Telling the stories of the Anglican Church in Aotearoa, NZ and Polynesia

Bishop Waitohiariki’s day of firsts

More than a thousand people thronged onto the grounds at Rathkeale College in Masterton this week to celebrate the ordination of Bishop Waitohiariki Quayle as Pīhopa o Te Upoko o Te Ika and the first Māori woman to be ordained bishop in this Church.
• Dr Jenny Te Paa Daniel's ordination sermon
• Watch the Atiawa Toa FM full video coverage of pōwhiri and ordination (with commentary and interviews in Te Reo Māori)
• Wairarapa Times Age story
•Anglican Communion News Service main feature story

Julanne Clarke-Morris  |  14 Sep 2019  |

The world has its first female Māori bishop. 

Waitohiariki (Wai) Quayle was ordained and installed as Pīhopa o Te Upoko o Te Ika during a day of joy and celebration in Masterton, Aotearoa New Zealand, on September 12.

She also becomes the first New Zealand-born woman to be elected bishop in this Church.

More than 1000 supporters turned out to the pōwhiri and ordination service at Anglican school Rathkeale College, where six marquees were ready to welcome the crowd.

Cheers rang out several times during the ordination service, as an underlying sense of excitement and anticipation spontaneously broke out into joyous applause.

“We are overjoyed at this opportunity to celebrate the first Māori woman ordained bishop.” said Bishop of Polynesia Archbishop Fereimi Cama. “This is a great achievement for Tikanga Māori and a breakthrough for the whole church.”

For Bishop Waitohiariki the highlight of the day was seeing the body of Christ gathered together as one family with everyone playing their part.

“I don’t believe in dividing people, in saying you are this or that. We have to be a lot more kind to one another – all of us – all the time,” she said.

“That’s not just something that we come to hear about at church on Sunday, or in the Bible stories and what Jesus said. Kindness has got to be who we are – 24/7.” she said.

Bishop-elect Waitohiariki Quayle (69), belongs to Ngāti Kahungunu ki Wairarapa and Whakatōhea. She was ordained deacon in 2013, then priest in 2014 by Bishop Muru Walters at the Church of Te Hēpara Pai in Masterton. Since 2015 she has served as Archdeacon of the Māori Pastorate of Wairarapa.

Until recently Bishop Waitohiariki held the role of Māori community health services manager at Whaiora Māori Health based in Masterton, where she oversaw staff managing multiple Government health contracts. Before that in 2012, Bishop Waitohiariki gained a Bachelor’s degree in bicultural social work.

As Bishop of Te Upoko o Te Ika, Bishop Waitohiariki will shepherd the Māori Anglican Church across the regions of Taranaki, Manawatu, Wairarapa and Wellington.

Pīhopa o Aotearoa Archbishop Don Tamihere was joined as celebrant for the ordination by Archbishop Fereimi Cama and Archbishop Philip Richardson and bishops from across the Anglican Church in Aotearoa, New Zealand and Polynesia.

They were supported by Assistant Bishop of Adelaide Denise Ferguson and Canadian Métis indigenous Bishop Riscylla Shaw, who brought blessings from Canadian Indigenous Archbishop Mark MacDonald.

Bishop Waitohiariki intentionally raised the voices of women and youth in the service, putting women forward to lead each of the readings, songs and prayers, as well as the Rev Teri-Rori Kirkwood, a female priest from Upoko o Te Ika, who presided at the Eucharist.

Bishop Wai’s behind the scenes encouragement also shone through in the many children and youth who served on her special day as acolytes, readers and cantors and provided hospitality and logistics for the hakari.

Dr Doris Kaua from Te Awa Kairangi roopu believes there’s no mystery as to why so many responded to Bishop Waitohiariki’s call to take part,

“Waitohiariki is a very empowering leader. When she speaks with you she makes you feel important – she empowers young people, women, men – everybody,” she said.

Preacher for the ordination was Dr Jenny Te Paa Daniel, a longtime advocate of women’s leadership in the church. She reminded the assembly of the many forbears who would have relished this day,

“You stand proudly now at the helm of a metaphoric waka wāhine which has been navigating its way across this church for many, many years...” she told Bishop Waitohiariki.

“...we are surrounded on all sides by that great cloud of bold and beautiful witnesses

– ngā wāhine toa, ngā wāhine whakapono humarie o Te Pīhopatanga, me te Hāhi puta noa ki Aotearoa me Poronehia. Their names are too many, their memories too precious, their incredible legacy is now so perfectly safely entrusted to you.”  

Archbishop Don Tamihere couldn’t recall when he last saw a procession of 218 robed clergy come out to support a new bishop. But he wasn’t surprised they were there either,

“From the start there’s been a groundswell of support for Waitohiariki” he said. “And that’s a recognition of the quality of loving service she has offered for so many years,” he said.

“The time was right for Upoko to receive Bishop Waitohiariki’s leadership. She is genuinely humble, she is secure in herself and in her manaakitanga, and she is wise. I am looking forward to serving alongside her.”

Assistant Bishop of Wellington Eleanor Sanderson is excited to receive her new sister bishop.

“There is a wisdom that flows when women are together, and that has happened between us already – I’m looking forward to Bishop Wai joining the house of bishops.” she said.

Young people powered much of the day’s events in song, beginning with kapa haka from Te Kura Kaupapa Māori o Wairarapa following the opening karanga.

Hukarere College arrived en masse to support the new bishop in song – which they did with power and grace at the pōwhiri, the ordination service and at times in between, singing alongside a cohort of boys from Te Aute College, while Rathkeale College choir provided the first waiata to open the service.

Amidst the joy and celebration, Dr Jenny Te Paa Daniel’s kauwhau sounded a note of caution, calling on the church to make sure Bishop Waitohiariki’s historic first does not become a  long-time standalone.

“This Church is not to place an intolerable burden of expectation upon the strong and capable shoulders of one woman, and nor is it to become inappropriately self-congratulatory,” she said.

“…rather it is now our collective responsibility to not only applaud and uplift our beautiful new bishop, but it is to work unceasingly to replicate such appointments from here on in.

“Waitohiariki needs and deserves our ongoing solidarity not just our momentary salute.”

A week or so ago Jenny Te Paa Daniel wrote to ask Bishop Waitohiariki how she was coping in the lead up to her ordination day, 

“….you responded so very simply and eloquently when you said to me,

I have this incredible calmness that I have carried since the Electoral college. I believe the Holy Spirit is surrounding and uplifting me on this journey. And I am so grateful for the positive people around me as well.”

 “What I really heard you saying in replying to me was this: [I feel]

“The Spirit of the Lord is upon me,
 because he has anointed me
 to bring good news to the poor.
He has sent me to proclaim release to the captives
 and recovery of sight to the blind,
 to let the oppressed go free…

“Because this is the exemplary priest you have always been, and this is the even more grace-filled bishop you have now become – a bishop of the Church and one we are all so richly blessed to call our very own.”