Fiji Islands

   The first Christian missionaries found their way to the Fiji Islands in 1830. Five years later, due to an agreement dividing responsibility in the South Pacific, the original London Missionary Society personnel turned over their work to the British Methodists. The Methodist Church was the only Protestant church in the islands until the Anglicans arrived in 1860, and it has remained the largest religious group in the islands, though the Roman Catholic Church, which launched its mission in 1844, has almost overtaken it. The Methodist effort, which relied heavily on Tongan converts, made slow progress until 1854, when Thakombau, the principal chief in the islands, converted. After the British authorities began to bring indians (primarily from Kerala and Madras) into Fiji to work the plantations, the Methodists began an indian mission. The mission developed into the present-day Methodist Church in Fiji and Rotuma, the only Fiji-based church in the World Council of Churches.
   The Anglicans were followed by the Presbyterians (1876) and the Seventh-day Adventist Church (1889). Important efforts were launched in the 20th century by the Christian Brethren and the Assemblies of God. The latter group has had spectacular growth in the last two decades. While Pentecostalism has spread rapidly, most adherents have not separated from their former churches. The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, which has a special role for South Sea islanders in its schema of salvation, has done well in the islands, along with its sister church, the Reorganized Church of Jesus Christ of Latter Day saints (now the Christian Community).
   in 1924, the older Protestant churches founded the Fiji Council of Churches. This cooperative effort facilitated the founding of the Pacific Theological School (jointly sponsored by the Methodists, Anglicans, Presbyterians, and Con-gregationalists), which now serves a number of the South Sea Island nations. Fiji has also provided the headquarters site for the Pacific Conference of Churches. Meanwhile, the more conservative churches have come together in the Evangelical Fellowship of Fiji, affiliated with the World Evangelical Alliance.
   Fiji has seen a variety of indigenous church movements, mostly offshoots of the Methodists. The Vessel of Christ movement, which emerged during World War ii, was suppressed by the government. The Messiah Club, which continues to exist, is focused upon the higher standard of living that members expect their messianic leader to bring to the islands in the near future.
   Further reading:
   ■ J. Garrett, Footsteps in the Sea: Christianity in Oceania to World War II (Suva: University of the South Pacific, Institute of Pacific Studies in association with the World Council of Churches, 1992)
   ■ Methodist Church in Fiji, 1835-1985: 150th Anniversary Celebration (Suva: Lotu Pasifika Production, 1985).

Encyclopedia of Protestantism. . 2005.

Look at other dictionaries:

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  • Fiji Islands — a group of islands in the S Pacific constituting most of the country of Fiji. * * * …   Universalium

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