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Bishop Penny Jamieson

Women Bishops in New Zealand

Bishop Penny Jamieson
Bp Penny Jamieson, first Anglican woman diocesan bishop in the world

The bishops of the Church of England recently produced a plan in the hope of passing legislation to be able to ordain women bishops by 2015. This follows the defeat of legislation attempting to authorise this move in the CofE’s General Synod six months ago.

I last wrote about this in November last year. There I questioned Anglican lack of theological clarity:

The Anglican Church has never been clear whether bishops are senior priests/presbyters to whom priests delegate some of the powers that are theirs by ordination; or are bishops the primary ordained clergy, and priests are, as it were, delegates of the bishop in a particular meeting of the church, the fullness of which is the diocese around the bishop?

Should the theological work have started at whether women can be bishops – and discussion about women priests would have followed consequentially?

In any case, nowhere, as far as I know, has followed this principal. All have followed the pragmatism of let’s-ordain-women-priests-first-and-see-how-that-goes, and much of the momentum has derived from catching up with the equality that “the world” in the church’s local context takes for granted, rather than engagement with our theological tradition. I would be one of the last to say that the Spirit does not speak to the Church through “the world” – but the acceptance of that bears on the more-heated debate about the place of homosexuals. Around the debates, then, on gender and sexuality, are other debates on authority, and how we discern God’s will.

Rev. Dr. Peter Carrell challenged my assertion:

I stand to be corrected if I am wrong, Bosco, but are you in error when you write, “In any case, nowhere, as far as I know, has followed this principal. All have followed the pragmatism of let’s-ordain-women-priests-first-and-see-how-that-goes, and much of the momentum has derived from catching up with the equality that “the world” in the church’s local context takes for granted, rather than engagement with our theological tradition.”?

I thought that in our church (ACANZP) we decided in one go that women may be priests and bishops.

But then I could be wrong …

In fact, I am right, and Peter is wrong. But people may be (un)surprised how immensely difficult it was to dig up this information!

For the ordination of women to the priesthood, General Synod (GS) 1970 asked dioceses to report to a commission. At GS 1972 a Bill to amend the Constitution was lost in the House of Clergy. But a motion approving in principle the ordination of women to the priesthood was passed. GS1974 passed a statute to amend the Constitution allowing women to be ordained to the priesthood. This was confirmed (after going around the diocesan synods) in 1976. And, after the required delay of a year, the first women were ordained as priests in 1977.

Bishop Victoria Matthews
Bp Victoria Matthews, eighth bishop of Christchurch, NZ

In 1986 GS passed Statute 414 “to clarify the meaning of the word ‘Bishop’ as being capable of including a female” which amended the Constitution and also enacted a Canon on Holy Orders. This was passed unanimously, and was confirmed (after going around the diocesan synods) at GS 1988.

Penny Jamieson was the second woman to be ordained a bishop in the Anglican world, and the first to be a diocesan bishop. This happened in 1989, after the required waiting of the year after GS confirmed the possibility. She was the seventh bishop of Dunedin, retiring in 2004. Victoria Matthews was the first woman bishop in the Anglican Church of Canada (1994). Bishop Victoria is the eighth bishop of Christchurch, having been here since 2008.

Statute 414 GS1986 & Statute 471 GS1988 PDF

Thanks to Dr Tony Fitchett, and the librarians at the John Kinder Theological Library

fif-spinny2One of my favourite moments researching for this post was the discovery of the Forward in Faith logo with the planet spinning backwards!!! Forward in Faith is firmly against ordaining women.

source first image; source second image

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17 thoughts on “Women Bishops in New Zealand”

  1. Peter Carrell

    As you know, Bosco, aside from my being married, there are reasons why I am not the Pope, the principal one being my unfailing tendency to be fallible.

  2. Spinning backwards? Who’s to say what’s forwards and backwards? You’re not some kind of “natural law” nutter, are you, Bosco? Implying that just because the planet *happens* to spin a certain way that this is somehow “normative”? Better be careful with such judgemental language, or you may find yourself blacklisted by the Movement for Rotation Equality.

    Hmmm… fighting for the right to the impossible… that reminds me of something… but what?

    Judith: [on Stan/Loretta’s desire to be a mother] Here! I’ve got an idea: Suppose you agree that he can’t actually have babies, not having a womb – which is nobody’s fault, not even the Romans’ – but that he can have the *right* to have babies.

    Francis: Good idea, Judith. We shall fight the oppressors for your right to have babies, brother… sister, sorry.

    Reg: What’s the *point*?

    Francis: What?

    Reg: What’s the point of fighting for his right to have babies, when he can’t have babies?

    Francis: It is symbolic of our struggle against oppression.

    Reg: It’s symbolic of his struggle against reality.

    (Source: http://www.imdb.com/title/tt0079470/quotes)

    (PS I’ve been reading Bosco’s post on non-verbal communication in the digital age. I’ll bet he can imagine what tone of voice this was written in.)

    1. As I live in the Southern Hemisphere, Jesse, you will know if we had invented clocks, “clockwise” would be the other way!

      I met Michael Palin recently and he was delighted that a priest uses that larger work as an examination. [The more a person laughs – the higher the score].


      1. Then as someone who lives in the Southern Hemispere, you are well aware of the fact that you lot live at the bottom of the world. ]:)

          1. Looks to me like a printer’s apprentice just got the maps upside down when it was ran through the press for the black ink run!

      2. The examination idea is excellent, Bosco! I mean, you can’t get the jokes in that movie without knowing your bible.

        (And the Pythons were obviously exposed to it intensively as children. I have always assumed that the school assembly scene in “The Meaning of Life” was probably semi-autobiographical. “O Lord, please don’t burn us…”.)

        I don’t understand how so many of my biblically illiterate contemporaries can find it so funny. (“Blessed are the cheesemakers?”)

        1. Yes, Jesse. And not just the Bible but hermeneutics (“Well, obviously, this is not meant to be taken literally. It refers to any manufacturers of dairy products.”), church history, etc. Blessings.

  3. When Bishop Victoria was my bishop, I heard her say more than once that she objected to the title ‘woman bishop’ or ‘women bishops’, since the word ‘woman’ is not an adjective (no one says ‘man bishop’ or ‘men bishops’, they say ‘male bishops’).

    1. The word “woman”, Tim, is listed as an adjective in most standard, reputable dictionaries. Do you, for example, find the term “woman suffrage” unacceptable, and write instead about “female suffrage”? “woman activist” has 114,000 results in Google; cf. “female activist” 90,900. And do you think you should call for The League of Women Voters to change its name? And do please tell all the people using “men bishops” to stop using that term. Blessings.

  4. Tony Fitchett

    Dear Bosco,

    Further to Peter’s remark about fallibility, you may have picked up an incorrect detail from me. Penny Jamieson was elected to be Bishop of Dunedin [well, to be precise, nominated by the Electoral Synod of the Diocese of Dunedin, and the nomination sanctioned by the procedure in force at the time] in 1989, but not ordained as a bishop until June 1990.



  5. Tony Fitchett

    PS: The church did not have to wait a year after the change to the Constitution regarding women being able to be made bishops was confirmed in 1988. The year for appeal is only for changes to the Formularies, not for changes to the Constitution.


    1. Thanks, Tony. I will change the text of the post. The Formulary for ordaining a bishop, I am now understanding, would have been the one in NZPB/HKMA which already understood a woman could be a bishop. Blessings.

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