A PRIEST from a parish in the Fijian Islands is to become one of the three Archbishops and Primates of the Anglican Church of Aotearoa, New Zealand and Polynesia.
The Revd Fereimi Cama, Vicar of St Peter’s, Lautoka, on the island of Viti Levu, has been elected Bishop of Polynesia. When he is consecrated and installed, he will also become one of the Province’s three Archbishops. He will be the first Fijian to hold the position.
The Commissary of the electoral college, Archbishop Don Tamihere, told the Anglican Communion News Service: “When the final ballot was held, it was Fr Cama who was chosen — and chosen with a deep sense of this being God’s will. Fr Cama is a priest of the people. He has served among family and community for decades, and is a leader grown from the grass roots. He is a good man, and he is ready to serve his people anew with humility and courage.
“The fact that he will be the first Bishop of Polynesia of indigenous Fijian descent is something else worth celebrating, though I know that Fr Cama is committed to serving all the nations and people of Polynesia with equal effort and respect. He is a i-Taukei [Fijian] man who has proven his courage and his readiness to serve Polynesians of every ethnic background.”
The 63-year-old Archbishop-elect was raised a Methodist, and continued worshipping in a Methodist church after marrying his wife, Mereadani, who is an Anglican, in 1976; but, in 1987, when some prominent Methodists supported a republican coup that deposed the Fijian government, he became an Anglican, joining the congregation of Holy Trinity Cathedral, in the capital, Suva.
Within a year, he was elected to the cathedral vestry and became a Reader. He was ordained deacon in 1990, and served as priest assistant at the cathedral. In 1999, he was appointed Dean. In 2000, he volunteered to administer regular holy communion to the then Prime Minister of Fiji, Mahendra Chaudhry, and several MPs, who were held hostage for 56 days by rebel soldiers in the Fijian Parliament. In 2012, he returned to parish work, and joined St Peter’s in 2016.
After his election on Sunday, he said: “My vision is not to introduce anything new, but to pressure-cook what is already there: to make it tender, attractive, and easy to digest.”
He is enthusiastic about “seeking a better deal for those at the bottom of the heap”, especially Melanesians, who make up a significant share of Fiji’s Anglican congregations but have no secure land tenure. “I said at the electoral college that these people have been neglected. They have been used by the government, and the Church hasn’t uttered a word. Even if I have to knock at the door of the Prime Minister, I will do it.”
A date for his consecration and installation will be announced shortly.