George Augustus Selwyn

Bishop of New Zealand and of Lichfield, 1878 (Lesser Feasts and Fasts 2000)

Photo credit: Selwyn College, University of Cambridge

George Augustus Selwyn was born on April 5, 1809 at Hampstead, London. He was prepared at Eton, and in 1831 was graduated from St. John’s College, Cambridge, of which he became a Fellow.

Ordained in 1833, Selwyn served as a curate at Windsor until his selection as first Bishop of New Zealand in 1841. On the voyage to his new field, he mastered the Maori language and was able to preach in it upon his arrival. In the tragic 10-year war between the English and the Maoris, Selwyn was able to minister to both sides, and to keep the affection and admiration of both natives and colonists. He began missionary work in the Pacific islands in 1847.

Selwyn’s first general synod in 1859 laid down a constitution, influenced by that of the American Church, which was important for all English colonial churches.

After the first Lambeth Conference in 1867, Selwyn was reluctantly persuaded to accept the See of Lichfield in England. He died on April 11, 1878, and his grave in the cathedral close has been a place of pilgrimage for the Maoris to whom he first brought the light of the Gospel.
Bishop Selwyn twice visited the Church in America, and was the preacher at the 1874 General Convention.

Almighty and everlasting God, we thank you for your servant George Augustus Selwyn, whom you called to preach the Gospel to the people of New Zealand and Melanesia, and to lay a firm foundation for the growth of your Church in many nations. Raise up in this and every land evangelists and heralds of your kingdom, that your Church may proclaim the unsearchable riches of our Savior Jesus Christ; who lives and reigns with your and the Holy Spirit, one God, now and ever. Amen.