Throughout the colonial period, there were constant motivations present for the dismembering of European hegemony. Ideas that flowed through colonial networks pushed Methodist missionaries in the Pacific to constantly consider ways in which they would decolonise Christian spaces. The ‘three selves’ mission policy that demanded that missions become self-supporting, self-propagating and self-governing - prompted all to try and establish an indigenous church that reflected the ‘national’ identity of each place in which the mission operated.
There were also bids from non-European Methodists to secure greater authority and autonomy within the mission’s structures. These polite pressures were directed to the European mission workers, and came from the general Methodist membership, including farmers, as well as laymen and ministers.
Despite these principles underpinning mission policy from the point of the mission’s arrival in Fiji, and these challenges to colonial rule, it was not until 1964 that the mission became Fijian-run. Conceptualisations of racial and cultural differences inhibited and delayed the decolonisation of the Methodist mission, as well as dividing the mission’s communities along ethnic lines. This seminar will discuss histories of the Methodist Mission in Fiji, examining this colonial institution as an employer of Europeans, Fijians and Indo-Fijians, serving to categorise communities through the organisation of space and labour. It will provide insights into this Australian-based religious institution that played a part in processes of colonialism in the Pacific, and the legacies of its divisive policies that persist today.
Presented by Dr Kirstie Close-Barry