United Church in Papua New Guinea
The London Missionary Society began its work in today's Papua New Guinea in 1872. Several groups of Christians from the Pacific islands came to work with the mission, which expanded through the Papuan mainland. The Australian Methodist Church, now the Uniting Church in Australia, responded to the request to join the pioneering work. The Methodist mission covered three independent areas, called districts. These joined together in 1950 in mission work in the southern highlands. In 1962 the LMS, together with the mission of the Presbyterian Church in New Zealand and another mission body, formed the Papua Ekalesia, at the time the largest single church in Papua. A further union took place in 1968 involving the Papua Ekalesia, the Methodists and the Union Church of Port Moresby, which together established the United Church in Papua New Guinea and the Solomon Islands. In 1996 the general assembly of the UC-PNG/SI resolved that the existence of one united church covering two independent countries should no longer be maintained. Thus the United Church in Papua New Guinea came into being as an autonomous church on its own.
The UCPNG runs elementary, primary and secondary schools under the national education system, a teachers' training college, a theological college for the formation of its pastors, and a lay leaders' training institute. It supports Bible schools in each region of the country. Developing and training people for mission and training of women and youth are among the priorities of the church. The UCPNG has been involved in efforts to solve the conflict in Bougainville between secessionists and the government of Papua New Guinea, and is participating in programmes of reconciliation and reconstruction. The high level of crime in a country that is officially 98 percent Christian is a major challenge to the church.