Archbishop of Melanesia’s AGM & Festival 2020 Address

The Most Revd Leonard Dawea, Archbishop of Melanesia, gave this address at the Charity’s AGM in September.

It is good to talk to you at this Annual General Meeting. It is a shame that we cannot see each other more often, however we applaud this technology, and how it enables us international communications which, though virtually, is still helpful. I commend you for the invitation to give a brief address to your meeting.

First I convey greetings to you from the Anglican Church of Melanesia, the members of the Council of Bishops, Clergy, Administrators and General Laity.  Grace mercy and peace to you from God our father. 

Appreciation – On the outset let me on behalf of ACoM convey to you our deepest acknowledgement for your unwavering support to Melanesia, for all that we do together as mission partners, and that includes moral and spiritual support. On our side this partnership is so valuable, a one that we embrace to heart, a partnership that has lived through centuries. It grows stronger with the new emerging issues affecting us.

I particularly want to convey our heartfelt appreciation and thank you too for supporting us after Cyclone Harold earlier this year. The Diocese of Vanuatu, which was mostly affected, is gradually coming back to normal, although Bishop James’ home and the Diocesan Office are still in temporary residence. We appreciate your ongoing support in this rehabilitation process.

It is also important for me to particularly offer words of acknowledgement and thank you to Andrew Cartwright for being a Trustee of MMUK for the past years. Thank you Andrew. I understand that Canon Jane Brooke will succeed him, and I welcome and congratulate Canon Jane Brooke for her appointment. Having met and talked with Canon Jane, I see a growing love and passion for Melanesia. Thank you and welcome Canon Jane.

COVID-19 – As we speak the two countries maintain their COVID-19 free status, however nobody can be certain about what tomorrow brings. There are now cases as close as Bougainville in the western border, placing Solomon Islands vulnerable as a high-risk nation. Even with the COVID-19 free status both countries are feeling the socio-economic impacts. More and more employees are losing their jobs as a result of scale down of most private companies and government ministries. Where life in Honiara appears normal, there is growing unemployment. We are praying that your scientists will quickly provide a vaccine.

Worship life throughout the province remains the same, but with ongoing awareness and preventive measures in churches and other related gatherings. Lately the Council of Bishops agreed on a paper outlining possible changes to worship in the event COVID-19 enters our countries. You know too well how we Melanesians look to faith; it is what our people still holding on to. That said, we educate our people to be careful and that our faith should lead people to act with responsibility. 

Climate Change – In recent years, this has topped the chart of issues, until COVID-19 interrupted our attention. However COVID-19 is an outbreak, and will through the grace and love of God, cease in time. Climate change issues will persist and our partnership on this issue should continue its momentum, if not further improve. We are well ahead with our response, for the example, the setting up of the Church Observatory project in Malaita and Guadalcanal to provide scientific data.  At this stage it is too early to have any tangible results from the observatory, resulting from inconsistent data collections due to the public state of emergency and the tropical Cyclone Harold. We trust our combined effort on this project will continue to bear fruit.

Shoreline Erosion on Fanalei Island
Shoreline Erosion on Fanalei Island

ACoM – I have some updates for you on ACoM administration and leadership. Bishop Alfred of Hanuato’o Diocese, officially retired on the 15th August, and the Bishop Nathan Tome of the Diocese of Guadalcanal had his liturgical farewell on the 20th September, being the day of Bishop Patteson. Elections and consecrations for their successors will be later this year and early next year. The Diocese of Ysabel has given Bishop Ellison an extension of five years in office after his 60th birthday this year.

Having served two terms, I am delighted to inform MMUK that Dr Abraham Hauriasi, the General Secretary of ACoM, has agreed and signed another term of five years. We all appreciate the huge impact Abraham, through his sound knowledge and experiences, humility, and thoughtfulness, has contributed to ACoM efficiency in administration, operation, and the training of green hands for finance.

The global pandemic has disrupted some of our scheduled programs for this year. The General Synod which was scheduled for November has been deferred to next year. Five dioceses have also decided to defer their Synods to next year. 

The Southern Cross – After almost a year of huge refurbishment work, ACoM’s mission flagship the Southern Cross is now back on mission. According to our finance manager the refurbishment cost around 2 million Solomon dollars. We render massive appreciation and acknowledgement to MMTB in Auckland, for facilitating resources for the renovation. We hope she can further serve ACoM mission for some more years, after which a new and bigger vessel can be considered. And, as the saying goes, the sooner the better. 

ACoM PHQ – Since relocating the Provincial Office by the main street of Honiara in 2019, actual work on the new complex has not yet started. That said, a committee consisting of PHQ staff has been setup to oversee the initial planning stages. It is going to be a huge project, so we are concerned about securing maximum funds to ensure that initial plans are correct. It is hoped that this project will begin next year.

John Coleridge Patteson University (JCPU) – It has been a long overdue project of ACoM. However, in terms of academic programs, a diploma in primary school teaching has been introduced and is gradually attracting enrolments, not just from ACoM, but from other churches. One of the huge steps forward to this program is that the South-Western Commission has accredited the programs offered. A concept implementation plan has been designed, for land east of Honiara, further inland from TNK. According to the document 80% of the university’s income will be locally generated, by allowing some hectares of the land for farming. Definitely support for tools and machineries for the proposed farm will be welcomed. 

ACoM Health Ministry – In the early days of our core mission, health ministry was strongly linked with education. It lost its grip, probably when the government of Solomon Islands and Vanuatu started improving their health services. Now there is a huge realisation resonating with the climate change experiences, for the need to re-engage in this ministry, most probably on a higher level. To that end a resolution was made in the 2018 General Synod in Port Vila to revive ACoM’s heath ministry, first by establishing a position of a Health Coordinator in the administration office. That has now been done and the pioneering work is in place to scout opportunities to gradually rollout this ministry. Sadly only two ACoM clinics survive, the Epiphany Clinic at Fauabu on Malaita, and the St. Clare Clinic at Taroaniara on Gela. Unfortunately both clinics are now in dilapidated stages.

With those brief remarks, I wish you all God’s blessing on your work and our partnership for the Kingdom of God. It is good to talk to you. Though we missed out a lot on the face-to-face communication, may I assure you that ACoM holds you and your families and the work you do to heart. Most especially during this time of extraordinary uncertainty and fear.

May God bless all the Trustees, supporters, your families, and our partnership in mission. Thank you.

++Leonard Dawea
Archbishop of Melanesia