A year after he condemned comments by Israel Folau about gay people, an article by a Samoan pastor in South Auckland is still drawing comments from readers.
However, while most of the original comments supported Folau, the latest comments express a different view.
Rev Apelu Tielu, who was ordained in the Uniting Church in Australia, was a minister in the Pacific Islanders in the Papakura parish of the Presbyterian Church of Aotearoa New Zealand.
When Folau, who is of Tongan descent, first drew attention to his beliefs in April last year, saying gays would go to hell unless they repented, Rev Tielu wrote an article for E-Tangtata saying that Folau’s comments made him cringe.
In the article he said Folau’s views did not represent the core values of Christianity.
Since the footballer’s most recent statement and the furore over his effort to raise funds to pay his legal costs, the article had drawn almost as many letters as when it was originally published.
Rev Tielu, whose daughter is gay, said Folau was irresponsible for not taking the time to consider the effect of his comments on vulnerable people.
“It appears he hasn’t taken the time to reflect on his status in wider society, and how his words and actions would impact on his fans,” Rev Tielu said.
He also expressed concerns about the public expression of support from Folau’s wife.
“Israel and Maria Folau are probably the biggest stars in their respective sports — rugby in Australia and netball in New Zealand.
“As such, they’re role models for aspiring young rugby and netball players, especially in the Pacific Islands community. Their fans look up to them, whether they like it or not.”
Rev Tielu acknowledged that many Islander held a particular understanding of Christianity.
“I know the church used “fire and brimstone” tactics to scare people into conversion and to control people,” he said.
“I know there are still a lot of pastors using these tactics, especially those that have never set foot inside a theological college.
“I also know the majority of Pacific people and churches share this understanding of Christianity.”
The most recent comments on Rev Tielu’ article for E-Tangata article reflect a range of views, from condemnation of Folau’s position on gays to his attempt to raise funds for his legal costs.
There is also some questioning of Rev Tielu’s potion.
‘Peter’ wrote: “It’s not the job of Christians to be the moral voice in the world, it’s only to love their neighbour and support each other in this life. I agree whole heartedly with you on this. I disagree on your take on Paul and ‘lay’ folk understanding of scripture. Paul’s gospel is one of forgiveness and grace, the opposite of judgement and condemnation. The old covenant was one of judgment, Paul clearly wrote about the new covenant and reserved his most scathing comments for those who tried to bring Christians under the law.”
‘Paul’ wrote: “I don’t agree with his hate or now trying to cover what he said. I also disagree with a millionaire not paying his own legal fees and if he does win gaining more from hate.”
‘Vivienne’ wrote: “Israel, Israel, God is calling, calling thee from lands of woe…He is telling you to give your donations from the GoFundMe page to the sick, the needy, the hungry, the homeless, the poor and less fortunate. You have made millions of dollars and many fans through your elite sporting commitments, a chance that not many great sports people could ever achieve…many people struggle and don’t ask for handouts and yet a man of your calibre has no shame to ask for millions for your actions. Through a simple lack of poor judgement you encountered you were terminated from a sporting career that has won many fans over. And look where you are now! Begging for help! The sick and afflicted cannot get $10,000 let alone $3,000,000.”
‘Jan’ wrote: “Israel Folau supporters say ‘Truth Hurts.’. But Jesus continually condemns teachers of the law and Pharisees for the ‘Truth’ of their judgemental preaching of the law. Matthew 23:15 Jesus says “Woe to you, teachers of the law and Pharisees, you hypocrites! You travel over land and sea to win a single convert, and when you have succeeded, you make them twice as much a child of hell as you are.”
Bro Junior Metuangaro wrote: “I hope that by the grace of God, Israel Folau will be more careful how to present the word of God. My prayer is that we should still love those who may not agree with us.”
‘Stephan’ wrote: “So, like most amateur preachers… Folau picks and chooses from Holy Writ what he condemns.”
‘Jo Kennedy wrote: “Jesus said nothing regarding homosexuality. These people like Israel Folau cherry pick the Bible to reinforce their bigotry. The quote he used is from Paul – who never saw Jesus or heard him speak.”
‘Jan’ wrote: “Matthew 23: ‘Woe to you, teachers of the law and Pharisees, you hypocrites! You travel over land and sea to win a single convert, and when you have succeeded, you make them twice as much a child of hell as you are.’ “
‘Tupe’ wrote: “Why would someone go to hell because they loved? When I see my cousin and his husband hold hands I don’t think ‘Aaww he’s going to hell.’ I think ‘Wow I wish that love and understanding for myself and others.’”