It's been a while since anything about hymns hit the news outside a denominational hymnal committee press release. But you may have heard that there's some trouble brewing in Fiji between the government there and the Methodist Church, which has led to a court order silencing two top Methodist officials. The Fijian government wants to keep the Methodists' annual conference from taking place in late August. They have also banned a huge hymn singing festival that is generally held in conjunction with the conference, but speculation is that the controversy will lead to a greater attendance at the choral event than ever before.
The Methodist Church in Fiji claims a reputation for "moderation, conservative social values and harmony," but the government believes that the church is "clearly pushing a political agenda ."
You can read the opposing accounts online.
Hymns become latest revolt trigger in Fiji
(Ecumenical News International)
Govt firm on Methodist Church
(Fiji Government Online Portal)
Government Actions Against Methodists in Fiji
(Global Ministries in the United Methodist Church)
Earlier today, the Methodists announced that they intend to defy the ban on their conference. Combined with the assumption that the hymn festival will also go on in spite of the ban, this situation appears to be headed in a dangerous direction.
While outside the usual scope of this blog, I believe that prayers for a peaceful solution are in order. I plan to follow this story to see where things lead. While some onlookers may be thinking "what harm could a hymn singing festival do?" the Fijian government apparently knows, just as we do, the power and strength of congregational singing. But we're probably looking at it from opposing sides.
One Year Ago: Mary and Martha