Papua New Guinea schism ‘healed’

Port Moresby, New Guinea - Church leaders in New Guinea report that a schism led by retired Anglican Archbishop George Ambo has been healed and that the former archbishop reconciled with the church before he died last year.

The Bishop of Popondetta, the Rt Rev Joseph Kopapa writes that the “late bishop” was “reconciled to his Creator and the Church” on his deathbed, and issued a statement of contrition for his involvement with a ‘cargo cult’. In 2007 The Church of England Newspaper reported that Archbishop Ambo had fallen away from the church and with a former Anglican nun, Sister Cora, had founded Puwo Gawe, meaning “come see” --- one of four “cargo cults” operating in Oro Province of Northeastern New Guinea. Cargo cultists believe in the imminence of a new age of blessing and prosperity, whose sign will be the arrival of cargo from heaven.

While the cargo cults first arose in the mid-Nineteenth century when Melanesians first came in contact with the West, they spread quickly during World War II when the American and Australian armies established large supply depots. God’s failure to return discouraged many, but the cults survive led by charismatic leaders.

Returned missionaries from New Guinea tell CEN Sister Cora claimed to have received a vision of the spirits of the dead returning to Oro Province accompanied by large quantities of cargo. Their return was a sign of the ‘eschaton’, and inequality, suffering, and death would now cease. Archbishop Ambo was a dupe of Sister Cora, Bishop Kopapa said. The “late Father” had started Puwo Gawe “to help Anglicans who had drifted away from the Church.” This “very good intention had been abused” by the “co-ordinators” of the cult “who used the good name and reputation of this great man for their own ends to spread false messages and teaching such as ‘Cargo Cult’, in order to gain for themselves money and popularity.”

“The late Father was not aware that these followers of his were misrepresenting him and using him for their own selfish ends,” Bishop Kopapa said and had “asked for forgiveness from the Church of Papua New Guinea and the World-wide Anglican Communion.”

The bishop reported that “at his private confession with an Anglican priest” the former archbishop “received Absolution.”

The House of Bishops of the Church of Papua New Guinea urged the Puwo Gawe devotees to follow the archbishop’s example and also make “their private confession with their parish priest and returning to the Church.”