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New Bishop of Nelson announced

New Bishop of Nelson announced

Richard Ellena, the Archdeacon of Blenheim, has been elected as the next Anglican Bishop of Nelson.

Richard, who is 55, has been Bishop Derek Eaton’s Vicar General, or deputy, since 2002 – and he has pledged to continue to “hold high the flag of evangelical orthodoxy” during his term as the Diocese of Nelson’s 10th Bishop.

“Nelson,” he says, “is unique. It is, very strongly, an evangelical diocese. We believe in Biblical orthodoxy. I want to honour and affirm that.

“I also want to do that in a way that doesn’t isolate us. I want to be in warm communion with the other Anglican Bishops of Aotearoa, New Zealand and Polynesia – while saying, at the same time: ‘This is the truth that we hold to in this diocese.’

“Bishop Derek has done this with so much grace, and I hope I can do the same.”

One of the defining characteristics of Derek Eaton’s episcopate has been the way he and his wife Alice have worked as a team in ministry – and it’s clear that this will continue with Richard and Hilary, his wife of 34 years.

Richard Ellena was born and grew up in Christchurch. His father, Vic Ellena, was the Bryndwr butcher until he became Head of Music at Burnside High School. He was also the organist and choirmaster at St Barnabas’, Fendalton, under Canon Bob Lowe.

Those musical genes flow through Richard Ellena. He has a degree in music, majoring in composition, is a multi-instrumentalist and has played in orchestras, bands and brass bands, and he has composed for, and conducted and sung in choirs. His wife shares that musical gift.

On leaving Burnside High, Richard Ellena worked briefly for the Met Service before training as a teacher and studying at the University of Canterbury.

He then taught music in high schools for 10 years – including two at St Bedes in Christchurch, and eight at Rangiora High – before beginning training for the Anglican ministry at St Johns’ College in Auckland in 1983.

Richard Ellena was ordained an Anglican priest in 1985, served his curacy at Highfield-Marchwiel (in Timaru) and was vicar of Kensington-Otipua, in south Timaru, from 1986 to 1991. He had learned Maori at St Johns’ and, at the invitation of Ngai Tahu, he taught te reo at Aoraki Polytech in Timaru.

In 1991, he was asked by Bishop Derek Eaton – who’d also grown up in Christchurch, and, as a teenager, had been a babysitter for young Richard Ellena – to move to the Nelson Diocese, to begin ministry at the Church of the Nativity in Blenheim. He is now the longest-serving minister in Marlborough.

Richard and Hilary Ellena have a particular love of worship, and music in worship, and during their time at the Church of the Nativity, the Sunday congregation there has grown from around 150 to 450.

Richard and Hilary Ellena have also played an active part in the wider Marlborough community – for example, he was music director of a two-week production of Les Miserables in the mid 90s, and Hilary sang one of the lead roles.

They have played in a number of other shows since then, and Richard wrote and arranged the music for The Journey, a musical composed for the new millennium to celebrate the history of Marlborough.

Richard and Hilary have two children, and Richard is expected to be consecrated as the 10th Bishop of Nelson in February next year – around the time his predecessor, Derek Eaton, with his wife Alice, resume missionary service in North Africa.


1. Richard Ellena was nominated as the next Bishop of Nelson at an electoral synod held in Nelson on the 15th and 16th of September. Anglican Church rules require that this nomination is then submitted to the Bishops for approval, and then endorsed by the members of the Anglican Church General Synod in a postal ballot. The results of that ballot were officially declared last Friday, and the announcement of the new Bishop-elect was made throughout the 26 parishes of the Nelson Diocese this morning.

2. The Diocese of Nelson covers the South Island north of a line from Kumara (south of Greymouth) on the West Coast to Kaikoura on the east coast.

3. Richard Ellena is only the second Bishop of Nelson to be elected from within the diocese – the first was in 1892.


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