The Anglican Bishop of Dunedin, the Right Rev Dr Penny Jamieson, is disappointed more women have not followed in her footsteps.

Not, she acknowledges, that it has been an easy path to tread over the last 14 years.

Her ordination in June 1990 made Bishop Jamieson the first woman in the world to lead a Church of England diocese.


The new head of New Zealand's Anglicans, Bishop Whakahuihui Vercoe, refused to attend her ordination. In an interview in the Weekend Herald, he said it was not then, and still was not, culturally the right time to have a female bishop.

Made a distinguished companion of the New Zealand Order of Merit, Bishop Jamieson is stepping down at the end of this month to do some "serious grandparenting".

Her husband, Ian Jamieson, who teaches in the English department at Otago University, is also retiring.

The couple will move to Lower Hutt, near their three daughters and five grandchildren.

Bishop Jamieson said she regarded the challenge of being a woman in a traditionally male structure as "very much a call from God, and God has never lacked courage".

Courageous, too, were the members of the Otago-Southland diocese who asked her to be their bishop, she said.

Since then she had worked tirelessly "to live up to the expectations of being the first".

Her unexpected appointment, after five years as a parish priest in Wellington, had been an "enormous encouragement" to women in all churches and in society at large.

"I regard it as breaking the glass ceiling. It was one of the most exciting things but I am disappointed no other women have been elected in this country since. One would have thought they could. It is a challenge I want to throw back to the church," Bishop Jamieson said.

English-born, the 62-year-old graduated in linguistics from the University of Edinburgh before marrying a New Zealander and moving to Wellington 40 years ago.

She worked with the Inner City Mission while writing her doctoral thesis on the experiences of Tokelauan children learning English as their second language.

Since she was appointed, 11 women internationally have become Anglican bishops.

But no more have been appointed in New Zealand.

In her retirement, Bishop Jamieson wants to get her "hands dirty in ministry", working at a drop-in centre, returning to her interest in English as a second language and doing more writing.