Rejoicing as the Revd Dr Helen-Ann Macleod Hartley is consecrated as Bishop of Waikato and Taranaki

Helen-Ann trained for ordination on the Oxford Ministry Course at Ripon College, Cuddesdon, and was ordained in 2007, writes Martyn Percy.  She served her curacies at Wheatley, near Oxford, and then Littlemore, Oxford alongside teaching New Testament at Cuddesdon.  In 2011 Helen-Ann was appointed as Dean of Tikanga Pakeha (caring for and overseeing the European students) at St. John’s College, Auckland, New Zealand.  The College has three Tikanga (which are in effect, ‘formational communities/cultures’), the other two covering Polynesia and Maori.

Helen-Ann Hartley with Martyn Percy.

Helen-Ann Hartley with Martyn Percy.

In the summer of 2013 it was announced that Helen-Ann had been elected as the 7th Bishop of Waikato and Taranaki.  This is a unique diocese in the Anglican Communion, as it has two bishops who serve as co-equals, sharing jurisdiction and in the pastoral care of the diocese.  The present Archbishop is Philip Richardson (Tikanga Pakeha), who has his cathedral in Taranaki.  The consecration was a wonderful service, with hundreds attending from across the diocese, and also the wider Communion.  The Maori Archbishop (Brown Turei) and Tikanga Pasefika Archbishop, Winston Halapua, shared in the consecration of Helen-Ann, along with Bishop Victoria Matthews and others.  Myles Hartley played the organ for the service, which gave the service a special ‘family feel’.

It was wonderful to have two former Cuddesdon ordinands present – Colin Datchler, now a Vicar in Wellington, NZ; and Nick Brown, Vicar of Louth in Lincolnshire.  In fact, it felt like something of a Cuddesdon Day.  Bishop Stephen Pickard (Professorial Research Fellow at Cuddesdon from 2011-12) preached the sermon.  And the Very Revd Peter Rickman (Dean of Waikato Cathedral) and the Very Revd Jamie Allen (Dean of Taranaki Cathedral) both trained at Cuddesdon.

With Helen-Ann’s consecration, an important and timely new chapter in church history has been written.  Helen-Ann is the first English woman to be trained in the Church of England to become an Anglican bishop.  That this happened in 2014 is also significant.  Seventy years ago, in 1944, Bishop R O Hall ordained the first woman to the priesthood – a daring and prophetic move in the dark days of the Second World War.

Hall was the Anglican Bishop of Hong Kong, and in 1944 made proper provision for the pastoral and priestly oversight of refugees in Macau.  Hall ordained Li Tim Oi, who then ministered to refugees in Macau, which as a neutral Portuguese colony, had not been overrun by the Japanese during the Second World War.  Hall had trained at Cuddesdon at the end of the First World War.

So, 70 years on from Bishop Hall ordaining Li Tim Oi, we rejoice with the Diocese of Waikato and Taranaki in their appointment of Helen-Ann as their seventh bishop.  And we pray for Helen-Ann too – that she may have the strength, wisdom and vision needed for this new work.

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