First Māori woman elected bishop

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The Archbishops of the Anglican Church have announced that the Archdeacon of Wairarapa, the Ven Waitohiariki Quayle, has been elected Bishop of Upoko o Te Ika, to serve as shepherd to the Māori Anglican bishopric of the lower North Island.

“Archdeacon Wai’s election is a very significant moment for our Church, and I believe for Māoridom as a whole.” said Archbishop Don Tamihere as he announced Wai Quayle’s election alongside Archbishop Philip Richardson and Archbishop Fereimi Cama today.

“We’ve waited far too long for our Church to elect a Māori woman as a Bishop, and to finally have that happen brings us incredible joy.”

“Bishop-elect Waitohiariki becomes not only the first Māori woman to be elected bishop, but the first Aotearoa New Zealand-born woman to be chosen to serve as bishop in any Tikanga.” he said.

“Waitohiariki Quayle is humble, compassionate, wise and a person of great faith, and she comes with a long track record of grassroots service. I have no doubt that she will be a great shepherd of our people.”

Bishop-elect Waitohiariki Quayle (b. 1950) has ties to Ngāti Kahungunu and Whakatōhea. She was ordained deacon (2013) and priest (2014) by Bishop Muru Walters at the Church of Te Hepara Pai in Masterton. Since 2015 Wai has served as Archdeacon of the Māori Pastorate of Wairarapa, alongside her role as Māori community health services manager for Whaiora Māori Health based in Masterton.

Bishop-elect Wai grew up in Gladstone where her parents Hoani Waaka and Toi Haeata-Kuku placed a high value on promoting spiritual life for their 13 children. While her father was Anglican, Wai’s mother followed the Mormon faith, which meant that elders and ministers from both churches were regularly welcomed into their home.

Wai brings deep understanding of Māori whānau and their needs to her role, from almost twenty years working to help Māori families navigate the New Zealand health system. Since 2012 her Bachelor’s degree in bicultural social work has deepened her understanding of all she learnt at the coalface.

Today, Bishop-elect Wai believes two of the most pressing issues for whānau in her region are the ‘out of control’ housing situation, and distressing rates of youth suicide.

“A lot of kids are lost, they don’t have a friend or someone to turn to. The church could be there for them, and by the church I mean people, we could be there.”

“The image I use is of the tamariki (child) on the waka (canoe). The family can be the stabilising influence on one side of the canoe and the church can be on the other.

“We talk about putting on the armour of Christ, and I do that at times. But I like to say we can put on the ‘ama’ of Christ.”

“The ama is the outrigger of the canoe. If the young person in the waka is getting a bit rocky, the whanau and the church can be the ama, the outriggers that stabilise them on either side.”

“If the family gets rocky, the young person can lean onto the outrigger held by the church. Together we can all help get them through rough waters.”

Bishop-elect Wai aims to strengthen her Hui Amorangi with skills she has gained over her years of managing Government contracts in Māori health.

“I am a visual person, so I will be looking for outcomes and accountability. I will be looking to fine-tune our Hui Amorangi operations, so that we are putting our energy and resources most effectively into mission.”

One place that deserves energy in Wai’s book is backing young families to teach Christian values their young people can hold onto.

“My vision is to work with children from ages 3 – 12, by opening spiritual nests that teach faith in the way the Kohanga Reo language nests have taught the language. From there we can build a pathway for ongoing adult learning, and lead into training Kaikarakia (lay readers) and through into ordination for those who are called.”

“My hope as bishop will be to bring our young people to experience their own journey with Christ, one that encourages them and helps them hear God’s call on their lives.”

Bishop-elect Wai will take up the role of Bishop of Upoko o Te Ika from her current ministry base in Carterton. Wai Quayle has been a widow since her husband Colin Quayle died in 1990, she has three adult children and five mokopuna.

The date and venue for Bishop-elect Waitohiariki’s ordination will be announced soon by the Archbishops.