Archbishop Jabez Bryce, Bishop of the Diocese of Polynesia, has died. At 75 years old, he led the Diocese of Polynesia for almost 35 years and was, at time of his death, the longest-serving bishop in the Anglican Communion.
He was one of the three Archbishops of the Anglican Church in Aotearoa, New Zealand and Polynesia. The Province includes New Zealand, Fiji, Tonga, Samoa and American Samoa.
The Anglican Toanga credits Bryce with helping the province move from a colonial past to a Pacific present:
He went to Auckland to train for the ministry, and was ordained priest in 1962. In 1975 he was ordained as bishop, and he led the Diocese of Polynesia from a colonial past – his predecessors had all been either British or Australian – into a genuinely Pacific present.
His stature, seniority and leadership in the church in the Pacific was recognised in August 2008 when he was chosen to crown the new Tongan King, His Majesty King George Tupou V.
Archbishop Jabez was keenly focussed on the mission of the church, and this bore fruit in 2005 when he led the diocese to choose three assistant bishops – an indigenous Fijian, an Indo-Fijian, and a Tongan who lives in New Zealand – to strengthen the outreach of the diocese in its various regions and islands.
In 2008 he also presided over the centenary celebrations of the diocese, which he’d led for fully one third of its life.
He was, by reason of his birth, almost uniquely equipped to do that: his mother was Tongan, his father had Samoan and Scottish heritage – while he himself had lived in Fiji since 1960.
Archbishop David Moxon, the senior bishop of the New Zealand dioceses, had known Archbishop Jabez for 40 years. He says that during Archbishop Jabez’s time “the Diocese of Polynesia has grown in a hundred ways – in its sense of identity, its ethnic diversity and in its ‘Pacificness’.