The Bishop of Christchurch in New Zealand, Victoria Matthews, and the Bishop of Shrewsbury in the Church of England’s Diocese of Lichfield, Mark Rylands, have announced they are stepping down to pursue new callings. The unrelated announcements, from bishops on the other side of the earth to each other, were made in the past 24 hours. Bishop Matthews will step down on 1 May. In a message to her diocese, she said explained she was doing so because she was prompted by God to do so. Meanwhile, Bishop Mark Rylands will step down from his position in July, in order to return to parish ministry in the Diocese of Exeter.
“I have discerned in my prayers that I am called by God in Christ through the power of the Holy Spirit, to lay down this particular position of leadership,” Bishop Victoria said. “I’m not retiring and I’m not in ill health, I am merely following where my Saviour is leading me, wherever that may be.”
The Bishop of Christchurch, Victoria Matthews.
Photo: Anglican Taonga
In her announcement, she described her time leading Christchurch as “an extraordinary privilege”, and she thanks her people for their faithful service. “This beautiful Diocese has been through many challenges brought about by earthquakes, wind, fire and floods,” she said. “But through it all, people have been their best selves by helping others, working together and finding new ways of doing things.”
When she was consecrated in 1994, she became the first woman ordained to be ordained a bishop in the Anglican Church of Canada. She served first as a suffragan bishop in Toronto, before becoming Bishop of Edmonton in 1997, stepping down in 2007. She was elected to serve as Bishop of Christchurch in 2008.
In a message to fellow-bishops in the Province, the Bishop of Waikato and Taranaki, Archbishop Philip Richardson, one of the primates of the Anglican Church in Aotearoa, New Zealand and Polynesia, said: “I know you will join with me in giving thanks to God for Bishop Victoria’s faithfulness to Christ and her personal courage and resilience through a time of unprecedented challenge in the life of the Diocese of Christchurch and of our Church as a whole.
“I know also that you will pray for her as she seeks to discern God’s calling on her life and ministry.”
Meanwhile, in England, Bishop Mark Rylands has announced that he is to become the Priest-in-Charge of the Ashburton and Moorland Team in Exeter Diocese, and also serve as an honorary assistant bishop in the diocese. “It will be sad to leave, and for some it may seem a surprise move,” he said. “But, for me, I have sensed God’s beckoning to serve as a parish priest again. For the last 16 years, as both diocesan missioner and area bishop, much of my ministry has been to encourage, challenge and help churches and church leaders to embody and share the Good News of Jesus Christ in the local community. I have heard God calling me now to ‘go and walk the talk’.
“I am acutely aware that I have a great deal to learn in becoming a parish priest and am not unaware of the challenges I face. However, I have a heart for rural mission and ministry and am greatly looking forward to getting to know the people of Ashburton and the Moorland Team in Exeter Diocese, to seeing where God will lead us. I am slightly daunted but also know that, where God calls, he also equips.”
The Bishop of Shrewsbury, Mark Rylands.
Photo: Diocese of Lichfield
Bishop Mark is chair of the Melanesian Mission, and has been a member of the Diocese of Lichfield’s clergy cricket team, which has reached the final of the Church Times’ Cricket Cup several times in recent years, winning it for the first – and, so far, only – time in 2010. Since 2014, he has also managed the Archbishop of Canterbury’s XI, which was created following a challenge by the Australian Ambassador to the Holy See and has played annual cricket matches with the Pope’s St Peter’s Cricket Team ever since.
Commenting on the announcement, the Bishop of Lichfield, Michael Ipgrave, said: “Mark’s energy, enthusiasm and imagination are a great witness to so many of the joy and hope which life in Christ can bring. His care for the clergy and people of his episcopal area is exemplary, and has been a source of encouragement and inspiration.”