World's first female Anglican bishop appointed

29 June 1990

Penny Jamieson during her ordination ceremony, 1990 (Otago Daily Times)

Dr Penny Jamieson’s rise through church ranks was rapid. The first women were ordained to the Anglican priesthood in New Zealand in 1977. Jamieson was ordained and appointed to a Wellington parish in 1985.

Her appointment as Bishop of Dunedin in June 1990 did not meet with universal approval. Bishop Whakahuihui Vercoe refused to attend the ceremony, believing that it was not culturally appropriate to have a female bishop. He still held this opinion when he was appointed Anglican Archbishop of New Zealand in 2004.

For her part, Jamieson saw her appointment as giving ‘enormous encouragement’ to women in all areas of society. She felt that ‘the glass ceiling’ had been broken. At her investiture as a Distinguished Companion of the New Zealand Order of Merit in 2004, however, she expressed disappointment that no women had yet followed in her footsteps.

Jamieson retired in June 2004. In August 2008, Victoria Matthews became New Zealand’s second woman bishop when she was elected Bishop of Christchurch.