Honolulu Star-Bulletin Local News

UCC conference to vote on
church apology package

$4.5 million in grants and property is
offered to native Hawaiians

By Pat Omandam

The Hawaii Conference of the United Church of Christ this month will vote on a package that gives $3.5 million in grants and $1 million in property to native Hawaiians.

The offering comes as redress for the church's involvement in the overthrow of the Hawaiian kingdom in 1893.

But native Hawaiian supporters say the benefits would reach only those native Hawaiians or kanaka maoli who belong to the church.

The Rev. Wally Ryan Kuroiwa, pastor at Nuuanu Congregational Church and chairman of the UCC's Hawaii Apology Task Force, said the redress plan requires the church to transfer title of six properties statewide to Hawaiian churches or to the newly created Pu'a Foundation, formed to promote native rights.

The plan, he said, arose from the church's apology to native Hawaiians and its desire to seek reconciliation with them.

In 1993, the Rev. Dr. Paul Sherry, national president of the Cleveland-based United Church of Christ, apologized in person to Hawaiians for the UCC's involvement in the overthrow and pledged redress. A year later, the Rev. Dr. Norman Jackson, then-executive director of the Hawaii Conference, apologized for the involvement of its predecessors - who formed the Hawaiian Evangelical Association.

"The redress is in three parts," Kuroiwa said. "One is in terms of monetary redress. Second is in terms of the return of lands. Third is in-kind contribution or redress.

"As far as the monetary portion of that redress plan, we are proposing $3.5 million divided into three different parts," he said.

Kuroiwa said $1.5 million will be dispersed to 60 native Hawaiian churches, which were part of the Hawaiian Evangelical Association, while $1 million will go to the Pu'a Foundation. The remaining $1 million will go to the Association of Hawaiian Evangelical Churches, which has a membership that includes the 60 Hawaiian churches.

The plan, formulated by the task force, states the awards are not necessarily an admission of guilt by the church, but a reaching out to heal the hurt in the Hawaiian community. It also says the intent of the redress is not to solve all the problems facing Hawaiians.

Delegates to the church's 174th Aha Pae'aina conference are to debate the plan June 14. If approved, the redress actions will be completed in five years, Kuroiwa said.

But Hawaiian rights proponents outside the church argue the redress doesn't include the participation of all Hawaiians. Larry Jones, co-chairman of the jubilee committee of the pro-sovereignty Hawaii Ecumenical Coalition and a former UCC minister, said while the plan is a good start, it lacks feedback from nonmembers.

That is needed, Jones said, because the church's apology was made to all Hawaiians and not just those affiliated with the Hawaii Conference.

"It's a redress between the church and Hawaiian people," Jones said. "And that's why we felt the Hawaiian people at large should have some input into this proposal and not just have it be an in-house church thing. But they have resisted doing that ...

Jones added the church should be addressing the "serious chasm" that has long existed between it and the Hawaiian people.

"You can't breach that chasm without dialogue," he said.

Others criticize the redress for only serving Hawaiians affiliated with the church. Dr. Richard "Kekuni" Blaisdell, a committee member and sovereignty activist, points out potential recipients of the proposed land transfer are Hawaiian churches that belong to the Hawaii Conference.

Blaisdell contends the title transfer will basically be from the church as an organization to an individual church that is part of the conference, which does little to help the Hawaiian community as a whole. "It's just token awards to the church," he said.

The Related Story:

Redress to be proposed

Redress Package

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