the end of the Fono Tele and they stand by that decision despite the potential ramifications - which include the seizure of their ministers’ personal assets.
“Let the Government implement their law. As for the E.F.K.S. church, we stand by the decision reached at the end of the Fono Tele," he said.
"We will wait until the Fono Tele next year to review that decision. If there are consequences in the meantime, we have to remember that Jesus said I’m sending you as sheep among wolves. The pastors are prepared to carry the cross.
“But remember what Jesus told Peter. He said I would establish my church upon this rock and give you the keys; even the gates of hell wouldn’t prevail against it.”
The Church’s position was announced by Rev. Vavatau during a special programme aired on church-run television station E.F.K.S. TV. He was responding to the decision by Prime Minister Tuilaepa Dr. Sa’ilele Malielegaoi’s administration to reject a plea by the church to reconsider the church tax law.
At the beginning of the week, the Minister of Revenue, Tialavea Tionisio Hunt, warned that all Church Ministers – including E.F.K.S. Church Ministers – have until July 31, 2018 to comply. If they don’t, the Minister said the Government would take them to Court.
“This issue will end up in court if the church ministers continue to defy the law. Let me remind them that no one is above the law and the Government will not hesitate to prosecute,” the Minister said.
But during the E.F.K.S’s special televised programme, Rev. Vavatau insisted that as a church, they respect the Government’s authority, though the issue in question cuts to the core of their beliefs and for that reason, they will not give up.
“Our goal is not to be seen as we are opposing the Government but rather we are protecting what belongs to the church. In the view of the E.F.K.S. Church, this law is not in line with Biblical teachings.”
He added that the law also contradicted the constitution of the E.F.K.S.
“I speak with due respect when I say that the tax being waved before us is a small issue. There is not a pastor who is not able to pay their tax – the E.F.K.S’ concern is the reference to the pastor being the employee. This is a very dangerous thing considering the constitution of the E.F.K.S.”
Throughout the church tax debate, Vavatau said he’s often posed the question of who the “employer” is to which some people have said it’s the parishes and the church.
“An E.F.K.S. parish can never refer to their pastor as an employee. Why? Because they have a covenant. The E.F.K.S. membership can never belittle their pastors like that because they value their covenant relationship. So this is a serious issue in the view of the E.F.K.S. If the Pastor is the employee, his only employer is God. They are workers for God. So unless the Government want to retrieve the tax from God, then they can go ahead and do that themselves.”
The General Secretary also disputed the claim that a pastor’s alofa is an income, arguing that church members did not think like that.