David Hilliard’s God’s Gentlemen, originally published in 1978, remains the only detached and detailed historical analysis of the work of the Melanesian Mission. Starting with its New Zealand beginnings and its Norfolk Island years (1867–1920), the work follows the Mission’s shift of headquarters to the Solomon Islands and on until the beginning of the Second World War.
The Mission, which grew out of the personal vision of the first Church of England Bishop of New Zealand, George Selwyn, formally defined its field of work as ‘the Islands of Melanesia’ although its activities were confined almost entirely to the island groups that now make up Vanuatu and the Solomon Islands. The Diocese of Melanesia was a fully constituent diocese of the Anglican Church of New Zealand from its formation in 1861 until the creation of the autonomous Church of the Province of Melanesia in 1975.
Based on a wide range of sources, God’s Gentleman is the inner history of the slow growth of an important and genuinely Melanesian church.