Matthews confirmed as bishop of New Zealand diocese

By on May 1, 2008

The Anglican diocese of Christchurch in New Zealand confirmed on March 16 that Canadian bishop Victoria Matthews has been elected diocesan bishop and will be installed on Aug. 30.

“I’m surprised because the likelihood of being elected to be a bishop half a world away is unlikely. I’m delighted because I’ve always held the church of New Zealand in the highest respect,” said Bishop Matthews in an interview with the Anglican Journal. “I’m very impressed by their prayer book and their dedication to the stewardship of God’s creation.”

Bishop Matthews, who is 54, was most recently serving as bishop-in-residence at Wycliffe College in Toronto. She was diocesan bishop of Edmonton from 1997 to 2007.

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The Journal reported in March that church sources had said Bishop Matthews had been chosen the eighth bishop of Christchurch at an electoral synod held Feb. 15-17. However, under a three-step process in the Anglican Church of Aotearoa, New Zealand and Polynesia, the election had to be approved by the house of bishops and the general synod and the choice could not be officially announced before then.

Bishop Matthews said that she had “asked a lot of questions” before she agreed to be nominated. Asked if it had been a difficult decision, she said, “My attitude to all these things is always that one needs to be open to the movement of the Holy Spirit. And I really do think that God moves in surprising and amazing ways.”

The bishop said she was looking forward to “many things” in her new diocese. “I’m looking forward to simply understanding the culture more than I do at the moment,” she said. “I’m looking forward to exposure and learning about the Maori and the people.”

Bishop Matthews has twice been a candidate for primate (national archbishop) of Canada. In 2004, she was nominated, but withdrew due to a diagnosis of breast cancer (she has since recovered) and in 2007, she was a close second in the election that chose Archbishop Fred Hiltz.

She was chair of the Primate’s Theological Commission in Canada, which wrestled with the question of  whether the blessing of same-sex unions is a question of Anglican doctrine.

She is also a member of the Windsor Continuation Group, which will look at crucial questions about the shape of Anglican common life around the world. She is also involved in the planning of the Lambeth Conference, to be held this July, a decennial meeting of Anglican bishops from around the world, and will attend as Christchurch’s bishop-elect.

Bishop Matthews said she visited New Zealand in the 1980s; she praised the physical beauty of the country and the warmth and hospitable nature of the people.  

Bishop Matthews succeeds Bishop David Coles, who will become vicar of Wakatipu, Queenstown, on the south island of New Zealand, next month.

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