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Anglican Diocese welcomes its first female Bishop

Thursday, June 1, 2017

Anglican Diocese of Wellington welcomes its first female Bishop

The Rev Canon Dr Eleanor Sanderson has been elected to serve as Assistant Bishop in the Diocese of Wellington – a move which will make her the first female Bishop in the Diocese since its establishment.

Dr Sanderson, who serves as the Vicar of St Alban’s, Eastbourne, is also chaplain of Wellesley College in Days Bay. She has served in various roles in the Diocese of Wellington over 16 years and was ordained to the priesthood in 2006.

Dr Sanderson will be ordained as bishop at a public ceremony at the Cathedral of St Paul on Friday. She will also be the fourth female bishop in New Zealand history.

“It’s a really exciting time to be a part of the church. There’s not many women globally in this role,” she says. “It’s not about being the first or the last but it’s about the changes that have happened to allow us to get to this point. This is a huge testament to the amount the work that women and men have done in this country.”

Her appointment will allow Anglican Bishop of Wellington Justin Duckworth to spend more time in the north of the diocese.

“As we seek to build our family culture in this diocese, the force of gravity tends to pull our focus towards Wellington,” Bishop Justin says. “I’m therefore looking forward to being more present on the ground in the north, knowing that the good work already underway in Wellington will have strong leadership.”

Dr Sanderson will be based in Wellington while in the role.

She holds a PhD in Geography – which was awarded for her thesis which explores the intersection between community development and Christian spirituality, through case studies of a Melanesian Anglican parish in Fiji, and a Mother’s Union group in rural Tanzania. She also holds a Master’s degree in Theology, is a Fellow of Public Theology at Virginia Theological Seminary, and a Research Associate at the School of Religious Studies at Victoria University.

The Wellington Anglican Diocese has had a strong voice on social issues such as child poverty, social housing and increasing the refugee quota. Dr Sanderson plans to use her background in academia to lead the Church and continue the Diocese’s legacy of social justice advocation.

“It is a huge honour leading the Church as a family and as a community. I’m excited about being in a position where I can make a real change,” Dr Sanderson says. “I’ve been in the diocese for sixteen years, I know the nuts and bolts of things – but in this role, it’s important for me to get alongside the people of the diocese and listen, so that I can hear their challenges and lead with greater clarity,” she says.

Dr Sanderson was nominated as Bishop-elect at a Diocese of Wellington electoral college held in Palmerston North’s Convention Centre on May 11, and her nomination has since been ratified by the House of Bishops and the members of the General Synod.

The Rev Canon Dr Sanderson’s ordination as a bishop will take place at Wellington’s Cathedral of St Paul at 6pm on Friday, June 2.

ENDS

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