General Synod this morning greeted its newly announced Archbishop with a standing ovation.
At 10.45am Archbishop Brown Turei declared that Bishop Winston Halapua had been elected as the new Bishop of Polynesia – and therefore, as one of the three Archbishops of the Anglican Church of Aotearoa, New Zealand and Polynesia.
There followed a series of brief but moving presentations from representatives of each of the three tikanga.
These were led by Mrs Lola Kolomatangi, on behalf of the Diocese of Polynesia – who said it was the custom of mothers in the Pacific to give “a cultural vestment” to its new leaders.
With that, Polynesian women brought forward various gifts and tokens – Tongan tapa, and three garlands, each representing Fiji, Samoa and Tonga, which they placed around Bishop Winston’s neck.
He, in turn, took two of those lei and draped them around the necks of the two existing Archbishops, Brown Turei and David Moxon.
Herewini Parata moved to present the greetings of Tikanga Maori to the new bishop – and then, with the help of Archbishop Turei, he tied a pounamu taonga, a greenstone pendant, around Dr Halapua’s neck.
He led a haka – and then it was Bishop Ross Bay’s turn to present the greetings of Tikanga Pakeha to the new Bishop, with a large floral bouquet.
As is the Fijian custom, the Rev Sam Koi responded in Fijian on behalf of the new Bishop. Surrounded by the other men in the Diocese of Polynesia delegation, all of whom were on bended knee, he told Synod that they would return to their countries and churches, telling of the honour bestowed on their bishop by Synod.
Bishop Halapua himself said nothing – until he left the conference hall, and began the first of the day’s media interviews.
Academic and cleric
Bishop Halapua succeeds the late Bishop Jabez Bryce, who had led the Diocese of Polynesia for 35 years, and who died in February this year.
Dr Halapua was elected as an assistant bishop in 2005.
Bishop Bryce had wanted to strengthen the diocese’s outreach in the far-flung islands it serves – Fiji, Tonga, Samoa and American Samoa – and Dr Halapua was one of three assistant bishops chosen at that time.
In 2008, at the invitation of the Archbishop of Canterbury, Dr Rowan Williams, Bishop Halapua served as chaplain for the Lambeth Conference of bishops.
Bishop Winston’s ministry has an academic focus. He has a doctorate in sociology from the University of the South Pacific, and he came to New Zealand in 1996 to take up a post as a lecturer at St John’s College, the Auckland theological college where many Anglican priests are trained.
In 1997 he was appointed Principal of the College of the Diocese of Polynesia in New Zealand, which is one of the three constituent colleges at the greater St John’s College campus. As such, he has been deeply involved in the formation of many Polynesian priests, and as a lecturer at Auckland University’s School of Theology.
In 2008 the late Bishop Bryce had announced his intention to retire and he played a part in planning the election for his successor.
This Electoral College was originally scheduled to take place in May – but with Bishop Bryce’s death, the election was moved forward.
In the Anglican scheme of things, bishops are declared elected only after they have been approved in a three-part process. They are nominated at the Electoral College – and that nomination must then be approved by the other bishops in the church, and (assuming there are no hitches there) by General Synod, which functions as the parliament of the church.
The final stage of the electoral process, the balloting of members of the General Synod, took place during their Gisborne meeting.
Bishop Winston is married to Sue, who is also an ordained priest (in the Diocese of Auckland) and they have two adult sons.
The new diocesan Bishop of Polynesia – and therefore Archbishop of this province of the Anglican church – will be ordained and installed at Suva’s Holy Trinity Cathedral on August 1 this year.