Sea Change: Historic Appointment in the Trans Pacific Union Mission
- Naomi Booia first female secretary appointed in the TPUM.
- Women’s representation in leadership and decision making is very low in the South Pacific region, according to an APHEDA article.
- “We are short with pastors in Kiribati, and Naomi will be a role model for our women to step up to a pastoral role which will boost the work in Kiribati,” said TPUM President Maveni Kaufononga.
13 December 2021 | Naomi Booia has been appointed as the executive secretary of Kiribati Mission—the first female secretary appointed within the Trans Pacific Union Mission (TPUM), according to an article in the Adventist Record. The office of secretary is one of the top three administrative positions (the other two being president and treasurer) in an Adventist administrative entity. TPUM is one of four unions in the South Pacific Division, a division that is currently not ordaining women as pastors.
Although women can be commissioned as pastors, delegates at the 2015 General Conference of Seventh-day Adventists session voted against allowing divisions to decide whether or not to ordain women pastors in their regions.
Pastoral ordination is required for conference presidents, and frequently it’s also assumed to be a requirement for other leadership positions in church administrative entities. The 2015 vote has meant that women remain barred from holding certain positions, by policy or tradition.
But TPUM President Maveni Kaufononga welcomed the appointment. “For me, this is a great achievement for our work in Kiribati,” he said.
“We are short with pastors in Kiribati, and Naomi will be a role model for our women to step up to a pastoral role which will boost the work in Kiribati. There are lots of women in Kiribati who are contributing to the running of the government and private sectors; why not within the church?”
However, according to an APHEDA article, gender inequality is high in the South Pacific. One of the main reasons for inequality comes from the traditional culture and social structure of each country. Women are not regarded as equal, and there is a struggle for women to face the challenges of both social and cultural complexities in each national setting.
The APHEDA article also said that women’s representation in leadership and decision making is very low. Statistics suggest that less than 14 percent of women are in parliamentary positions and the situation in the Pacific is the lowest in the world.
Booia, who is currently a theology lecturer at Fulton Adventist University College in Fiji, will take up her appointment in the middle of next year. From 2013 to 2016 she worked in the Kiribati Mission and then attended the Adventist International Institute of Advanced Studies, where in 2018 she obtained a Masters in Religion.
“Being called to a new role is a great challenge to me but after reflecting on God’s leading in my life, I am now confident to take up this opportunity,” said Booia.
“I would like to thank God for His amazing plans for me and my family. I also want to thank the church administration for the appointment.”
The Trans Pacific Union Mission (TPUM) is a comparatively new Union Mission, being inaugurated by Church action (through the South Pacific Division) at the beginning of 2001, according to the TPUM website.
According to the Adventist Yearbook, TPUM’s territory includes 11 nations, and comprises Fiji, Kiribati, Samoa-Tokelau, Solomon Islands, Tonga, Vanuatu Missions, American Samoa, Tuvalu Regions, and the Niue Field Station.
As of June 30, 2020, there were a total of 541 churches, and membership was at 128,120.
The TPUM is also directly responsible for a number of institutions throughout its field. It runs Atoifi Hospital in the Solomons, an entry level Ministerial Training school (HATS), also in the Solomons, and its primary tertiary education facility, Fulton College, located in Fiji.
The independent island state of Kiribati has 121,000 inhabitants. In the 2018 Annual Statistical Report of the General Conference of Seventh-day Adventists, the Kiribati Mission was listed as having 14 churches and 11 companies. Church membership at the end of 2017 was 2,837. The denomination operates Kauma Adventist High School on the island.
(Photo: Naomi Booia has been appointed as the secretary of Kiribati Mission—the first female secretary appointed within the Trans Pacific Union Mission. Photo via Adventist Record)