Anglican Church of Melanesia

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Anglican Church of Melanesia
ScriptureHoly Bible
TheologyAnglican doctrine
PrimateLeonard Dawea
HeadquartersHoniara, Solomon Islands
TerritorySolomon Islands, Vanuatu, New Caledonia

The Anglican Church of Melanesia (ACoM), also known as the Church of the Province of Melanesia and the Church of Melanesia (COM), is a church of the Anglican Communion and includes nine dioceses in Solomon Islands, Vanuatu and New Caledonia. The Archbishop of Melanesia is Leonard Dawea. He succeeds the retired archbishop George Takeli.


John Coleridge Patteson died a martyr's death in 1871

The church was established by George Selwyn, Bishop of New Zealand in 1849,[1] 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 John Patteson, murdered in 1871, Charles Godden, killed in 1906, among several others.


Today, there are nearly 200,000 Anglicans out of an estimated population of over 800,000 in Solomon Islands and Vanuatu as well as a newly[clarification needed] formed parish in Nouméa, New Caledonia.


The polity of the Church of Melanesia is episcopal, which is the same as all other Anglican churches. Since being made a province in 1975 the church has maintained a system of geographical parishes organised into dioceses, of which there are now nine. The spiritual head of the province is the Archbishop of Melanesia, whose metropolitan See is the Diocese of Central Melanesia.

The dioceses are: Central Melanesia; Malaita, Vanuatu and New Caledonia (originally New Hebrides), and Ysabel (all 1975); Temotu (1981); Hanuato'o (1991); Banks and Torres (1996); Central Solomons (1997); and Guadalcanal (2013).

Parishes and priests[edit]

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[edit]

St. Barnabas Anglican Cathedral, Honiara, Solomon Islands

The Church of Melanesia embraces three orders of ordained ministry: deacon, priest and bishop. A local variant of the Book of Common Prayer is used, called A Melanesian English Prayer Book.[2] 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.[3]

Doctrine and practice[edit]

See also: Anglicanism and Anglican doctrine

The centre of the Church of Melanesia's teaching is the life and resurrection of Jesus Christ. The basic teachings of the church are summed up in the Apostles' Creed and the Nicene Creed.

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.

Morning Prayer and Evening Prayer are offered in most churches and congregations daily, and Evening Prayer, "Evensong", is often sung (except for the Psalms) on Sundays and feasts.

Feast days are celebrated by most communities on a Sunday near the feast day, or at least in the same month.

The church in its canons accepts and teaches the seven sacraments of the Church, Baptism, Holy Eucharist, Confirmation, Penance, Holy Matrimony, Holy Orders, and Anointing of the Sick.

Ecumenical relations[edit]

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.

Anglican realignment[edit]

The Church of Melanesia is a member of the Global South and has been involved in the Anglican realignment movement. David Vunagi attended the Global South Fourth Encounter at 19–23 April 2010, in Singapore. He also would be one of the signatories of the Global South Primates letter to the Crown Nominations Commission, at 20 July 2012.[4] Nevertheless, other clergy have sided with the more liberal Anglican provinces, including Terry Brown, former Bishop of Malaita, who has spoken "as an 'out' gay man serving as bishop".[5]


  1. ^ Limbrick, Warren E. (1990). "Selwyn, George Augustus". Dictionary of New Zealand Biography. Te Ara – the Encyclopedia of New Zealand. Retrieved 22 April 2019.
  2. ^ A Melanesian English Prayer Book
  3. ^ Society of St Justus website.
  4. ^ "Global South Letter to the Crown Nominations Commission (20 July 2012)" (PDF). Archived from the original (PDF) on 23 June 2015. Retrieved 19 September 2012.
  5. ^ "Another Gay bishop". Episcopal Cafe. 7 September 2007. Retrieved 3 May 2016.

Further reading[edit]

Anglicanism, Neill, Stephen. Harmondsworth, 1965.

External links[edit]