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New Primate for Melanesia

By Mark Michael

Leonard Dawea, Bishop of Temotu, was elected Archbishop of the Anglican Church of Melanesia at last week’s meeting of the Provincial Electoral Board. He will be installed at Saint Barnabas Provincial Cathedral in Honiara, the capital of the Solomons Islands, on September 15. Like his predecessors, the primate will also serve as Bishop of Central Melanesia, the province’s largest diocese.

Dawea succeeds Archbishop George Takeli, who had also been his predecessor as Bishop of Temotu. The easternmost province in the Solomons, Temotu is a double chain of seventeen islands, with a combined population of just under 30,000 people. Bishop Dawea is a native of one of the Reefs Islands in Temotu Province.

Dawea was a member of the Melanesian Brotherhood for twelve years before his ordination to the priesthood. This missionary monastic order has played a central role in the spread of the Christian faith in the region, and helped to broker an important peace agreement between rival factions in 2000. Members of the Brotherhood commonly serve between seven and twenty years, and are then released from their vows and permitted to marry and raise a family. Bishop Dawea married after his time in monastic life, and he and his wife, Dorah, have two children.

The Anglican Church in Melanesia is a relatively young province of the Anglican Communion, founded in 1975. It is a union of nine dioceses in the Solomons Islands, Vanuatu, and New Caledonia. Archbishop David Vanugi, who served the province from 2009-2015, was associated with the Global South realignment movement, and participated in Global South conferences in Singapore in 2010 and in 2012 in Bangkok. Archbishop George Takeli strengthened links with the progressive Anglican Church of New Zealand during his three-year tenure.

 

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