Psalm 33:12
Blessed is the nation whose God is the LORD;
      and the people whom he hath chosen
      for his own inheritance.

God's Protestant Gift to Hawaiians

By Rev. Abraham K. Akaka
Given on: Sunday, December 19, 1965

This is the fourth Sunday in Advent, the Sunday before Christmas - and our theme for Advent has been: "PREPARE IN THE WILDERNESS A HIGHWAY FOR OUR GOD." This Sunday is also the birthday of our beloved Princess Bernice Pauahi Bishop. I would like to speak of her today as God's special Christmas gift - God's special Protestant gift to Hawaiians, and through them to Hawaii, our nation and world.

Bernice Pauahi Bishop
The Kamehameha Schools Archives

The other day someone asked me, "How are you coming along with your Christmas shopping?" I was tempted to say, "All I need is money." But this person was having the usual problems of the average Christmas shopper of deciding what she should give to Tutu man and Kuulei. And it was rough. She had already given so much to all of her loved ones - what more could she give?

When we think of it, God had this same problem when Christmas rolled around 2000 years ago. He had already given mankind everything they could possibly need - food, clothing, houses to live in, etc. etc. What else was there to give? What else could my kamaaina friend give to her beloved family?

You know what the answer to that question is. God gave HIMSELF. This was the only thing He had not yet given to man. And He chose this special time - Christmas - as the time to give HIMSELF.

When the prophets predicted the birth of our Lord Jesus Christ - saying "and His Name shall be called Emmanuel" or God With Us - they hit the nail on the head. And when God gave us our beloved Princess near Christmastime, He also gave us something of Himself. For she in turn gave us of HERSELF, a self that was OF GOD HIMSELF. To us she is also GOD WITH US.

When we read the statement of Faith of our United Church of Christ, it says: "In Jesus Christ, the man of Nazareth, our crucified and risen Lord, God has come to us, and shared our common lot, conquering sin and death and reconciling the world to Himself." When we read the will of our beloved Princess and review her life, we can also see that God gave her to us to share our common lot, to help her people conquer sin and death and to bring them closer to Him.

But perhaps I am getting ahead of my story, for some of you in Kawaiahao today are from the mainland and do not know who I am talking about. Those of you who already know will want to recall on her birthday some of the things you already know about her life.

Our revered Princess Bernice Pauahi Bishop was born eleven years after the arrival of the first Protestant missionaries to Hawaii, on December 19, 1831. Her parents Chief Paki and Chiefess Konia were among the first converts to Christianity in Hawaii. They were charter members of Kawaiahao. The cornerstone of this Sanctuary was donated by her father Paki.

Princess Bernice was educated by our honored Protestant missionary teachers Amos Starr Cooke and Juliette Montague Cooke in a school established for the children of our Alii or royalty. The names of the Cookes and their royal students are inscribed on the white marble plaque at the entrance of this Hawaiian Cathedral.

Princess Bernice was accepted and confirmed as a member of this Church on July 9, 1867 on confession of Faith. The Protestant Faith which she confessed when she became a member of Kawaiahao had been drawn up by King Kamehameha III and Kekauluohi, the Kuhinanui of the Kingdom, for all members of Kawaiahao. It is a remarkable and clear statement of Protestant Christian beliefs and reveals the nobility of intellect of the King.

The statement stresses the imperishable principles of our Protestant heritage - the sovereignty of Almighty God over His creation, the gift of His Son our Lord Jesus Christ for the salvation of mankind, the uniqueness of the Bible as the only rule of Faith and Practice, justification of the believer by Faith, the nature of man and the Church, deliverance from subservience to the Pope and the old worship of images, living the sacramental life, recognizing that there are many religious sects that are different from Protestants, insisting that Protestants have their own identity.

At the conclusion of the statement of Faith, King Kamehameha III had written:

We hereby make over this house and this lot with all its appurtenances unto those who shall in truth preserve the doctrine in this instrument above written and not to them who think otherwise. And we hereunto set our names and our seal at Honolulu, Oahu in these Hawaiian islands this 21st day of July in the year of our Lord 1842.

As Princess Bernice grew and worshipped and matured in her faith, the Protestant emphasis on the ethical value of this life, the sanctity of daily work, of marriage, the home, children, the sanctity of human vocation, the virtues of thrift and industry, deliverance from evil influences became very important in her thinking and living. She was a steadfast and faithful member of Kawaiahao Church - teaching Sunday School, helping with the Choir, making visits of mercy to the sick and dying, giving generous gifts of her time, talent and treasure to the work of Jesus Christ our Lord through Kawaiahao.

When Princess Bernice prepared her will, her great love for and loyalty to her Protestant Faith and for her native people found expression in the terms of the document. Contrary to the impression that the book "Hawaii" by Michener and other portrayals of our Protestant missionaries have tended to give, our Princess knew the creative vitality and influence of her Protestant Faith. She had seen it in the love and power of our Lord Jesus Christ at work in the missionaries, and felt it in her own heart and life. She had seen the Protestant missionaries in the name of Jesus Christ build the first churches and schools in these islands, print the first books, plant the first crops, protect her native people from predatory and vicious invaders. She had seen how men and women of Protestant Faith became and were good and industrious people.

She also saw her people declining in number. From a population estimated conservatively at 350,000 when Captain Cook arrived in 1778, the number of her native people had dwindled to less than half that number and was still declining fast during her lifetime. What was going to happen to her beloved race and people? What was the key to their survival? What were their deepest needs? How could these needs be met?

So it was that her profound love for her Faith and her people came through loud and clear in her Will.

To own property and to make a Will is a fundamental human right. Any person can make a Will disposing of his or her property in any way he or she chooses, as long as it is in accordance with the law. And her Will stands as one of the greatest documents ever written by a member of royalty for people of her Faith and for children of her race.

She knew that EDUCATION is the doorway to the future - but not just ANY kind of education. She wanted the very BEST education for her native children. She had definite convictions about what that best education consisted of. And her convictions ARE MORE IMPORTANT TODAY THAN EVER BEFORE.

Foremost is her belief that the best education is that which meets our Hawaiian people's greatest need - and that need is not to get rich, attain high social status and the like. Any educated people can usually attain these. In her mind, life's tragedy is not only that her people go uneducated - but that those who ARE educated lack the most important thing - COMMITMENT TO CHRIST. Thus foremost is her belief that the best education meets our Hawaiian people's greatest need - the need for CHRIST-CENTERED LIVES, for MORALITY, for the LOVE OF GOD IN FIXED PRINCIPLES THAT CAN BUILD A GOOD SOCIETY AND A PEACEFUL WORLD.

Thus her Will has been and is as the beautiful wings of the Advent Angel - preparing the way of the Lord in our native Hawaiian wilderness. She established the Protestant Kamehameha Schools.


This is a painful kind of thing to talk about, but if I am to help protect our Princess' Will and our Hawaiian people, I must do it.

Recently in a letter to the Honolulu Star Bulletin naming the trustees of the Bishop Estate and me entitled "Freedom Not Welcomed," a certain person took the trustees to task for not accepting the circuit court's ruling against our Princess' Will and The Kamehameha Schools, and for appealing the case to a higher court. He proposed hiring non-Protestant teachers at Kamehameha Schools and suggested that this would give our Hawaiian children the best education. He thought that this would be in line with the ecumenical spirit.

But this gentleman sadly misunderstands her Protestant Faith and ecumenicity.

I am glad that the Executive Committee of the Council of Hawaiian organizations at its meeting last month in Waianae voted unanimously to stand behind the trustees of the Bishop Estate in the fight to protect the Will of our Princess and to prevent anyone from breaking it. We all must support our trustees in protecting the Will.

But back to the gentleman's letter - I feel it important to comment.

First: The best education for our native Hawaiian children is clearly defined in her Will - and HER definition of the best education is more true and necessary today than ever before. She desired a CHRIST-CENTERED EDUCATION, and ACCORDING TO HER OWN FAITH. She decreed in her Will that trustees shall be "persons of the Protestant religion," that such Protestant persons shall provide "instruction in morals and in such useful knowledge AS MAY TEND TO MAKE GOOD AND INDUSTRIOUS MEN AND WOMEN" and MOST IMPORTANT OF ALL - that instruction in the higher branches "BE SUBSIDIARY TO THE FOREGOING OBJECTS." (capitals and underlining mine). In other words, A PROTESTANT CHRISTIAN EDUCATION IS THE PRIMARY PURPOSE OF THE SCHOOLS.

Secondly, it is OUR PRINCESS BERNICE'S WILL THAT MUST BE CARRIED OUT by the trustees and teachers - and NOT ANYONE ELSE's will. Her Protestant convictions and the conditions of her Will provide the scope within which the trustees and teachers are free to provide the best education.

The gentleman speaks of ecumenism as if it means license to destroy the religious identities and individualities of others. This is not so. Ecumenism recognizes and respects the right of all churches and schools to their own religious identities and styles - be they Jewish, Roman Catholic, Protestant, Mormon, Buddhist or any other. And we must respect and protect Catholic, Mormon, Buddhist and other churches and schools as well as our own Protestant ones.

I hope that we are not coming into a time when we Hawaiians who are Protestants, and those who stand with us, must - like our Princess - guard against subservience to powers and moves that seek to destroy us. But if we must, then we WILL fight to protect what rightfully belongs to us as our spiritual and educational heritage from our Princess. The gentleman's long letter was entitled "Freedom Not Welcomed." It should have been more appropriately entitled "Freedom Denied Protestant Princess."

If the gentleman and those who have other ideas and convictions of what the best education is - do not like the Protestant convictions and conditions of Princess Bernice's will, is it not better that they welcome their own freedom to find another school more to their liking, or if there are enough of them - to put their money together and build another private school in which their wishes and ideas concerning education can be carried out? This is the right and fair thing to do. But to deny our Protestant Princess her religious freedom and to cut the very heart out of her Protestant Will - and not realize that this is committing murder upon her Protestant Will and Faith at the schools - is amazing indeed. Surely if they are sincere in their convictions, they will give THEMSELVES and not what belongs to others for the attainment of their goals. Beloved Hawaiian people - do not be like wild dogs. You are not a people who bit the Protestant that feeds you, or steal from others.

True ecumenism does not support that sort of thing. It does not require Pope Paul to appoint to his Catholic college of Cardinals persons who are Protestants or Buddhists or Mormons or non-Catholics. I can imagine Pope Paul and other Catholics crying "MURDER" if this kind of pressure was brought upon him and his Catholic College. Neither does ecumenism require Protestant Kamehameha Schools to hire teachers who are non-Protestant. Both ecumenism and our Constitution recognize the right and the freedom of any religion to have and to hold its own identity, churches, schools and style of organization.

Thus when the trustees of her Estate refuse to forfeit her Protestant heritage and Faith, they are only doing what they should WANT to do and MUST do as executors of her Will. They are exercising their responsibility and freedom to protect the letter and promote the meaning and intent of her Will.

The first Christmas day was a day of great Joy - but also of great danger - when what was weak and powerless, a little baby who held the promise of life for mankind faced powerful and ruthless forces. Our Lord Jesus had to be protected from Herod the King - Herod who feared that his own power was threatened by the Christ-child. But Mary and Joseph were led by the hand of God through their difficult time. So also do we trust in God to guide us. Let us persevere in our Lord's purpose for our Princess' Kamehameha Schools.

As pastor of the Church of Princess Bernice Pauahi, I pray that through the faithful efforts of Protestant trustees and teachers, the young people of Hawaii who are fortunate enough to attend The Kamehameha Schools will become better servants of Christ. For the world's despair and guilt, bigotry and loneliness, hurt and greed - truth in committed Christian hands is not likely to be a dead thing, but a SAVING Truth.

I foresee Protestant-trained students at Kamehameha going wherever great forces are mangling and changing life all over the world. I see them turning jungles and slums and deserts of the mind and heart into gardens of Eden and cities of Aloha. I see the Kamehameha Schools as a celebration of Princess Bernice's Protestant spirit - her creativity and goodness and greatness - a true witness to her Faith in Jesus Christ. I see Protestant-trained students from Kamehameha becoming builders of the highway for Christ in this revolutionary age.

No education is more NEEDED or BETTER for our Hawaiian youth today than that which connects her Christian Faith with intellectual activity, that sees the discovery of truth as Divine Revelation and disclosure of Christ's purposes, that does not bow to the secularism of modern thought but sees the self as a creature of God who partakes of His creative powers, that strengthens our Protestant Princess' kind of spiritual influence in the world. No education is more important than that.

Protestants of her Faith have a great opportunity and challenge and we welcome and cherish the freedom we have to provide the kind of education she wished and willed for her people at her Kamehameha Schools.

So let the trustees be resolute and courageous in the battle. LET US LIFT THEM UP! And let us be watchful of those who seek to destroy her Will, undercut her Protestant Faith, and deprive her people of the finest kind of education that is her gift to us, the kind of education that lets Christ enter into the very mode of our thinking and living.

But we come back to the question: "How are you coming with your Christmas shopping?" Are you having trouble deciding what to give to Tutu man and Kuulei?

As our Lord Jesus Christ did and as our Princess did - GIVE YOURSELF to the cause of lifting the life of your people, so that we might become an instrument God can use to build a better world.

God sends you too into the world. What happy change can you make in it? What will WE give to God? A five dollar bill? 1/10 of our income? If we follow the example of our Lord Jesus Christ and our Princess - we dare not withhold our very SELF from God. And because you give this most costly gift of all, may your Christmas be full of Joy.

So let us, in the language of the Scripture we read together this morning - present our bodies a living sacrifice, Holy, acceptable unto God, which is our reasonable service. And do not be conformed to this world, but be ye transformed by the renewing of your mind that you may prove what is that good and perfect and acceptable will of God.

This is how it was on that first Christmas day, and when Christ our Lord was born in Hawaii on April 25, 1820. God's angel sang in Bethlehem and The Rev. Hiram Bingham read in Honolulu:

For unto you is born this day in the city of David a savior, which is Christ the Lord. And this shall be a sign unto you. You shall find the babe wrapped in swaddling clothes lying in a manger. And suddenly there was with the angel a multitude of the heavenly host praising god and saying, glory to God in the highest and on earth peace, goodwill toward men.