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First Indian bishop for the Anglican Church here

Media advisory April 29, 2005

First Indian bishop for the Anglican Church here

This Sunday, the first Indian Bishop in the Anglican Church in the Province of Aotearoa, New Zealand and Polynesia will be installed at a service at St Peter's Anglican Church in Lautoka, Fiji.

He is the Right Reverend Gabriel Mahesh Sharma, and from Sunday, he will become the Anglican Bishop in Viti Levu West.

Bishop Sharma was one of three new Polynesian bishops consecrated at a huge service at Suva's Holy Trinity Cathedral on Sunday, April 10.

He was born in 1962, at the village of Korokoro, in Sigatoka, and comes from a large Hindu farming family. He went to Sigatoka Methodist Primary School, then Cuvu College.

He joined the local branch of the Westpac Bank on leaving school – and met a teller there who was a committed Anglican. Through his talks with her, in 1985 Gabriel was converted to the Christian faith. Later, Gabriel and Ana married.

Gabriel was posted to the Lautoka branch of the bank in 1991, and began his training for ordination while in Lautoka. He was ordained a deacon in 1994, and a priest the following year.

In 1996, he left the bank, and he was sent for further theological training study to St John’s College in Auckland – where he reeled in first a BTheol, then a Masters of Theology (Hons).

At the beginning of 2001, he became the full-time Vicar of Lautoka, and he will continue to operate from his parish base at St Peter's. A majority of the people who worship there are, like Bishop Sharma, converted Hindus.

The Rt Rev Jabez Bryce, who continues to serve as Diocesan Bishop of Polynesia, will preside at the installation at Sunday's Lautoka service.

The other two new Polynesian Diocese bishops are: Apimeleki Qiliho, a Fijian, who has been elected Bishop in Vanua Levu and Taveuni; and Dr Winston Halapua, a Tongan-born Fiji citizen, and who is the first Bishop for the Diocese of Polynesia in New Zealand. He will continue to be the Principal of the College of the Diocese of Polynesia at St John's College in Auckland.

The three new bishops will assist Bishop Bryce, who says Bishop Sharma's consecration and installation is an answer to prayer – and a response to the needs of the people.

"It's very clear to me," says Bishop Bryce, "that for the work to continue to grow, we need to do everything in the language of the people."

Bishop Sharma's first language is Hindi. He is also fluent in English.


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