The Most Rev. Sir Ellison Pogo of the Church of Melanesia retired December 9 after serving as primate of the southwestern Pacific province for 14 years, making him the longest-serving archbishop of the Anglican Communion.
Consecrated as bishop of the Diocese of Isabel in the Melanesian church in 1981, Pogo was honored in 2000 with a Knighthood of the British Empire by Queen Elizabeth II for his dedicated service to the church and people of the Solomon Islands, Vanuatu and the French Territory of New Caledonia.
Pogo was awarded the Cross of St. Augustine in October by Archbishop of Canterbury Rowan Williams in recognition for his service to the Anglican Communion. He has served as chair of the Lambeth Conference Design Group and chair of the Pacific Theological College.
The Church of Melanesia includes eight dioceses, more than 400 islands and 250,000 parishioners.
Anglicanism was brought to Melanesia in 1849 by the first bishop of New Zealand, George Augustus Selwyn. It remained part of the Church of the Province of New Zealand until it became an ecclesiastical province in its own right in 1975. It is now a fully indigenous and autonomous province of the Anglican Communion.
Pogo, who comes from a family of 15 brothers and sisters, "has consciously followed the lead of Bishop George Augustus Selwyn who brought the Gospel to the Solomon Islands in 1849 in a ship called the Southern Cross," a Lambeth palace news release said.
Seven of the Melanesian Brothers were martyred in 2003 trying to bring peace to the warring islands. They were honored at Canterbury Cathedral during the 2008 Lambeth Conference's closing Eucharist, at which Pogo presided.
The Church of Melanesia held a liturgical farewell for Pogo at the Provincial Cathedral in Honiara on December 7.
"For thousands of people who filled the Provincial Cathedral … for the first ever liturgical farewell, it was a moment spurred with fulfillment, joys, thanksgiving as well as sadness for such a great leader who has served the church faithfully for so many years," a provincial news release said.
During the service, Pogo thanked church partners and secular organizations "who have helped me to look beyond the Anglican Church and the country of Solomon Islands in my ministry in the last 14 years. It's not easy being a leader of so many people let alone overseeing three independent nations."
Solomon Islands Prime Minister Derek Sikua, who attended the service, expressed his gratitude to Pogo for his leadership in enabling the Church of Melanesia to play a significant role in the development of the country in the areas of education, health and ecumenical affairs.
"You have left a legacy of responsible and trustworthy leadership in the church and … within the community at large," Sikua said. "It is our hope that you will continue the good work elsewhere either in the church or indeed in the country."
The two-hour worship service was also broadcast live across the nation by the Solomon Islands Broadcasting Corporation.
Pogo and his wife, Lady Rosely Pogo, have three grown children.
The election of the new archbishop will be held March 3-5, 2009 with the consecration and installation set for May 31.