The Anglican Church in Melanesia has lost its most distinguished son.
Archbishop Sir Ellison Pogo died on Monday at his home in Honiara of cancer.
Sir Ellison was Archbishop of Melanesia and Bishop of Central Melanesia from 1994 until December 2008, and he led the church through the ethnic tension which plagued that province during the 1990s and early 2000s.
Ellison Leslie Pogo was born in 1947 and graduated from Bishop Patteson Theological College in Kohimarama, Guadalcanal, in 1976 before going to St John’s College in Auckland for two years' further study.
He was then sent to Anderson’s Bay in Dunedin where he was ordained to the diaconate by the Bishop of Dunedin on All Saints' Day in 1979.
Twelve months later he was priested by the same bishop, and reports of his work in Dunedin were evidently so good that exactly one year after that – on All Saints' Day, 1981 – he was consecrated Bishop of the Diocese of Ysabel on the Solomon Islands.
He served there for 13 years until in 1995 he was called to be Archbishop of the Church of Melanesia, and translated to Melanesia.
In 2000, he was knighted at Buckingham Palace by Queen Elizabeth for his service to religion and the community in Melanesia. He is the only primate ever to have been honoured in this way.
Archbishop Sir Ellison was asked by the last Archbishop of Canterbury, Dr Rowan Williams, to chair the Design Group for the 2008 Lambeth Conference.
He made a significant contribution to the success of that event and introduced a Melanesian flavour to some of the worship.
Brothers and sisters from the religious orders of Melanesia, for example, were chaplains to the conference. Soon after the conference finished, Dr Williams called Sir Ellison back to Lambeth Palace to award him the Cross of St Augustine of Canterbury, which is the highest award the Archbishop of Canterbury can bestow.
From the time Lambeth took place in July 2008, in fact, until his retirement in December of that year Archbishop Sir Ellison was the senior primate of the Anglican Communion.
He was also an ecumenist, and for 14 years he chaired the Board of the Pacific Theological College, helping it to become the most significant theological centre in the Pacific Islands.
For that work he was awarded an honorary doctorate by the college – again, he is the only person to have been recognised in this way.
In 2008 he was also awarded the Republic of Vanuatu’s highest and most distinguished award, the Badge of Honour of Vanuatu.
Archbishop Sir Ellison had been in Auckland last October on private business, and to meet with his old friend, the Archbishop of Canterbury. It was during that visit to Auckland that he was diagnosed with lymphoma.
A memorial service for him will be held in the Anglican Cathedral in Honiara on Thursday. He will then be taken to Ysabel for his funeral service and burial.
Archbishop Sir Ellison is survived by his wife Lady Roslyn and their three adult children.