Melanesia elects David Vunagi as primate

March 6, 2009

The Anglican Church of Melanesia has elected the Rt. Rev. David Vunagi to serve as its next archbishop and primate.

Vunagi, who has served as bishop of the Diocese of Temotu in Solomon Islands for the last eight years, was elected March 4 by the provincial electoral board at Tetete Ni Kolivuti, near Honiara.

Vunagi will become the fifth archbishop of Melanesia when he is enthroned on May 31 in Honiara. He succeeds Archbishop Ellison Pogo who retired in December 2008.

Speaking following his election, Vunagi called for the support of all church members as he prepares to take on the highest leadership role within the Melanesian Anglican church. "The journey ahead in leading the church [will] not be easy but will need the support of everybody," he said.

The Church of the Province of Melanesia was inaugurated in January 1975 as an independent ecclesiastical province from New Zealand. It is one of 38 provinces in the Anglican Communion and covers three independent nations of Solomon Islands, the Republic of Vanuatu and the French Trust Territory of New Caledonia. It has six dioceses in Solomon Islands and two in Vanuatu.

Prior to his ordination, Vunagi was a teacher at a government-run school and the Church of Melanesia school Selwyn College.

Vunagi obtained a Diploma of Education in Science from the University of the South Pacific in Fiji in 1976, and later a Bachelor of Education in Biology from the University of Papua New Guinea in 1982.

In his theological training, the archbishop-elect graduated with a Bachelor of Theology degree in 1990 from St. John's College in Auckland, New Zealand.

In 1992, he taught at the Bishop Patteson Theological College Kohimarama in Solomon Islands. From 1996 to 1998, Vunagi served as assistant priest at St. Anselm's Parish in the Diocese of New Westminster, British Columbia in Canada. He received a Master of Theology degree from the Vancouver School of Theology in 1998.

Returning to Solomon Islands, Vunagi served in the Diocese of Ysabel as senior priest in the Lawe region.

In 1999, he returned to teach at Selwyn College where he held the position of a principal before he became the Mission Secretary at the Provincial headquarters of the Church in 2000. He was elected the same year as bishop of the Diocese of Temotu.

Vunagi is married to Mary, daughter of the late Bishop Dudley Tuti of Ysabel. They have three children, Duddley, Rusila and Douglas.