Sermon delivered by the Archbishop of Melanesia upon his enthronement


St. Barnabas Provincial Cathedral
Honiara, Solomon Islands
5th September 2019

O God our help in ages past and our hope for years to come!

Your Excellency, the Governor General of Solomon Islands, the Rt Rev. David Vunagi and Madam Mary Vunagi, the Hon. Speaker of Parliament, Mr. Patteson Oti and Madam Oti, the Prime Minister, Hon. Manasseh Sogavare and Madam Sogavare, the Hon. Justice Sir Albert Palmer and Madam Palmer, Leader of Parliamentary Opposition, Hon. Matthew Wale and Mrs. Wale, Members of Parliament who are here this morning and your good wives. And in their absence, I would like to mention the President and the Prime Minister and the national leaders of the Republic of Vanuatu and New Caledonia.

The Senior Bishop, the Rt Rev. Nathan Tome, all diocesan bishops of ACoM, the Most Rev. Allen Migi, Archbishop of ACPNG, the Most Rev. Efereima Cama Archbishop of Polynesia, the Rt Rev. Mark Rylands, and Rev’d. Amanda Rylands and representatives of MMUK, the Rt Rev. Dr. Keith Joseph, Bishop of Northern Queensland representing the Anglican Church of Australia, the Rt Rev. Jeremy Greaves, Assistant Bishop of Brisbane, the Rt Rev. Ross Bay, Bishop of Auckland and representatives of the MMTB Trustee, the Rt Rev. William Pwaisiho, Barbara Molyneux and Ruth Gesworth, representatives of the Diocese of Chester, Retired Archbishops and Bishops who are here this morning, Church leaders of Sister Churches in Solomon Islands and Vanuatu. The Vicar General of DOCM, the Rt Rev. Alfred Hou, Dean of St. Barnabas Provincial Cathedral, the Very Rev. Philip Rongotha and members of the Cathedral Chapter, Vicar Generals of other Dioceses and all Clergies, Canon Gabriel Suri, Vice Chancellor of ACoM, Members of the National, Overseas and Private Sector dignitaries, the Provincial Premiers of our Provinces who are here this morning, Ariki Tafua and all Paramount Chiefs, chiefs and traditional leaders of our islands and communities

The General Secretary of ACoM Dr. Abraham Hauriasi and your Provincial staff, Assistant General Secretary Vanuatu, Mr. Joses Togase, All Diocesan Secretaries of our Dioceses, Members of the Provincial Electoral Board, Heads of Church Institutions and departments, Heads of Religious Orders and all their members, President of the Mothers Union and all MU members, Leaders of Church Lay ministries, young people, children, ladies and gentlemen. I greet you all with the love and peace of Jesus Christ our Lord.

By way of introduction, first of all I wish to humbly appeal to all of you to pray for me that God may grant me wisdom and strength to lead his Church.

Following that, I wish to thank the Senior Bishop, the Rt Rev. Nathan Tome for his leadership over the Church for the last seven months of leadership interregnum. Thank you Senior Bishop, your leadership is truly of high quality, integrity and dignity; through your sound wisdom you stirred the Church steadily throughout this period. I also thank the Diocesan Bishops and Assistant Bishop for supporting our Senior Bishop to care for our beloved Church.

Next, I wish to thank so many of you who sent messages of congratulations and best wishes and support of prayers to me and family on the occasion of my election. I greatly appreciate such support of prayers; hence, ‘I will be because of what you will be to me’.

Following some elections, I wish offer congratulations on behalf of ACoM to the following leaders who were elected this year;

  • Congratulations Your Excellency the Governor General, the Rt Rev. David Vunagi and Madam Mary Vunagi for your election as the Head State of Solomon Islands.
  • Congratulations Hon. Manasseh Sogavare for your successful election as Prime Minister of Solomon Islands.
  • Congratulations Hon. Speaker of National Parliament, Mr. Patteson Oti for your successful election as the Speaker to the National Parliament.
  • Congratulations the fifty members of the Solomon Islands Parliament for your successful election earlier this year.
  • Congratulations to all our Provincial Premiers of the Provinces who held their election this year and the members of your respective Provincial Assemblies.

May I offer and assure you of the prayers and support of the Anglican Church of Melanesia. ACoM, as a stakeholder to our national and provincial governments will always appreciate continual corporate efforts with you in your national and provincial developments.

May I also assure our Mission Partners in United Kingdom and New Zealand, Oceania Sister Churches, Christian Churches in Vanuatu and Solomon Islands, Non-Government Organizations, Provincial Governments and Traditional Leaders that ACoM will continue to work together with you. I assure you of our prayers and support.

Gratitude and appreciation
Before going further, I wish to offer sincere gratitude to our previous Bishops, Clergies and laities for their huge contributions to the growth and development of our Church from being a missionary diocese to what is now, an autonomous Provincial Church. On this occasion, I particularly want to accord due respect and gratitude to our retired Archbishops; Late Archbishop John Wallace Chisholm, Late Archbishop Norman Palmer, Late Archbishop Amos Waiaru, Late Archbishop Ellison Pogo, Archbishop David Vunagi and Archbishop George Takeli; all of whom were champion leaders, by whose great contributions, wisdom and foresight, ACoM consistently grows and develops to this day. For those who served ACoM and have died, may they rest in peace and rise in heavenly glory.

It is indeed overwhelming to see for myself so many of you who have come to witness this occasion. I understand that a lot of Christians are also following this occasion on television and radio broadcast. I am so assured to see the great support you represent, so let me say this you all; because of your trust and confidence in me, I will do my very best to be your servant shepherd.

My Vision
My vision for the Anglican Church of Melanesia is “A spiritually united Church for equal and holistic growth”. Spiritually united speaks of the desired status for ACoM and equal and holistic growth is the character of growth we anticipate to see in ACoM. In saying this, I am fully aware of the autonomous status each diocese in our Province possess. Hence, spiritual unity is not new, it is strongly interwoven in our tradition; in our daily worship, our biblical connection to the one holy Catholic and Apostolic Church and our faith in one baptism for the remission of sins. These traditional foundational elements must spur our spiritual unity, our mission, our administration and our financial self-support.

As a spiritually united Church we are called to remain faithful as the holy agent of salvation for the God’s people. It must be able to continually hold together across three political nations of New Caledonia, Vanuatu and Solomon Islands. She must also improve and strengthen her ecumenical relationship, both nationally, regionally and internationally. She must initiate dialogue and be receptive to our National governments and Non-government Organizations within our boundaries. The presence of our national leaders, Church leaders and our mission partners abroad is a manifestation of our unity; as different parts of the same Body of Christ.

This Church ought to see her adherents become active and participate equally in her life and mission. Through such united participation our Church can identify proactive mission approaches in the context of the rapid up rise of modernity, secularism, individualism and imperative ideologies facing our Church and society. In the face of all these, she must outwork through the lives of her members the physical testament of her spiritual essence.

In support of this vision, we must encourage the Religious Orders within ACoM to provide conducive venues for quiet times of mediation and retreats. But this Church must work towards establishing her own sanctuary or spiritual hub for the same course. A strong Church is one that is ever spiritually united and alive.

Today, I do not wish to raise your hopes for miracles, but with great humility wish to call upon ACoM Christians to arise, hold hands together and listen to each other as we seek ways forward for our Church. We must progressively build our Church on the foundation laid by our founding Fathers and those before us. There will be no miracle by any individual, but corporately, there will be further growth and development.

In the first few years of this leadership, we will continue to work on our ongoing development plans. If by God’s grace we archive them within their allocated period, we will then propose further plans through our administration and governing councils. Our Vision Statement will certainly guide our periodic strategic plans, but during the era of the incoming leadership, the overarching vision of ‘equal and holistic growth’ must guide our destiny.

Let me at this point raise some thoughts on the basic ministry of our Church;

Mission & Ministry
In terms of mission, ACoM, apart from the traditional mission approaches, always take some major mission programs in relation to Bishop George A. Selwyn mission philosophy of ‘true religion, sound learning and useful industry’. In the past, ACoM carried out her mission in threefold areas of Gospel propagation, social services and training. While we remain active in gospel proclamation, we subsided in social gospel and training.

On gospel proclamation, ACoM is currently in a decade of evangelism and renewal. It is a Provincial commitment, which our mission department must effectively lead us to roll out its programs using our established structures. Apart from the traditional methods of spreading the gospel, we need to be creative and innovative to identify other appropriate methods for mission at our respective levels. On the top level for example, ACoM must explore the possibility of utilising our media and communication department to alleviate and prompt the evangelism programs.

More importantly, our Religious Orders must be involved more fully in the evangelism and renewal programs. They must lead us through the decade because evangelism is their lifestyle, hoping that by the end of the decade we should have been rehearsed to do evangelism as our lifestyle.

Regarding our mission through social services, it is encouraging to see ACoM involving in various ‘cross cut issues’. The need is to strengthen and improve our Mission Board to become a strong and active department in our Church to alleviate the different cross cut issues we face. One of the strong mission area of the Church in the past was health services, but it drastically dropped to a very small percentage. Though, we might not see it as a cross cut issue, our national health level remains an issue, so it is an area that ACoM working together with our national governments can undertake feasibility studies on to see if it is possible to re-engage in health services.

Education and training is another area of mission which was very strong and active, but it also subsided along the way. However, upon realisation, we are now beginning to work towards a fully blown education and training ministry. We must do this at all prescribed levels of education and training by our national governments. As part of our mission work, we need to encourage dioceses to engage in education and training, both formal and non-formal. We must also raise the level of our existing schools and training centres.

In terms of theological education, there is great opportunity for ACoM to start planning towards introducing graduate programs in theological studies at Bishop Patteson Theological College. There is great confidence in our Church because we have our owned highly qualified human resources. In line with this, we are confident in the gradual, but steady progress John Coleridge Patteson University is making in terms of academic programs. JCPU project is a huge education and training development, but we remain optimistic about its ongoing progress with the support of our stakeholders in education, including our national governments.

In the area of administration, currently we have a strong administration in place at the provincial level under qualified personnel. There may be areas that needed improvement, but that can only be done by close scrutiny in relation to the changing experiences of our Church. But any notable change to our administration and financial structures and systems have to be done through our canon via relevant governing bodies. Again we must be guided by the vision for equal and holistic growth.

Self-reliance Investment
The call for dioceses and institutions to venture deep into self-reliance has been highlighted in our Church over the decades. The call intertwines with the call to be good stewards of our initiatives and their proceeds. Dioceses and institutions have indeed tried their best to take initiatives, but good stewardship has always been a setback.

Because of this, while I do not intend to discourage initiatives undertaken by dioceses and institutions, I wish to propose a new model to approach our self-reliance investment. It is my vision to work towards a ‘centralised self-reliance’ strategy. It means that our self-reliance activities and investments must be coordinated at the Provincial levels in Solomon Islands and Vanuatu. We must identify appropriate and viable activities in our national capitals and other thriving development and economic centres in alignment with our countries’ national developments.

I believe the model correlates with that of Bp. Selwyn and Bp. Patteson when they invested for ACoM in Auckland. We will work with our national governments to formalise our Business Department to operate independently as a business entity to spearhead this concept. The wide spread of our Provincial Church over three political nations presents greater opportunities for such investments. It is high time that we ought to be trained to fish, then waiting on the shoreline to be given fish.

Diocese of Central Melanesia
I wish to assure my new Diocese of Central Melanesia that despites the heavy commitment with the affairs of the Province, I will ensure that I provide due pastoral visitation to our parishes and the satellite Churches. The Diocese of Central Melanesia is a growing diocese following the growth of our national capital of Honiara. A major task ahead of us is to ensure that these satellite Churches continue to grow and develop into parishes. I am not promising you any new and great visions because I know there are ongoing plans in place; my role will be to work with you to implement the plans. DOCM is the mother diocese of the Province of Melanesia, it is therefore, fitting that she must continue to develop ahead in her mission, administration and finance and become a role model for other dioceses.

In conclusion, may I once again appeal to all members of the Anglican Church of Melanesia, the Governments of Solomon Islands and Vanuatu, Mission Partners, Oceania Church Partners, Provincial Governments, NGOs, Chiefs and all faith confessing Christians of all denominations for your prayers and support.

ACoM is a living organism as St. Paul says in 1 Corinthian 12: 12 – end; hence a united participation at all levels and activity centres can definitely result in an equal and holistic growth. The mechanism for our united participation and working relationship is the promise of loyalty and support we offer each in this service. On my part, I will do all I can to work with you. Furthermore, I call on you to enjoy your participation in the life, mission, administration and socio economic development of our Church.

Lastly but the least, may the martyrs and saints of Melanesia and the triune and everlasting God the Father, Son and Holy Spirit bless and lead the Anglican Church of Melanesia.

Your Excellency the Governor General of Solomon Islands, the Most Rev. David Vunagi and Madam Mary Vunagi, the Honourable Speaker of Parliament, Mr. Patteson Oti, the Prime Minister, Honourable Manasseh Sogavare, all invited dignitaries, Mission partners, ACoM Church partners, and all of you who have come to honour and grace this occasion, I salute and thank you very much indeed.

Long live the Anglican Church of Melanesia; To God be the glory, great things He will do. Amen.

You can watch the full enthronement service here;