Bishop George Augustus Selwyn (1809 – 1878)

Bishop George Augustus Selwyn was the first Bishop of New Zealand. Born in 1809, George was well educated and starting his working life as a teacher at Eton College.

In 1833 he was ordained as a deacon. In 1841, he was recommended for the appointment as Bishop of New Zealand. Consecrated on the 17th October 1841, George sailed for New Zealand. On board was a young Maori boy who was returning home from England. From him, George learnt Maori so well that he could preach in the native tongue from the get go.

Before reaching New Zealand though, his ship was due to dock in Sydney, Australia and was damaged during its arrival. Keen to get to his post, George found another ship and stepped on to New Zealand soil in Auckland.

Settling in Waimate with his wife and young children, George was soon walking and canoeing around his parish – in fact it only took him 6 years to complete his visitation of New Zealand. He preached as he went, not only visiting Europeans settlements but also the Maori ones too.

In 1844, the Selwyn’s moved to Auckland and in 1847, he had increased his parish duties to some of the Pacific Islands.

In 1854, George was back in England where he consecrated 4 new Bishops, two for the North Island and two for the South Island of New Zealand. George returned to New Zealand as the Maori Land Wars broke out. He pushed his Christian message even harder in the chaos, confusing both sides of the fight at times. He was no fan of how the Government treated the Maori over land.

In 1868, George reluctantly said farewell to New Zealand and took up a position as Bishop of Lichfield – becoming the 91st in the title. He died in 1878 still in that position. He never lost his love for New Zealand.

The Selwyn District in Canterbury was named after him as he was one of the first Europeans to walk through the area.

*image of Bishop Selwyn courtesy of*

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