A North East woman is breaking new ground as she becomes an Anglican bishop in New Zealand.
The Rev Helen-Ann Hartley will become the first woman to hold the office when she becomes the seventh Bishop of Waikato in the Diocese of Waikato and Taranaki.
It also means that the 40-year-old will also become the first woman ordained within the Church of England to become a bishop.
Mrs Hartley will succeed Archbishop David Moxon, who is now the Anglican Communion’s ambassador to Rome.
She said: “Although I was ordained in Oxford Diocese, my journey began in Durham Diocese, and it was there that my vocation was nurtured.
“St Chad’s in East Herrington, Benedict Biscop CofE school, and my years as an acolyte in Durham Cathedral all played a vital role in my formation, and so Durham Diocese remains very much my spiritual home. I have so much to give thanks for in its people, places, and rich heritage.”
Mrs Hartley, who is originally from Sunderland, is currently Dean of Tikanga Pakeha students at St John’s College in Auckland, New Zealand.
Having moved to the region when she was a child, her family attended St Chad’s church in East Herrington and her father Jim Francis moved from the Church of Scotland to the Church of England in the Diocese of Durham in 1987, later becoming a Rev Canon.
Recently retired, his roles have included Honorary Non-Residentiary Canon at Durham Cathedral. His wife, Pat, is still a steward at the cathedral.
Mrs Hartley is the fourth generation of her family to be ordained, and became a priest in 2005 in the Diocese of Oxford.
She went to New Zealand in 2010, with her husband Miles, to undertake research at St John’s College and she returned in February 2011 to take up the position as Dean.
And her parents, who live in Bowburn, County Durham, believe that her upbringing in the region played a key role in leading her to a career in the Church.
Mr Francis said: “I think the welcome we received at St Chad’s when we came to Sunderland had a strong influence on Helen-Ann. We were made to feel at home as a family and I think that had an effect on her.
“At a young age, she wrote to Durham Cathedral, asking to be an acolyte, something she did for several years. We are deeply grateful for what she has achieved and that the diocese in New Zealand has discerned her giftedness.”
Pat added: “We are extremely proud of what she has achieved.“
Mrs Hartley said: “I hope my election will be an encouragement for supporters of the ordination of women to the episcopate.”