Church of the Province of Melanesia
|Church of the
Province of Melanesia
|Primate||The Most Rev. David Vunagi|
|Headquarters||Honiara, Solomon Islands|
|Territory||Solomon Islands, Vanuatu, New Caledonia|
The Church of the Province of Melanesia is part of the Anglican Communion and includes eight dioceses in the Solomon Islands, Vanuatu and New Caledonia. The current Primate and Archbishop of Melanesia is the Most Rev. David Vunagi.
The Anglican Church of the Province of Melanesia is the official name but it is usually shortened to the Anglican Church of Melanesia or ACOM. Within Solomon Islands and Vanuatu the church is often called simply Anglican.
The church was established by Bishop George Augustus Selwyn in 1849 and was initially headed by a Bishop of Melanesia. One of the important features of the province's life over many years has been the work of a mission vessel in various incarnations known as the Southern Cross. First based in New Zealand, the missionaries, mainly from Oxbridge and the public schools, established their base on Norfolk Island, bringing Melanesian scholars there to learn Christianity until the school was closed in 1918.
The many languages in Melanesia made evangelisation a challenge. The Melanesian Mission adopted the language of the island of Mota in the Banks group of islands as the lingua franca. The Church of Melanesia is known for its pioneer martyrs, especially Bishop John Coleridge Patteson, murdered in 1871, Charles Godden, killed in 1906, among several others.
Archbishop and province
The spiritual head of the province is the Archbishop of Melanesia, whose metropolitan see (diocese) is the Diocese of Central Melanesia. The current archbishop is the Most Reverend David Vunagi (elected 2009).
Dioceses and bishops
John Coleridge Patteson was the first Bishop of Melanesia. The polity of the Church of Melanesia is episcopal, which is the same as all other Anglican churches. The church maintains a system of geographical parishes organised into dioceses, of which there are now eight, namely:
- The Diocese of Central Melanesia. The bishop is the Most Revd David Vunagi, Archbishop of Melanesia
- The Diocese of Central Solomons. The bishop is the Rt Revd Ben Seka
- The Diocese of Temotu. The bishop is the Rt Revd George Taleki
- The Diocese of Malaita. The bishop is the Rt Revd Sam Sahu and the assistant bishop is the Rt Revd Alfred Hou
- The Diocese of Ysabel. The bishop is the Rt Revd Richard Naramana
- The Diocese of Banks and Torres. The bishop is the Rt Revd Nathan Tome.
- The Diocese of Vanuatu and New Caledonia. The bishop is the Rt Revd James Ligo
- The Diocese of Hanuato'o. The bishop is the Rt Revd Alfred Karibongi
Parishes and priests
Each diocese except for Central Melanesia (the Honiara area) is divided into regions, each headed by a senior priest. The regions are further subdivided into parishes or districts (the two words being interchangeable), headed by a parish priest, usually called a rector. Parishes may be subdivided into subparishes, headed by assistant priests. Catechists are lay people appointed by a local community and authorised by the bishop to take services and look after the spiritual life of a village.
Worship and liturgy
The Church of Melanesia embraces three orders of ministry: deacon, priest and bishop. A local variant of the Book of Common Prayer is used, called A Melanesian English Prayer Book. Its predecessor in local liturgical development was A Book of Common Prayer Authorised for Use in Churches and Chapels in the Diocese of Melanesia, first published in 1938.
Doctrine and practice
The focus of the church's worship is the celebration of the Holy Eucharist, sometimes called "Mass", but more often "Communion" or "Communion service". This is celebrated weekly wherever there is a priest and in some communities it is celebrated daily, except for Saturdays.
Feast days are celebrated by most communities on a Sunday near the feast day, or at least in the same month.
Like other Anglican churches, the Church of Melanesia is a member of the ecumenical World Council of Churches, and is a member of the Pacific Conference of Churches, the Solomon Islands Christian Council, and the Vanuatu Council of Churches.
The Mothers' Union is quite active, as are the four religious communities active in the province, the Melanesian Brotherhood, the Society of Saint Francis, the Community of the Sisters of the Church and the Community of the Sisters of Melanesia. The province has its own liturgical customs and a calendar of saints.
Anglicanism, Neill, Stephen. Harmondsworth, 1965.