History was made today (Nov 2) as the Church in Wales elected its first woman bishop.
Canon Joanna Penberthy was elected as the 129th Bishop of St Davids having secured the necessary two-thirds majority vote from members of the Electoral College which had been meeting behind locked doors at St Davids Cathedral since Tuesday morning.
The announcement was made by the Archbishop of Wales as the west door was opened on Wednesday at 1pm.
Canon Joanna, 56, was one of the first women to be ordained as a priest in Wales in 1997 and is currently Rector of Glan Ithon, in the Diocese of Swansea and Brecon in Llandrindod Wells.
She is the first woman to be elected as a bishop following the decision of the Church’s Governing Body in September 2013 to enable women’s ordination to the episcopate.
The Archbishop, Dr Barry Morgan, who is also President of the Electoral College, said, “This is an historic moment for the Church in Wales as it hasn’t been possible to elect a woman bishop until now. 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. She has considerable gifts – she is an excellent preacher and communicator, can relate to all sections of the community, is a warm, charismatic, caring priest and someone who is full of joy.
“Joanna knows this diocese – she worked here for 11 years and was a Canon of this cathedral so she is on familiar territory. She has also worked in the dioceses of Llandaff and St Asaph and has been the Provincial evangelism officer so she knows the province intimately. She has also been serving in the diocese of Bath and Wells so she brings that experience too. The Diocese of St Davids is enormously lucky to have her as its next bishop and I shall be absolutely delighted to consecrate her.”
Canon Jo said, “I am immensely humbled and honoured at the trust that has been placed in me. I am very much looking forward to returning to St Davids and serving God’s people as their Bishop. As the first woman to be elected to episcopal orders in the Church in Wales I hope that my ministry will be an expression of our common calling to live Christ.”
Canon Jo will be Bishop Elect until the appointment is formally confirmed by the Archbishop at a Sacred Synod service on November 30. She will then be consecrated as a bishop at Llandaff Cathedral – the seat of the current Archbishop of Wales – on January 21 and enthroned in St Davids Cathedral on February 11.
The election follows the retirement of Wyn Evans, who served as Bishop of St Davids for eight years. St Davids Diocese takes in the west Wales counties of Pembrokeshire, Carmarthenshire and Ceredigion.
The Electoral College is made up of representatives from all six Welsh dioceses. The “home” diocese is represented by six lay people and six clergy, and the other five dioceses by three lay people and three clergy each, plus the five remaining Bishops.
Its discussions are confidential. Candidates for election are nominated at the meeting, discussed and voted on by ballot. Any candidate receiving two-thirds of the votes of those present is declared Bishop-Elect.
Film of the announcement can be seen here. It shows Archbishop Barry and Simon Lloyd, Provincial Secretary, Church in Wales.
Journey of ministry
The Revd Canon Joanna Penberthy was born in Swansea and grew up in Cardiff. She was educated at Cardiff High School and graduated from Newnham College, Cambridge, and St John’s College, Nottingham. She trained for ministry at Cranmer Hall, Durham.
She was made a deaconess in 1984, ordained as a Deacon in 1987 and was among the first women ordained as priests in Wales in 1997.
She has served in the dioceses of Llandaff, St Asaph and St Davids and was also the Provincial officer for parochial development and renewal for five years. In 2007 she became the first woman to be appointed a Canon at St Davids Cathedral.
Canon Joanna left Wales in 2010 to serve in the Diocese of Bath and Wells but returned last year as Rector of Glan Ithon, in the Diocese of Swansea and Brecon, based in Llandrindod Wells.
She is married to Adrian and they have four grown-up children and one grandchild.
1984 Made Deaconess
1987 Ordained Deacon
1997 Ordained Priest
1981 Newnham College Cambridge BA
1985 Newnham College Cambridge MA
1984 St John’s College Nottingham MTh
1983 Cranmer Hall Durham
1984 – 1985 Deaconess (full-time), Haughton Le Skerne (St Andrew), Durham
1985 – 1989 Deaconess (full-time), Llanishen (St Isan) (Christ Church) (St Faith) and Lisvane, Llandaff
1987 – 1989 Non-stipendiary minister, Llanishen (St Isan) (Christ Church) (St Faith) and Lisvane, Llandaff
1989 – 1993 Non-stipendiary minister, Llanwddyn (St Wyddyn) and Llanfihangel-yng-Nghwynfa and Llwydiarth, St Asaph
1993 – 1995 Non-stipendiary minister, Llansadwrn (St Sadwrn) w Llanwrda and Manordeilo, St Davids
1994 – 1999 Prov Officer Division for Parochial Development and Renewal, Church in Wales
1999 – 2001 Priest in charge, Cynwul Gaeo (St Cynwyl) w Llansawel and Talley, St Davids
2001 – 2002 Diocesan Adult Education Officer, St Davids
2001 – 2010 Vicar, Cynwul Gaeo (St Cynwyl) w Llansawel and Talley, St Davids
2002 – 2010 Warden of Readers, St Davids
2007 – 2010 Canon, St Davids Cathedral
2010 – 2011 Priest in charge, Charlton Musgrove (St John) (St Stephen), Cucklington and Stoke Trister, Bath and Wells
2011 – 2015 Rector, Charlton Musgrove (St John) (St Stephen), Cucklington and Stoke Trister, Bath and Wells
from 2015 Rector, Glan Ithon, Swansea and Brecon