The Revd Dr Helen-Ann Hartley, who grew up in Sunderland in the Church of England Diocese of Durham, has been elected the next Anglican Bishop of Waikato in New Zealand.
Helen-Ann, 40, will become the seventh Bishop of Waikato in the Diocese of Waikato and Taranaki, and the first woman to hold the office, succeeding Archbishop David Moxon, who is now the Anglican Communion’s ambassador to Rome. Helen-Ann is also the first woman ordained within the Church of England to become a Bishop.
Bishop-elect Helen-Ann is at present Dean of Tikanga Pakeha students at St John’s College in Auckland, New Zealand.
Having moved to Sunderland when Helen-Ann was a child, her family attended St Chad’s church in East Herrington and her father moved from the Church of Scotland to the Church of England in the Diocese of Durham in 1987, later becoming a Revd Canon. Recently retired, his roles have included Honorary Non Residentiary Canon at Durham Cathedral. His wife, Pat, is still a steward at the Cathedral.
Helen-Ann, who was born in Edinburgh, moved with her family to Sunderland in 1975 when her clergyman father Jim secured a teaching position at Sunderland Polytechnic, now Sunderland University.
Helen-Ann attended Benedict Biscop Primary School then St Anthony’s secondary school, both in Sunderland, before going to study at St Andrew’s University in Scotland.
Helen-Ann said: “Although I was ordained in Oxford Diocese, my journey began in Durham Diocese, and it was there that my vocation was nurtured.
“St Chad’s in East Herrington, Benedict Biscop CofE school, and my years as an acolyte in Durham Cathedral all played a vital role in my formation, and so Durham Diocese remains very much my spiritual home. I have so much to give thanks for in its people, places, and rich heritage.”
She is the fourth generation of her family to be ordained, and became a priest 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 the theological college, Ripon College Cuddesdon, near Oxford.
Helen-Ann, with her husband Myles who is a musician and church organist, went to New Zealand in 2010 to undertake research at St John’s College and she returned in February 2011 to take up the position as Dean.
Her parents, Jim and Pat Francis, who live in Bowburn, nr Durham, believe that her upbringing in the region played a key role in leading her to a career in the clergy.
Jim said: “I think the welcome we received at St Chads when we came to Sunderland had a strong influence on Helen-Ann. We were made to feel at home as a family and I think that had an effect on her.
“At a young age, she wrote to Durham Cathedral, asking to be an acolyte, something she did for several years.
“We are deeply grateful for what she has achieved and that the diocese in New Zealand has discerned her giftedness.”
Pat said: “It’s pleasing that all three of us have this connection with Durham Cathedral.
“What has happened to her is awesome. We are extremely proud of what she has achieved.“
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.
Helen-Ann said: “I hope my election 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. Both women and men are entrusted with that sacred task.”