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First woman bishop in Wales elected

04 November 2016

church in wales

Historic: Canon Joanna Penberthy, the first woman elected to a Welsh see, addressing the Church in Wales Governing Body

Historic: Canon Joanna Penberthy, the first woman elected to a Welsh see, addressing the Church in Wales Governing Body

THE next Bishop of St Davids will be the first woman bishop in the Church in Wales. Canon Joanna Penberthy, Rector of Glan Ithon, in the diocese of Swansea & Brecon, was named as the Bishop-elect on Wednesday.

Canon Penberthy, who is 56, and was among the first women to be ordained priest in the Province in 1997, said that she was “immensely humbled and honoured at the trust that has been placed in me”.

The electoral college achieved the necessary two-thirds majority at a closed meeting in St Davids Cathedral which began on Tuesday morning. The Archbishop of Wales, Dr Barry Morgan, opened the cathedral doors on Wednesday afternoon to announce that the college had made its decision.

“This is an historic moment for the Church in Wales, as it hasn’t been possible to elect a woman bishop until now,” he said. “But what is really important to stress is that Joanna wasn’t elected because she was a woman, but because she was deemed to be the best person to be a bishop.”

Canon Penberthy trained at Cranmer Hall, Durham, and began licensed ministry as a deaconess in Durham diocese in 1984. She was a parish priest in Bath & Wells from 2010 until last year. But she was made deacon in the Church in Wales, and most of her ministry has been there.

She was Provincial Officer in the Division for Parochial Development and Renewal, an evangelism appointment, from 1994 to 1999. Since then, she has served variously in St Davids diocese, in parish ministry, with time as an NSM, as Warden of Readers, and in other diocesan appointments. In 2007, she was the first woman to hold a canonry at the cathedral.

“I am very much looking forward to returning to St Davids and serving God’s people as their Bishop,” she said.

Credo Cymru, the tradtionalist grouping, has assured Canon Penberthy of their prayers but said her election created an urgent need for a male bishop to be made available to minister for traditionalists in St Davids diocese.

In a statement the group noted that the legislation which made women bishops possible promised opponents they could remain a full part of the Church.

"Accordingly we believe that the election of Canon Penberthy makes it a pressing necessity that a male bishop in the apostolic succession with whom we may enjoy full communion be enabled to minister sacramentally and pastorally to such Anglicans in the diocese of St Davids."

In Bath & Wells, Canon Penberthy stood for election as a Labour councillor for South Somerset District Council in 2015, but failed to attract enough votes.

Canon Penberthy is married to Adrian. Her election is expected to be confirmed on 30 November. Her consecration is scheduled for Llandaff Cathedral on 21 January, and her enthronement at St Davids Cathedral on 11 February.

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