Telling the stories of the Anglican Church in Aotearoa, NZ and Polynesia

ABC in Suva next week

This year's Oceania fono – the annual gathering of this region's Primates – begins in Suva on Friday, March 1. And Fiji is preparing to host a distinguished guest at that event.
• Oceania church leaders to discuss social issues
• Climate change will be high on Archbishop of Canterbury's agenda

Taonga  |  20 Feb 2018  |

The Archbishop of Canterbury – the bishop recognised as the unifying focus of the world's 85 million Anglicans – arrives in Suva next Thursday, March 1.

The Most Rev Justin Welby, who is the 105th Archbishop of Canterbury, will join the leaders of the Anglican Church in Oceania for a three-day fono – and his visit comes more than 40 years after the last by an Archbishop of Canterbury[1] to Fiji.

Archbishop Justin will take part in discussions on issues that the five Oceania Primates[2] believe are among the most pressing for Oceania: including climate change and violence against women and children.

The Saturday morning session is shaping as one of the key moments of the fono, with presentations by the Acting Fijian Prime Minister and Minister for the Environment Hon Aiyaz Sayed-Khaiyum, who will report on last November's COP 23 summit meeting in Bonn, Germany – and Professor Beth Holland, who is both the Director of the Pacific Centre for Environment and Sustainable Development (PaCE-SD), and the University of the South Pacific's Professor of Climate Change.

Immediately after that session, Archbishop Welby will join the other Archbishops in a highly symbolic event – they will board the vaka Uto Ni Yalo and sail out to a sandbank in Suva Harbour where they will celebrate the Eucharist, with the waters lapping near their feet.

Safety for all people

Later that afternoon, the archbishops will talanoa about the church's role in promoting the safety of all people – and they will be led in this by the House of Sarah, which the Diocese of Polynesia set up to turn back violence against women and children.

While he is in Suva Archbishop Welby will brief the Oceania leaders about the planning of the 2020 Lambeth Conference – the normally once-a-decade[3] gathering in the United Kingdom of the world's Anglican bishops – and he will hear from them about the concerns, such as climate change, that the Oceania leaders would like to have raised on that international stage.

Archbishop Welby will also take part in discussions on aid and development work, and hear presentations on disaster risk reduction work in the region.

The Archbishop of Canterbury has also been invited to deliver a public lecture on reconciliation[4] – and this will take place at 4pm on Saturday March 3 in Suva's Holy Trinity Cathedral.

Golden opportunity

Archbishop Winston Halapua, who is both the Bishop of Polynesia, and joint leader of Anglican Church in Aotearoa, New Zealand and Polynesia, and who has championed the need for action on climate change in the worldwide Anglican Communion, sees the Archbishop of Canterbury's visit to the fono as a "golden opportunity."

"This fono, and his visit is a golden opportunity for us make our voice stronger and more effective – and to have it heard and understood on an international stage."

Next week's fono is only the second time the Oceania primates have met this way. They gathered for the first time on the Gold Coast in March last year, and committed to meet again each year.

Archbishop Winston says the Archbishop of Canterbury has continually encouraged Anglican leaders to meet in regional groupings – and when the ABC heard about next week's fono he "jumped at the chance" to take part, says Archbishop Winston.

He says one of the purposes of the gathering will be for the four provinces – Australia, Melanesia, Papua New Guinea and Aotearoa, New Zealand and Polynesia – to hear about action already taking place in their respective parts of the South Pacific, and to co-ordinate and unify around that action.

On climate change in particular, says Archbishop Winston, he longs to get to the place where "we no longer make statements. We say instead: this is the action we will take together."

Who's coming?

The present members of the fono are:

Archbishop Dr Winston Halapua, Bishop of the Diocese of Polynesia, and Primate of the Anglican Church in Aotearoa, New Zealand and Polynesia;

Archbishop Philip Richardson, Senior Bishop of the New Zealand dioceses, and Primate of the Anglican Church in Aotearoa, New Zealand and Polynesia;

Archbishop George Takeli, Primate of the Anglican Church of Melanesia;

Archbishop Alan Migi, Primate of the Anglican Church of Papua New Guinea;

Archbishop Philip Freier, Primate of the Anglican Church of Australia.

The General Secretaries of these provinces are also members of the fono.

The invited guests to this fono are:

Archbishop Justin Welby, the Archbishop of Canterbury;

Archbishop Josiah Idowu-Fearon, Secretary General of the Anglican Communion

Bishop Robert Fitzpatrick, Bishop of Hawaii, and;

Bishop Anthony Poggo, the Archbishop of Canterbury's Adviser on Anglican Communion Affairs.

All the talanoa sessions of the fono will be held at the MAST, which is the new Diocese of Polynesia centre in central Suva, while the public events – the cultural welcome on Friday, the Saturday afternoon open lecture and Sunday morning worship service – will be held at the nearby Holy Trinity Cathedral.


[1] The first visit was in 1964, when Archbishop Michael Ramsay laid the foundation stone for the Pacific Theological College in Suva. In 1977, his successor Archbishop Donald Coggan visited Fiji to celebrate 100 years of Anglican mission to Fiji. Archbishop Justin Welby's visit next week is the first visit by an Archbishop of Canterbury since then.

[2] The Archbishops who lead the Anglican 'provinces' of Australia, Melanesia, Papua New Guinea, and Aotearoa, New Zealand and Polynesia. The Bishop of Hawaii has also been invited.

[3] The last Lambeth Conference was in 2008. The next has been postponed until 2020.

[4] On being chosen as the Archbishop of Canterbury, Bishop Justin Welby declared that pursuing reconciliation, and the church's role in peace-making, would one of his priorities for his time in the role. His Suva lecture will be entitled: 'Six Steps in the Practice of Reconciliation'.

Note: Talanoa can be described as a Pasifika model of conversation that helps people build relationship, share stories and make connections through speaking and listening in a context of love, warmth, humour and respect.