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 the Solomon Islands, Vanuatu and New Caledonia. The newly enthroned and installed primate and Archbishop of Melanesia is George Takeli. He succeeds the retired archbishop David Vunagi, who left office on 6 September 2015.
The church was established by George 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 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 the Solomon Islands and Vanuatu as well as a newly formed parish in Nouméa, New Caledonia.
The spiritual head of the province is the Archbishop of Melanesia, whose metropolitan see (diocese) is the Diocese of Central Melanesia. The previous archbishop was David Vunagi, in office from 2009 to 2015.
John 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 nine, namely:Diocese of Central Melanesia; George Takeli, Archbishop of Melanesia
Diocese of Central Solomons; Ben Seka
Diocese of Temotu; Leonard Dawea
Diocese of Malaita; Sam Sahu and the assistant bishop is Alfred Hou
Diocese of Ysabel; Ellison Quity
Diocese of Banks and Torres; Patterson Worek
Diocese of Vanuatu and New Caledonia; James Ligo
Diocese of Hanuato'o; Alfred Karibongi
Diocese of Guadalcanal; Nathan Tome
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.
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. 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.
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 Apostle's 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.
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.
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. 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".