Canadian bishop Victoria Matthews has reportedly been nominated by an electoral synod to be bishop of the diocese of Christchurch in the Anglican Church of Aotearoa, New Zealand and Polynesia, according to church sources and published reports.
The news was communicated to the Anglican Journal by church sources and also reported in the Guardian newspaper. Bishop Matthews, who served the diocese of Edmonton for 10 years until she stepped down last year, declined to confirm news of her selection until the New Zealand church made an official announcement.
Lloyd Ashton, the media officer for the province, also declined to confirm the report. “What has happened is there has been a leak to a U.K. newspaper and it is quite regrettable that confidentiality has been breached. The election is still in process.”
Mr. Ashton said that about 220 members of the Christchurch electoral synod met Feb. 15-17 to select a nominee. Under the process, the name is then forwarded to the house of bishops, which, he added in an interview with the Journal, “is not just a formality, not a rubber stamp.” The candidate’s name then is sent to the 88 members of General Synod by mail ballot. Approval requires a simple majority at each step. The process can take a month and participants at each step take an oath of confidentiality until it has been completed, he said. An official announcement was expected around mid-March.
Bishop Matthews recently relocated to Toronto and took up the post of bishop-in-residence for the 2008 winter term at Wycliffe College. She is chair of the Primate’s Theological Commission, a group that examined whether blessing rites for same-sex couples was a matter of Anglican doctrine. The committee’s report said the issue was a matter of doctrine, but not core doctrine.
Last June, she was a candidate for primate, or national archbishop, of the Anglican Church of Canada at the synod that elected Archbishop Fred Hiltz. Bishop Matthews was elected suffragan (assistant) bishop of Toronto in 1993, becoming the first female bishop in the Canadian church, and diocesan bishop of Edmonton in 1997. When she announced her resignation last year, she said she believed God was calling her “in a different direction.”
The New Zealand church made history in 1990 when it ordained the first female diocesan bishop in the Anglican Communion, Penny Jamieson of the diocese of Dunedin.