New Zealand Anglicans choose unconventional bishop

By David Crampton
Posted Apr 30, 2012

[Ecumenical News International — Wellington, New Zealand] A dreadlocked priest who is usually seen in shorts and bare feet is to be the new Anglican bishop in New Zealand’s capital city, Wellington. Justin Duckworth replaces Bishop Tom Brown who recently retired after 14 years.

In announcing the appointment on April 29, Archbishop David Moxon pointed to Duckworth’s lifestyle, Christian discipleship and mission, citing more than 20 years of mission to street people and those on the margins. “I am confident that his election will challenge, invigorate and grace the church with a deep sense of the breadth and height and depth of the love of God,” Moxon said.

While Duckworth said he feels “humbled, privileged – and terrified,” he believes the Anglican Church has huge potential for change. “I think the Anglican Church is doing amazing stuff, and is a total treasure. But it’s a treasure that needs to be dusted off. God wants his people to go on a journey – and if we have the courage, he’ll be faithful to equip and sustain us,” he said.

An Anglican for just six years, Duckworth and his wife Jenny founded Urban Vision in 1996, a housing ministry in which young Christians live alongside street people. In 2008, Urban Vision became an Anglican missionary order.

The couple then pioneered Ngatiawa, a lay contemporary monastery which welcomes those who are struggling, seeking prayerful retreat or a missional lifestyle. While colleagues welcomed the somewhat unexpected appointment, Duckworth acknowledged concerns that he doesn’t look like a bishop.

“One of the big points of dialogue is ‘how will the mitre fit over my dreadlocks?'” he said.


Comments (14)

  1. Karen Joy Kelly says:

    I’d love to see a photo of Bishop Duckworth!

  2. The Rev. Sue Reid says:

    Congratulations, Anglicans of Wellington, for your vision and prayers to Bishop-Elect Duckworth.

  3. Bea Berry says:

    Re: last comment above by the bishop-elect;

    The people who construct mitres will measure the head with the dreadlocks and then the mitre will fit properly. The only problem will occur if Bishop Duckworth removes his dreadlocks. At that point, a new mitre will have to be constructed.

  4. Kieran Conroy says:

    A bit unconventional, though hardly without precedent… recall stories of early Bishops risen up unexpectedly by popular appeal and (sometimes mobs), despite youth or not even having been ordained yet! Sounds like they are recieving a treasure.

    You can view a video of him here. He’s been wrestling with how to fit the mitre over his dreadlocks!

    As someone involved in Anglican and ecumenical New-monastic/new intentional communities in Boston and now Omaha, I’m very encouraged by this. I was blessed to work with the Outdoor Church of Cambridge, MA, during Divinity School, an ecumenical project that is part of the Anglican Ecclesia Ministries network born out of Boston’s Cathedral and now in many cities around the country – meeting people “where they are” to claim the presence of Christ among them, rather than “preaching at” or “fixing.” It sounds like New Zealand has a powerful voice for the riches of living and serving among the “last, lost and least” in Jesus’ name. Prayers for the your new Bishop!

    Kieran Conroy, MDiv
    Ressurection House, Outdoor Church Alum
    Member-at-Large of the Crossing, Boston

  5. (The Rev.) Charles Chatham says:

    Could we hear some more about new Bishop-elect Duckworth, and photos? What is his vision for New Zealand, background education, etc.? Sounds refreshing, and good for New Zealand!!!

    1. Simon Winn says:

      Have a look here, Charles: with articles on his biography and a TV interview this week.

      and a radio interview here:

  6. Julian Malakar says:

    As our Savior, Jesus Christ was born in unconventional way in a manger, and spread the gospel among common people, so does Dioceses of Wellington chose their Shepard an unconventional person, who knows how to catch fish in modern day and maintain peace in the world. Common people are 99% of population, if they have gospel in mind, there would be peace in the world as God promised. It is true example of inclusion within God’s love. May God bless him with abundant wisdom to lead his sheep!

  7. S-Frida Botétémé says:

    “Félicitations from Paris” from a french episcopalian 🙂 for this new bishop… May God bless him !

  8. martha knight says:

    Alleluia for New Zealand. The mission of the church is to carry the gospel to all our brothers and sisters particularly those on the margins.

  9. Craig McDonald says:

    This is very good news indeed. For those who are interested, Justin and Jenny have written a book about their journey with Urban Vision and working with people on the margins, ‘Against the tide, Towards the Kingdom’, which is the latest addition to my Kindle!

  10. Rev. Ruth Paulus says:

    This is just totally cool! Picture please! Would be lovely to see more of our Bishops in shorts and barefoot! How refreshing! Go New Zealand!! Prayers and blessings come your way!

  11. jim colwell says:

    Don’t worry about a cardboard hat. Christ, the Holy Spirit, and on some days , I will know you are a bishop. Change the church !!!!!

    1. Nancy Barnard Starr says:

      Very glad to hear your voices, so enthusiastic for change — look hard and you will find the seeds of transformation among you as well. Give thanks and praise to God for Aotearoa, and the ‘thin places’ where God touches down and inspires.

  12. David Ross Lyon , Lay says:

    You keep right up with the dreadlocks , the cargo shorts , and whatever else you feel comfortable doing , or wearing… God is not a bit concerned with our clothing , or what style we wear our hair in….but rather is looking into our soul to see if Love for Him , and his Loved ones abides there .

    I must admit that the first time I met + C.Wallis Ohl , Provisionary , Fort Worth , he came striding up with a huge grin , wearing a 10 gallon western hat , and stuck his hand out saying … ” Hi , I’m Wally…whats your name… ? ” ” At that point I knew I had met a lover of God , and a real Bishop .
    Heed well that God looks not on the outward , but on the inward man…

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