Corporate entry: United Church of Papua New Guinea and the Solomon Islands
In mid-1967, the United Church was created out of the Papua Ekelesia, formerly the London Missionary Society in Papua New Guinea, and from Methodist districts of the New Guinea Highlands, New Guinea and the Territory of Papua, and the Solomon Islands. Control of the new Church was vested in the Assembly, which met annually and elected a Moderator who is the head of the Church. Bishops were elected for an initial period of ten years. The official inauguration of the new United Church took place on 19 January 1968 at Port Moresby. The Chairmen of the six regions are made Bishops for the duration of their term of office. On 23 March 1969, Rev. Jack Sharp, Moderator of the United Church of Papua New Guinea and Solomon Islands, formally inducted Rev. Leslie Boseto (q.v.) as the first Solomon Islands Bishop at a ceremony at Gizo attended by about 1,500 people. At the same time the new Gizo Wesley United Church was dedicated. Boseto's term was extended for 1973 and 1974. (NS 7 July 1967; AR 1968, 85, AR 1969, 82, AR 1970, 90)
Localisation of the Church continued, and in 1970 the first Melanesian woman was appointed as organiser of its Women's Fellowship. The United Church gave priority to evangelism and formed evangelism teams to work in the ten circuits in the Solomon Islands. The local churches were encouraged to assume responsibility for their own finances and not to depend on overseas aid. For example, in 1970, the Vella Lavella Circuit raised more than $10,000 for building a girls' dormitory of permanent materials, the Roviana Circuit leased Banga Plantation from the Church to develop it as a commercial venture, and many villages were raising money to build permanent churches. In 1970, the Solomon Islands Region of the United Church was able to appoint a full-time Education Secretary to oversee the work, finances and staffing of the Church's schools. The appointment went to Eileen Schick, who became a member of the BSIP Education Advisory Board. Goldie College continued as the Church's secondary school, and Susamungga, Bilua and Kokeqolo were the main primary schools. At the Helena Goldie Hospital at Munda, Don Pentelow headed a large building project that constructed men's and women's wards, a kitchen block and a chapel. The hospital was the Church's primary venue for training nurses, and a new tutor-sister arrived there early in 1971. (AR 1970, 90)
In 1971, the United Church took a further step in localisation of its ministry with the ordination of Esau Tuza (q.v.), the first Solomon Islanders to be awarded the degree of Bachelor of Divinity from the Pacific Theological College in Suva, and Nelson Ivupitu, a graduate of Raronga Theological College near Rabaul. Localisation and paternalism and dependence were also the main topics discussed at both regional and Assembly levels of the Church's meetings. Educational and medical work remained priorities. Within the village schools, the people began to realise that the only way in which they could attract a sufficient number of trained teachers was to combine the smaller schools into larger central units where more facilities would be available. Some new, centralised schools were constructed and ready to open in 1972.
At the Regional Synod, Rev. Jack Sharp, who was in 1971 Moderator of the whole United Church of Papua New Guinea and the Solomons, was recommended as Bishop-elect of the Solomons Region when Bishop Leslie Boseto became Moderator in November 1972 and moved to Port Moresby. That month the biennial assembly of the United Church met in Port Moresby and there were lively debates about localisation and indigenisation (making the Church more Melanesian in character). These topics were subsequently discussed in all of the regions. Educational and medical work continued to be a large part of the Church's work, practically all of it in the hands of trained Solomon Islanders. All the primary schools had Solomon Islander Headmasters. (AR 1971, 100, AR 1972, 107)
The new Bishop of the Solomon Islands Region, Kenneth Towers, arrived in February 1973 and was inducted at Bilua on Vella Lavella. He had twenty-five years of missionary experience in the Caribbean and South America, and before he came to Munda he had spent two years as a lecturer in anthropology and psychology at the United Church Theological College near Rabaul. The main change in the Church's education programme was the approval for Goldie College to extend classes to Form V over a three-year period. Beginning in 1974, there was a Form III for the first time. Several primary school teachers completed courses in England, Australia and New Zealand. The Church continued to send about twenty-five girls each year to a vocational college at Kihili on Bougainville in Papua New Guinea. Also, training of village people to run local church and village affairs was ongoing at Ozama Community, the lay training centre. The main hospital at Munda was fortunate in being able to recruit another doctor to replace Dr Pattinson who left after eight years. The Church's medical work was supported by the Lepers' Trust Board in New Zealand. Also in 1973, discussions began with the Anglican Church in pursuit of further unity in the Solomon Islands. (AR 1973, 111-112)
In 1974, Rev. John Pratt, a Melanesian minister from Roviana, was elected as Bishop, to assume the office at the end of 1975. The twenty-five ministerial staffs of the Region were comprised of Australians, New Zealanders, Tongans, Fijians and other Melanesians. Three Solomon Islanders-Robertson Bato, Frederick Aleziru and Ezekiel Kalena-left for Raronga Theological College for training. Joe Gaquraw, a ministry student from Choiseul, was named the outstanding Raronga student in 1974. Four students had also been sent for training in the Christian Education Course at Malmaluan. New developments were planned in Christian education: the Ozama programme was enlarged to cater for the lay training of people, and Goldie Veno was appointed Director of Lay Training, assisted by Heno Zio and Selina Tale. Major changes occurred in 1975 in the national education system, and a position of Advisor in Education was established and filled by Franklin Bari, a former head teacher of the United Church. The Goldie College building programme was almost completed and starting in 1975 the College included Form IV.
Helen Goldie Hospital in Munda functioned well. Drs. Scown and Kere were ably supported by a group of nurses, all of whom, apart from the senior sister, were Solomon Islanders. During 1975, the Church expanded its work on Guadalcanal, and catechists and pastors were appointed at Ringi Cove and Tulagi. (AR 1974, 118)
- British Solomon Islands Protectorate (ed.), British Solomon Islands Protectorate News Sheet (NS), 1955-1975. Details
- British Solomon Islands Protectorate, British Solomon Islands Protectorate Annual Reports (AR), 1896-1973. Details