Telling the stories of the Anglican Church in Aotearoa, NZ and Polynesia

Waikato chooses new leader

The Rev Dr Helen-Ann Hartley has been chosen as the 7th Anglican Bishop of Waikato – the first woman to hold this office.
• College seeks new Pakeha dean 

Taonga News  |  06 Sep 2013  |

The Rev Dr Helen-Ann Hartley has been elected the next Anglican Bishop of Waikato.

Helen-Ann, who is 40, will become the 7th Bishop of Waikato – and the first woman to hold the office. She succeeds Archbishop David Moxon, who is now the Anglican Communion’s ambassador to Rome.

Bishop-elect Helen-Ann is at present Dean of Tikanga Pakeha students at St John's College in Auckland.

She was born in Edinburgh and grew up in north-east England. She is the fourth generation of her family to be ordained, and was priested in 2005 in the Diocese of Oxford.

She worked as one of a team ministering to 12 rural parishes in Oxfordshire before being appointed as the Director of Biblical Studies and a lecturer in the New Testament at Ripon College Cuddesdon, near Oxford – arguably the most prestigious theological college in the Anglican world.

Helen-Ann, with her husband Myles who is a musician and church organist, came to New Zealand in 2010 to undertake research at St John’s College – and returned in February 2011 to take up the position as Dean.

Helen-Ann sees the Diocese of Waikato and Taranaki as having a richness that she wants to explore as she joins its journey of faith. 

She was asked to offer for Bishop by a number of people within the diocese – and while that approach was unexpected, she says the prospect of returning to ministry in a largely rural diocese appealed to her:

“I am greatly looking forward to putting on my tramping shoes and gumboots,” says Helen-Ann, “and getting to know people where they are, finding out more about the landscapes and industries that are integral to life and ministry in the diocese.”

The Diocese of Waikato and Taranaki is unique in the Anglican Communion because of its style of leadership.

It has two equal bishops sharing jurisdiction across the whole of the diocese. Helen-Ann will share its leadership with Philip Richardson, who is both the Bishop of Taranaki and also Archbishop of the New Zealand Dioceses. Philip – who with David Moxon, helped pioneer this shared arrangement – says he is looking forward to the next phase in shared leadership of the diocese:

 “This is an exciting moment in mission for the diocese,” he says. “Helen-Ann will bring new strengths and gifts to a strong and diverse diocese. I am looking forward to discovering, in new ways, what partnership in leadership as bishops can mean.”


While Helen-Ann will be the third woman bishop of the Anglican Church in Aotearoa, New Zealand and Polynesia, she will be the first woman priest ordained in the Church of England to become a bishop.

Women bishops are not yet permitted by the C of E – and Helen-Ann welcomes the signal her ordination will send.

She once told New Yorker magazine that seeing women from other parts of the Communion wearing mitres at a conference “blew her away” and made her “see bishops in a  new way.” With Helen-Ann's election, the number of serving female bishops or bishops-elect across the Communion is 25.

“I hope my election,” she says, “will be an encouragement for supporters of the ordination of women to the episcopate.

“All people, irrespective of gender, are able to witness to the gospel,” she says. “Both women and men are entrusted with that sacred task.”

Helen-Ann says her first task in Waikato will be “to listen and learn” – so she can gain a fuller understanding of what the diocese has achieved so far, and then help it to become what it could be.

Helen-Ann Hartley studied theology at Oxford University, and did postgraduate work at the University of St Andrews in Scotland and at Princeton Theological Seminary in New Jersey. She completed her doctorate at Oxford and her ministry, to date, has been significantly within the academic world.

She says education is integral part of the Gospel task.

“Being a disciple of Christ,” she says, “is about learning alongside others. Education has at its heart the idea of ‘drawing out,’ of enabling everyone to fulfill their potential and so will be a strong foundation for my work”.

Bishop Victoria Matthews, of Christchurch, has welcomed the strengths in theological education that Helen-Ann will bring to her new task.

And Bishop Victoria believes that because Helen-Ann has spent years teaching and working on behalf of students from across the world, she will also bring a “Communion-wide perspective” to her work.

“Helen-Ann,” she says, “will add new strength to the House of Bishops.”

“I warmly anticipate and welcome her presence as an episcopal colleague.” 

Helen-Ann Hartley will be ordained and installed as the 7th Bishop of Waikato in February next year. Until her ordination and installation she will be known as the Bishop-elect.


1. Helen-Ann Hartley will become the third woman bishop in the Anglican Church of Aotearoa, New Zealand and Polynesia. She follows Penny Jamieson, who was the Bishop of Dunedin from 1990 till 2004, and Victoria Matthews, who was elected the Bishop of Edmonton, in Canada, in 1997, and who was chosen as the Bishop of Christchurch in 2008.

2. The Diocese of Waikato and Taranaki includes the Waikato, Waitomo, Piako and Taranaki regions of the North Island.