It could have been Duke Aiona preparing for his inauguration Monday.

Aiona has already said he may run again in 2014. In an exit interview with the Honolulu Star-Advertiser, he expressed shock at his resounding loss to Democrat Neil Abercrombie — and said one of his tactical mistakes may have been raising his association with Transformation Hawaii late in the campaign.

An essay by the Republican candidate that didn’t emerge during the campaign provides a much deeper perspective on how his views on God, government and prayer would have shaped the next four years.

The essay, published in a book by Transformation Hawaii, makes clear that Aiona believes prayer should permeate government. The book also includes a chapter by Gary Okino, a conservative Democrat who failed to unseat the champion of civil unions, a hot-button issue for the Religious Right.

Transformation Hawaii, which today goes by the name of Hawaii Hee Nalu — roughly, “catch the wave” in Hawaiian — remains active. Its belief, namely that God and government are part and parcel, lives on.

With a new civil unions bill to be introduced in the Legislature early next year — and with a governor who has said he will sign it — it’s highly likely that Hawaii has not heard the last of the age-old battle between church and state.

A Big Wave

“Catch the Wave of Transformation,” subtitled “from the shores of Hawaii,” was published in 2007 by Transformational Publications, a division of Harvest Evangelism. Harvest Evangelism is another name for International Transformation Network, the parent organization of Transformation Hawaii.

Civil Beat found a single copy of the book online before the election, but only received it in the mail in the past few days.

The book’s author is Caroline Ward Oda, a member of the Transformation Hawaii leadership team who has also served as head of St. Andrew’s Priory School.

Oda is married to Francis Oda, chairman of International Transformation Network. Francis Oda contributed several chapters to his wife’s book and founded the Hawaii Family Forum, the leading religious organization opposed to civil unions.

The 160-page book has 18 chapters plus an introduction and epilogue by Caroline Oda and a forward by Ed Silvoso, president of the International Transformation Network.

Silvoso says the mission of Transformation Hawaii is to establish a “new paradigm” designed to take “the power and the presence of God daily to the marketplace in order to reclaim it for Christ. (The italics are Silvoso’s.)

The marketplace is business, education and government.

“In practical terms, this means doctors’ offices, car dealerships, political offices, school campuses and all the marketplace venues experiencing as much salvation as the people involved in them.”

Silvoso says this is needed to combat “evil” that is “being unleashed in the world.” He points to prayer walks held at “every” school campus in Hawaii and lead by “none other than the Lieutenant Governor of the State!

Silvoso says the prayers have already helped to reverse falling GPA’s, decrease crime and unemployment rates and even resulted in “physical healings” and “deliverance from oppression.”

Silvoso continues: “Even in the traditionally murky political arena, divinely orchestrated winds are rearranging the landscape. At all levels of government prayer meetings are taking place and members of opposing parties regularly join hearts and hands to plead with God for the nation of Hawaii. And the results are showing!”

Those results, writes Silvoso, include Democrats and Republicans saying the 2006 legislative session was the best ever. “Go ahead and catch the wave because it is God’s wave!” he explains.

Silvoso was in town just last month for a Transformation Hawaii conference at a Waikiki hotel. He declined interview requests by Civil Beat and the meeting was closed to the public.

Aiona: ‘Praying at the Government Gate’

Aiona’s four-page chapter, in which he is identified as lieutenant governor, calls for the creation of a government “gate” or ministry, one of 12 gates identified at a Transformation Hawaii conference in Honolulu in 2005.

Inspired by 2 Chronicles 7:14-15 (“If my people, who are called by my name, will humble themselves and pray and seek my face and turn from their wicked ways, then I will hear from heaven, and I will forgive their sin and will heal their land…”), Aiona explains how he, a state senator and a city Council member began holding prayers with government leaders. The prayers sought forgiveness for the Republican Party for “any wrongful and sinful words, acts, or deeds that were inflicted upon the Democratic Party.”

“Our initial strategy was to build the marketplace through prayer groups in as many government departments, agencies, and divisions as we could,” Aiona writes, adding, “The focus of our prayer sessions would be dependent upon the issues that our government officials were addressing at the time.”

The prayers, which also called for renewed collaboration between the parties, were held in places like the state Senate chambers. Others took place in schools to pray for “our public school system — the students, administrators, teachers, workers, and parents.”

One prayer session involved praying “over the entire Capitol building,” including different floors and sections. “Thus each office and each meeting and conference room received the Spirit of God through these prayer groups.”

(In the final televised debate of the 2010 campaign, Aiona told viewers that he would continue to hold prayer services in the Capitol as governor.)

The 2006 legislative session that Ed Silvoso referred to, by the way, included a singing of “Amazing Grace” at session’s end. (The Legislature traditionally ends sessions with the singing of “Hawaii Aloha.”)

Finally, Aiona writes about “the legal codification of God’s love, the ‘Aloha Spirit’ that by law guides the work of the people in the Government Gate as we pray for our elected officials.”

(The law is Hawaii Revised Statues Section 5-7.5.)

Aiona says he knows of no other state that has “codified God’s spirit of love into law. Therefore, I interpret this codification as confirmation that Hawaii has an open invitation to God for its transformation!”

In fact, the word “God” does not appear in the Aloha Spirit law, which was passed in 1986.

Okino: ‘Bringing God Into City Hall’

Okino, who was term-limited this year as a Honolulu City Councilman and who lost a state House race to fellow Democrat Blake Oshiro, penned a six-page chapter that follows Aiona’s.

Okino’s essay is more personal than Aiona’s, talking directly about his faith and how it has influenced his life and public service. Example: “Ah…City Council. Finally, I thought God had led me to my destination.”

Following the devastation of seeing his candidate for Honolulu mayor, Duke Bainum, lose a close and ugly race to Mufi Hannemann in 2004, Okino was invited to a United in Prayer event at Aiea High School by local Pastor Cal Chinen. Okino found the experience moving and says that the prayer and subsequent events had resulted in dissipating “major problems” at the school.

Later that year Okino attended his first Transformation Hawaii conference. He discovered that his mission was “to bring God into government” at Honolulu Hale.

That led to the holding of prayer sessions at Honolulu Hale and other city properties. Okino credits the prayers with fostering a “noticeable spiritual climate of peace” at City Council meetings.

Okino then joined the lieutenant governor’s prayers at the Capitol (both men are Roman Catholics), with as many as 250 people involved in the “Government Gate” events.

“This has increased everyone’s ability to participate in major political issues that affect the morality of our city, our state, our country, and the world,” Okino writes.

‘Transformation: We All Want It. You Can Have It.’

In her book’s introduction, Caroline Oda recalls how Aiona, in March 2007, “publicly proclaimed that Hawaii is ‘God’s Hawaii.'”

“Life is a choice,” Oda quotes Aiona as saying. “Which side are you on? If you’re not living on the side of aloha, you’re living on the misery side.”

Oda’s epilogue lays out an agenda for Transformation Hawaii. It includes Ed Silovso’s call for “discipling nations.”

Oda writes, “As both pulpit ministers and marketplace ministers begin to look at their neighborhoods, their schools, the business world, their cities and states, as the harvest field, entire nations can be discipled.”

The discipling can appear well-intentioned, such as seen in calling for the “elimination of systemic poverty.”

But the concern of critics of Transformation Hawaii and the International Transformation Network is that they seek to impose — indeed, to inculcate — their fundamentalist Christian views on all aspects of civic society.


During the campaign, Aiona distanced himself from Silvoso and Transformation Hawaii. But then, as election day neared and with polls showing the race with Abercrombie close, he called a press conference and raised the issue himself.

Aiona had intended to cast a negative light on his opponent’s campaign, charging that Abercrombie’s social-media staffer had used her position to inappropriately link Aiona to unsubstantiated Internet sites regarding Aiona’s association with Silvoso and Transformation Hawaii.

But the event raised questions anew about Aiona’s involvement with both. Civil Beat’s own research after the press conference showed that Aiona had been more deeply involved than he had previously disclosed.

Come Monday at noon, Duke Aiona will again be a private citizen. But if he returns to political life, it’s certain that he will bring his views on God and government with him.

As the saying goes, tomorrow is another day. In that light, it might be instructive to revisit that Aloha Spirit law and read exactly what it says:

(a) “Aloha Spirit” is the coordination of mind and heart within each person. It brings each person to the self. Each person must think and emote good feelings to others. In the contemplation and presence of the life force, “Aloha”, the following unuhi laula loa may be used:

“Akahai”, meaning kindness to be expressed with tenderness;
“Lokahi”, meaning unity, to be expressed with harmony;
“Oluolu”, meaning agreeable, to be expressed with pleasantness;
“Haahaa”, meaning humility, to be expressed with modesty;
“Ahonui”, meaning patience, to be expressed with perseverance.

These are traits of character that express the charm, warmth and sincerity of Hawaii’s people. It was the working philosophy of native Hawaiians and was presented as a gift to the people of Hawaii. “Aloha” is more than a word of greeting or farewell or a salutation. “Aloha” means mutual regard and affection and extends warmth in caring with no obligation in return. “Aloha” is the essence of relationships in which each person is important to every other person for collective existence. “Aloha” means to hear what is not said, to see what cannot be seen and to know the unknowable.

(b) In exercising their power on behalf of the people and in fulfillment of their responsibilities, obligations and service to the people, the legislature, governor, lieutenant governor, executive officers of each department, the chief justice, associate justices, and judges of the appellate, circuit, and district courts may contemplate and reside with the life force and give consideration to the “Aloha Spirit”.

DISCUSSION: *Share your thoughts about Transformation Hawaii and Duke Aiona’s writings in our discussion of religion and government.

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