Justin Duckworth has been announced as the next Anglican Bishop of Wellington.
And he may just be the least likely-looking bishop ever elected in New Zealand.
He has dreadlocks, for starters. He’s usually in shorts and bare feet, too.
But the voters in the Diocese of Wellington saw past that.
They saw instead that he’s been at the cutting edge of Christian ministry “to the last, the lost and the least” in Wellington for 25 years.
Justin, who is now 44, began Christian work in Wellington as soon as he’d left school.
In his early 20s, he and his new wife Jenny began running a home for teenage women in Berhampore.
After seven years there, they moved with their young children into Upper Cuba St to live among the street people – with transvestites on the one side of them, and prostitutes on the other.
With other young Christian activists, Justin and Jenny then formed Urban Vision , with each person pledging “to give their best for the least”.
Fifteen years later, there are now some 60-odd ‘Urban Visionaries’ running houses in Wellington neighbourhoods where life can be a struggle. In each of those homes, young Christians are living alongside folk from the margins.
Justin and Jenny also pioneered Ngatiawa, a contemporary monastery in the Reikorangi Valley which provides a welcome to strugglers, to those seeking retreat, and to those seeking a more meaningful lifestyle. Last year, 1100 visitors stayed there.
In the early days, those young Christian radicals who made Urban Vision had all quit the mainstream church.
But nowadays, two of Urban Vision’s founding fathers are Anglican priests, while others are on the ordination track – and Justin is now the new Anglican Bishop of Wellington.
He says he feels “humbled, privileged, excited – and terrified,” to have been chosen as Bishop.
“But what’s really helpful,” he says, “is that right the way through this journey, we’ve felt God’s presence and encouragement to go forward.
“And there’s been the constant reassurance of people in the diocese, who’ve said to me: ‘We discerned you as our bishop. We believe God is inviting you to be the person you are. We don’t want you to change.”
“My message to our diocese is this: God is wanting his people to go on a journey – and if we have the courage, he’ll be faithful to equip and sustain us on that journey.”
Justin’s election has been welcomed by Archbishop David Moxon.
“The Electoral College clearly identified Justin's Christian lifestyle, Christian discipleship and Christian mission as key – and I am confident that his election will challenge, inviigorate and grace the church with a deep sense of the breadth and height and depth of the love of God.”
The full article can be found here: Anglican Taonga