Penny Jamieson

The world's first female Anglican bishop

Dr Penny Jamieson broke part of the stained glass ceiling that kept women out of senior leadership roles in the Anglican church, but she couldn't smash it completely.

She became the world's first woman bishop to lead an Anglican diocese. She was elected bishop of Dunedin in 1989 and was, the following year, ordained into the job she held until her retirement in 2004.


When New Zealand's Anglican hierarchy ordained five women in December 1977, the country was the fourth "province" of the Anglican communion to admit women to the priesthood.

By comparison, England - where Anglicanism began - didn't permit woman bishops until four years ago and appointed its first in 2015.

English-born Jamieson, who married a New Zealander, became an Anglican priest in Wellington in 1985.

Her elevation to bishop five years later attracted controversy. The church's then-bishop of Aotearoa, Whakahuihui Vercoe, and the Catholics' bishop of Dunedin, Leonard Boyle, boycotted her ordination.

When she was made a distinguished companion of the New Zealand Order of Merit in 2004, Jamieson told the Herald, of her appointment as bishop: "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."

New Zealand has had two more women Anglican bishops since Jamieson. Victoria Matthews, Canada's first woman Anglican bishop, led the Christchurch diocese from 2008 until May this year, and Helen Ann Hartley was bishop of Waikato from 2014 to last December.