|Methodist king of Tonga dies at age 88|
Sept. 14, 2006
King Taufa’ahau Tupou IV
AUCKLAND, New Zealand (UMNS) ?? Tonga’s King Taufa’ahau Tupou IV, a lay
preacher in the Free Wesleyan Methodist Church, died Sept. 10 just before
midnight at Auckland’s Mercy Hospital.
Tupou, 88, had been critically ill for the last two months, and had been
receiving medical treatment in New Zealand since April.
“His Majesty King Taufa’ahau Tupou IV was a great leader and witness in
the Methodist movement,” said the Rev. H. Eddie Fox, a United Methodist and
director of evangelism for the World Methodist Council. “His passing is a
loss, not only for his people, but for persons in the World Methodist
Tupou served as monarch of the 169 Pacific islands that compose the
Kingdom of Tonga for 41 years. He ascended to the throne following the long
reign of his mother, Queen Salote, also a well-known leader in the World
Fox told United Methodist News Service that he has expressed condolences
to Queen Halaevalu Mata’aho and to the Rev. Alifeleti Mone, the royal
chaplain, a member of the World Methodist Council and president of the
Methodist Church in Tonga.
Fox met King Topou on a 1977 visit to Tonga, and he visited the king and
queen several times over the years. The royal family invited Fox and his
wife, Mary Nell, to be its guests for the 2005 World Pentecost Celebration,
where 5,000 Methodist Tongans gathered in the national stadium in Nukalofa.
The queen also wrote the Upper Room devotion for Pentecost 2005.
“Because our country is located in the western Pacific Ocean near the
international dateline, each new day on earth dawns first in Tonga,” wrote
Queen Mata’aho. “The ?Tongan Pentecost’ transformed our land into a
Christian nation. We became a missionary people, and we shared the good news
of Jesus Christ with our island neighbors.”
|A UMNS photo courtesy of the Rev. H. Eddie Fox
Majesty King Taufa’ahau Tupou IV and the Rev. H. Eddie Fox share a
passage from the Holy Bible before the 2005 Pentecost Celebration.
About 40 percent of the 108,000 Tonga people are members of the Free
Wesleyan Church, according to a recent census.
Everyday life in Tonga is heavily influenced by traditional Christian
practices. For example, all commerce and entertainment activities cease from
midnight Saturday until midnight Sunday, and the constitution declares the
Sabbath to be sacred forever.
Tongans around the world are expected to participate in a four-month
grieving period, in which they traditionally wear black and grass-weave mats
wrapped around their waists.
The moderator-elect of the Uniting Church in Australia, the Rev. Jason
Kioa, said the death of the king is a significant loss for all Tongan
people. “We celebrate with thanksgiving his majesty’s committed Christian
life and especially for his faithful witness,” said Kioa. “We are
remembering in prayer the royal family and the people in the Kingdom of
Tupou will also be mourned by Tongans in the United States, including
members of West Valley City (Utah) United Methodist Church. In 2004, the
king dedicated a new structure after the former building had burned down.
The new church includes a room built specifically for the king that no one
else was allowed to enter.
The death of Tupou is described as a “big loss for the Tongan people” by
the Rev. Kalatini Ahio of the First Tongan United Methodist Church in San
Bruno, Calif. About 8,200 Tongans call the Bay Area home, according to the
2000 Census. “He means a lot to the local population,” Ahio said.
Shortly after the death of his father, Crown Prince Tupouto, 58, took the
oath of office from Tongan Chief Justice Anthony Ford to become King
Taufa’ahau Tupou V. His coronation is likely to be in a year. That
coronation will follow in the line of His Majesty King George Tupou I, who
dedicated Tonga to Jesus Christ and established the national motto, “God and
Tonga are my inheritance.”
At age 14, King Tupou IV was one of Tonga’s top athletes. He could
pole-vault more than 9 feet, played tennis, cricket, and rugby, and rowed
competitively in a racing skiff. In the 1990s, he led his 108,000 people on
a diet and exercise regime aimed at cutting the levels of fat in a nation
where coconut flesh and mutton flaps are dietary staples. From a weight
listed in the Guinness Book of Records as the heaviest for any
monarch ?? 462 pounds ?? the king shed around 154 pounds.
On July 5, two other members of Tonga’s royal family died in a traffic
accident in Menlo Park, Calif. The car carrying the king’s nephew, Prince
Tu’ipelehake, 56, and his wife, Princess Kaimana, 46, was struck as the
couple was returning from an evening reception. Their driver, Vinisia Hefa,
36, a member of San Bruno United Methodist Church, was also killed. The
prince was to speak at San Bruno United Methodist Church July 6.
News media contact: Kathy Gilbert or Tim Tanton, Nashville, Tenn., (615)
742-5470 or email@example.com
Tupou IV led Tonga toward a modern economy
United Methodists mourn deaths of Tongan royals, driver
Taimi ?O Tonga online
Tongan Royal Palace Site
World Methodist Council