THE next Area Bishop of Ripon, in Leeds diocese, is to be the Rt Revd Dr Helen-Ann Hartley it was announced last week. Dr Hartley is the Bishop of Waikato, in the Church of Aotearoa, New Zealand, and Polynesia.
Dr Hartley is the first of the women ordained in the Church of England to have become a bishop. She was elected to the see of Waikato in 2014. Like Leeds, the diocese of Waikato & Taranaki has more than one cathedral, but this is because it is unusual in having two equal diocesan bishops sharing jurisdiction across the diocese. (The Bishop of Taranaki is the Most Revd Philip Richardson, Archbishop of the New Zealand dioceses.)
Both the New Zealand and English dioceses have many rural communities. Speaking from Manor House Farm, Rylstone, in the Dales, after the announcement on Thursday of last week, Dr Hartley said that she had witnessed the “immense value” of churches in rural communities.
“Rural churches often have creative and innovative ways of responding to community needs; often in tough times when the dairy pay-out is poor, or when drought, or even too much rain, cause great difficulties for farmers.”
Dr Hartley was ordained priest in 2006 in Oxford diocese, where she ministered to 12 rural parishes, before being appointed director of biblical studies and a lecturer in the New Testament at Ripon College, Cuddesdon, which is in the diocese.
She visited St John’s Theological College, Auckland, in 2010, with her husband, Myles, a musician and church organist, to conduct research, and returned the next year to be its Dean of Tikanga Paheka.
Dr Hartley is the fourth generation of her family to be ordained. She was born in Edinburgh in 1973, and grew up in north-eastern England. “Both my husband, Myles, and I have firm roots in the north. . . [Returning] to the beautiful North Yorkshire Dales brings with it a deep sense of coming home, and I thank God for this call.”
She succeeds the Rt Revd James Bell, who retired in April. Her background in theological education will inform her ministry, she says, with a particular focus on encouraging lay ministries. “I look forward to getting my feet on the ground, listening and learning, and helping to grow the vision that Bishop Nick has for the diocese. . . I can’t wait to get to know the people and communities of the Ripon Area.”
She will be installed in Ripon Cathedral by the Bishop of Leeds, the Rt Revd Nick Baines, on 3 February.
“I am delighted to welcome Bishop Hartley,” he said. “She brings expertise as a theologian, and episcopal experience from the wider Anglican Communion. She will add great strengths to the leadership and ministry of this diocese.”