Monday, July 21, 2019

A Teaching from the Bishop on Mauna a Wākea
Photo: Ryan Finnerty/HPR
Aloha o ke Akua,

The Statement below was prepared by two kānaka maoli clergy of the Diocese of Hawaiʻi. While recognizing that there are differing opinions regarding the building of a new telescope on Maunakea, it has become clear to me that the concerns are much deeper than the Thirty Meter Telescope (TMT). I concur with the Statement’s intent and call. As Bishop of Hawaiʻi, I am compelled to offer a teaching as we seek to understand the Gospel’s call to justice and long term reconciliation in the Hawaiian Islands today.

At this point, I suggest the imprudence of and the insult caused by the arrest last week of the kūpuna and the Governor’s emergency order will not soon be forgotten. The actions inhibit conversation and reconciliation. The events, however, have brought attention to the alienation of the indigenous people of these Islands, the kānaka maoli, from their own land. Issues of power, control, identity, culture, and history are brought to focus on Mauna a Wākea, but have meaning for all these Islands and our future together.

As Episcopalians, we must not be afraid to speak honestly together about past wrongs and the current injustices. We must talk and, more importantly, deeply listen and act. While we engage in such conversations, there will be conflict. Our faith does not promise freedom from conflict or from disagreement. We are called to seek together peace with justice in the Beloved Community. The Beloved Community must be one where all people experience dignity and abundant life, and wherein they see themselves and others as beloved children of God. Such conversations will take time – even years. It will certainly call for patience and honesty. Our conversation must deepen now.

When I was ordained a Bishop, I promised to “show compassion to the poor and strangers, and defend those who have no helper.” At this time, I think fulfillment of that promise means standing with the “protectors” on Maunakea. It means standing with the Hawaiian people as they seek to protect their culture and seek their own path as a sovereign community. It also means, I think, a call for an immediate moratorium on all moves to begin construction of the TMT. It will likely mean that such a new telescope should never be built. I acknowledge that the livelihoods of some will be impacted and the hopes of others overturned by such a move. I am saddened by that reality and it certainly must be part of our conversations, but we must continue together.

I am reminded of the words of today’s Psalm: 
Common English Bible: Psalm 15

Who can live in your tent, Lord?
Who can dwell on your holy mountain?
The person who
lives free of blame,
does what is right,
and speaks the truth sincerely;
who does no damage with their talk,
does no harm to a friend,
doesn’t insult a neighbor;
someone who despises
those who act wickedly,
but who honors those
who honor the Lord;
someone who keeps their promise even when it hurts;
someone who doesn’t lend money with interest,
who won’t accept a bribe against any innocent person.
Whoever does these things will never stumble.
I urge us to take these words as our guide for the conversations about Maunakea, the Islands and our future, and as we seek together the Beloved Community.

Aloha ma o Iesu Kristo, ko mākou Haku,


The Right Reverend Robert L. Fitzpatrick, Bishop
The Episcopal Diocese of Hawai'i
A Statement from Two Kānaka Maoli Clergy of the Episcopal Diocese of Hawaiʻi

  • The Reverend Jasmine Hanakaulani o Kamamalu Bostock
  • The Reverend Paul Nahoa Lucas

The Episcopal Church in Hawaiʻi stands proudly on the shoulders of our ancestors, who were faithful aliʻi. Queen Emma and King Kamehameha IV invited and welcomed our Church into these islands. Queen Liliʻuokalani was an honored member of our Church. Our history as Episcopalians is tied with them, and, therefore, with the sovereign nation and people of Hawaiʻi. As such, our responsibility is to the welfare of this ʻāina, and the kānaka maoli people whom our monarchs loved and served so dearly.

As Episcopalians, our Baptismal Covenant asks us, “Will you strive for justice and peace among all people, and respect the dignity of every human being?” [1] We boldly answer, “I will, with God’s help.” We fear that the dignity of kānaka maoli people is not being respected, and with the militarized police presence, there can be no peace. Hawaiians are a living, breathing people, whose cultural practices do not belong in museums, or merely on display for tourist consumption. The cultural practices lead many to protect Mauna a Wākea as she is perceived to be genesis point of the people of these Islands – she is a part of us.

The conflict on Maunakea has escalated with a “state of emergency” being declared to counter those who are standing to protect Maunakea as a sacred place. This is not an issue of being anti-science, as Hawaiian people have a long and proud history of technological advancement. We reject a colonialist worldview that sees indigenous peoples as ones whose intelligence is inferior.

We recognize the ‘eha, the hurt, that are on many sides of the issue. We acknowledge and respect the many police officers sent to keep peace on Maunakea. We know they often have relationships with the protectors and that they respect the kūpuna. Emotional harm has been done and that deeply divides an island community. The police officers are upholding the law, as they have vowed to do. We also are keenly aware that sometimes a law or its enforcement can be unjust or immoral. In another age, it was legal to bomb Kahoʻolawe and to ban ʻōlelo Hawaiʻi from public schools, though these were injustices. We also encourage and respect the Kapu Aloha, which is nothing but aloha – the experience of reverence – that is being kept on the mountain. We believe that Kapu Aloha is the Way of Love, it is the journey of Jesus, and it is ultimately the only way forward for these Islands.

This conflict centers on efforts to respect Maunakea as a sacred space - as wao akua, realm of the gods. In our Judeo-Christian heritage we can well understand and appreciate such a perspective about a place. Mount Horeb, Mount Carmel and Mount Zion were sacred dwelling places for God. Sacredness is not merely a concept or a label. It is a lived experience of oneness and connectedness with the natural and spiritual worlds. Nature is not inert, but a place where our Creator is known and honored. Maunakea is such a holy place for the Hawaiian people and many others. Seeing the land and seas as nothing more than something created for human consumption and benefit has deep colonial roots, and one that for indigenous peoples is maliciously articulated in the now discredited [2]Doctrine of Discovery that shaped much of Christian history.

The words of Psalm 18:2 come to mind, “The Lord is my rock, my fortress, and my deliverer, my god, my rock in whom I take refuge, my shield, and the horn of my salvation, my stronghold.” Maunakea isn’t simply part of what God has created, but it is the very reflection and abiding place of the Holy. Honoring the creation is honoring God, as an ʻōlelo noʻeau tells us, “He aliʻi ka ʻāina, he kauwā ke kānaka .” Meaning, “the land is chief, and man is her servant.”

We, the Episcopal Church in Hawaiʻi, stand in service to Maunakea as a sacred place, and in solidarity with those who are protecting her. We add our prayers for just resolution to this issue, that the dignity of all people will be upheld, and the sacredness of Maunakea will be honored and protected.

[1] Book of Common Prayer, 305

Clergy Invited to Affirm this Message HERE.
The Episcopal Church in Hawai'i
Sybil Nishioka, Editor
Office of the Bishop
229 Queen Emma Square,  Honolulu, HI 96813
(808) 536-7776
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