Victoria Matthews, Bishop of Christchurch diocese in New Zealand has announced she will step down after ten years. Bishop Matthews has led the Christchurch diocese through particularly tumultuous times, the massive earthquake and resulting controversy over what to do about the quake-ravaged cathedral which is the symbol of the city of Christchurch as well as the ongoing debates over sexuality and marriage equality.
In a letter to her diocese, she spoke of the privilege of serving and the challenges they have faced, but also of sensing that God is calling her to set aside this work for now;
After almost ten years of episcopal ministry in this graced and most beautiful Diocese, I have discerned in my prayers that I am called by God in Christ through the power of the Holy Spirit, to lay down this particular position of leadership, as the Bishop of Christchurch, in the Church of God.
I have communicated the same to the Archbishop of the New Zealand Dioceses, the Most Rev’d Philip Richardson. My resignation will come into effect on 1 May this year. While I will see many of you at various gatherings before then I do hope to have a diocesan service at the Transitional Cathedral to thank you for your incredibly faithful service as disciples of the Lord Jesus Christ. It has been an extraordinary privilege to serve as your Bishop in many different situations (earthquakes; wind; fire and floods to name a few).
Some will ask if I have a position to move on to; or whether I am retiring; others may wonder about a potential health challenge. The answer to all those questions is no. But I need to be obedient and pause and reflect on God’s call on my life at this time, in order to discern the direction in which God is calling me to follow Jesus.
UPDATE: Bishop Matthews was announced today as one of five nominees as Bishop Co-Adjutor for the Diocese of Toronto
The news was shared with her fellow bishops by Archbishop Philip Richardson who said;
“I know you will join with me in giving thanks to God for Bishop Victoria’s faithfulness to Christ and her personal courage and resilience through a time of unprecedented challenge in the life of the Diocese of Christchurch and of our Church as a whole.
I know also that you will pray for her as she seeks to discern God’s calling on her life and ministry.”
In a letter to the diocese the Archbishop wrote;
“I am sure that, like me, you will be coming to terms with Bishop Victoria’s decision to resign as Bishop of Christchurch. I am deeply grateful for her courage and tenacity in leading the Diocese through a time of unprecedented challenge and demand. There will be opportunity to offer thanks to God for Bishop Victoria’s exceptional ministry in our midst.
Jeremy Johnson, the diocesan chancellor, sent a note outlining the process of the election and how the affairs of the diocese will be managed in the interim. In the Anglican Church of Aotearoa, New Zealand, and Polynesia (ACANZP), the Primate takes on episcopal responsibility for the diocese.
Under Title A Canon I when there is a vacancy in a bishopric the episcopal
supervision of the vacant bishopric devolves on the Primate/te Pīhopa Mātāmua.
The Primate/te Pīhopa Mātāmua may then appoint a commissary to exercise
At this point the Primate/te Pīhopa Mātāmua will exercise episcopal jurisdiction
directly over critical issues. This will be done through the Archbishop of New
Zealand, and Bishop of Waikato and Taranaki, Most Rev Philip Richardson.
For day-to-day issues there will be delegation to someone based in Christchurch.
The delegation will take place either through the appointment of a Vicar General or
through the appointment of a commissary.
The expectation though is that it will be largely business as usual in the day-to-day life of the diocese.
Archbishop Philip, and any delegate of his, will be able to perform almost all functions of the Bishop of Christchurch including chairing Standing Committee, participating in the clergy appointment process, issuing licences and acting in relation to Title D complaints.
Bishop Matthews previously served in the Anglican Church of Canada. In 1994, she became the first woman ordained bishop in the Anglican Church of Canada when she was made a suffragan bishop of the Diocese of Toronto. She then served as the Bishop of Edmonton from 1997 to 2007. She was a candidate for the position of Primate in the Anglican Church of Canada, but was runner-up to the current primate, Archbishop Fred Hiltz.