Anglicans in New Zealand have elected the first woman to head a diocese anywhere in the worldwide Anglican Communion of 27 independent churches.
Penelope Ann Bansall Jamieson was elected to New Zealand's Diocese of Dunedin. Jamieson, 47, has been a priest for six years and vicar of Karori West and Makara since 1986.
The election of Jamieson, who becomes the second female ever elected an Anglican bishop, came as a surprise to the leadership of the 200,000-member Anglican community in New Zealand, where women have been eligible for the priesthood since 1977.
A statement announcing Jamieson's election was released well after the diocese's convention in early November. Archbishop Brian Davis, the church's chief official, said, "None of us expected that a woman would be elected by a synod quite so soon."
A little more than a year ago, the Rev. Barbara C. Harris of Philadelphia was elected the first woman bishop in any Anglican church anywhere, an event that brought strong criticism from Anglican traditionalists around the globe. Bishop Harris serves as a suffragan, or assisting, bishop in the Episcopal Church's Diocese of Massachusetts.
Jamieson, who holds a Ph.D. from the University of Wellington in New Zealand, was ordained a deacon in 1982 and a priest in 1983 in the Diocese of Wellington. From 1982 to 1985 she served as assistant curate of St. James, Lower Hutt.
She will succeed Bishop Peter Mann, who is retiring, in late February.