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History made in New Zealand as first indigenous woman elected to serve as bishop

Posted on: May 10, 2019 2:58 PM
Archdeacon Waitohiariki Quayle has been elected as the next Bishop of Upoko o Te Ika, she is the first Maori woman to be elected an Anglican bishop.
Photo Credit: Anglican Taonga

The first Maori woman to be elected bishop has been named by the Archbishops of the Anglican Church in Aotearoa, New Zealand and Polynesia. Waitohiariki Quayle, currently the Archdeacon of Wairarapa, will become the Bishop of Upoko o Te Ika, in the lower North Island after she is consecrated later this year. The announcement was made by Archbishop Don Tamihere, senior bishop of the Maori tikanga, or cultural stream of the Church, alongside his fellow Primates, Archbishop Philip Richardson and Archbishop Fereimi Cama.

“Bishop-elect Wai becomes not only the first Maori woman to be elected bishop, but the first Aotearoa New Zealand-born woman to be chosen to serve as bishop in any Tikanga,” he said. “Her election is very significant for our Church, and I believe for Maoridom as a whole.

“We’ve waited far too long for our Church to elect a Maori woman as a bishop, and to finally have that happen brings us incredible joy.

“Bishop-elect Waitohiariki is humble, compassionate, wise and a person of great faith. She comes with a long track record of grassroots service. I have no doubt that she will be a great shepherd of our people.”

Bishop-elect Waitohiariki was born in Gladstone in 1950 to an Anglican father and a Mormon mother; and has ties to both Ngāti Kahungunu and Whakatohea tribes. She was ordained a deacon in 2013 and a priest in 2014 by Bishop Muru Walters at the Church of Te Hepara Pai in Masterton. She has served in her current role since 2015.

As the announcement of her election was made last week, she said that two of the most pressing issues for Maori families in her region are the huge impact of “out of control” pressures on housing, and distressing rates of youth suicide.

“A lot of kids are lost, they don’t have a friend or someone to turn to”, she said. “The church could be there for them, and by the church I mean people, we could be there.”

“The image I use is of the tamariki (child) on the waka (canoe). The family can be the stabilising influence on one side of the canoe and the church can be on the other.

“We talk about putting on the armour of Christ, and I do that myself at times. But I like to say we can put on the ‘ama’ of Christ. The ama is the outrigger of the canoe. If the young person in the canoe is getting a bit rocky, the family and the church can be the outriggers, the ‘ama’, that stabilise them on either side.

“If the family gets rocky, the young person can lean onto the outrigger held by the church. Together we can all help get them through rough waters.”

The Bishop-elect was widowed in 1990. She has three adult children and five grandchildren.