The "progressive" wing of the Anglican Church is hopeful a new co-leader will allow the church to move towards gay marriage.
The Rt Rev Philip Richardson, 55, the bishop of Taranaki, was chosen on Saturday as archbishop-elect of the 554,925-strong Anglican Church of Aotearoa, New Zealand and Polynesia.
He will take up his post on May 1 as one of three archbishops leading the church.
The others are Archbishop Brown Turei, who leads the Tikanga Maori section, and Archbishop Winston Halapua, the bishop of Polynesia.
Mr Richardson said his top priorities would be helping the church to work together for the common good, to advocate for people on the margins, and to help the church to "deepen its discipleship".
He has not spoken publicly either for or against gay marriage but proponents believe he will not stand in the way of a change.
The Rev Glynn Cardy, vicar of the self-described "progressive" St Matthews-in-the-City church in Auckland, said yesterday: "Knowing his position on other issues in the church, which is quite broad-minded, I would expect Bishop Philip would go with the majority on this issue in New Zealand.
"My own feeling is that he will not try to block change in this area but he doesn't have the power to make it happen tomorrow.
"The Anglican Church is coming to a point where the majority are in acceptance of committed gay relationships."
The complication was that it needed to accommodate those of a "more conservative persuasion", he said.
The issue would next be decided at a synod in May 2014 and, if a decision was taken to recommend a change in church law, then it would have to be sent back to the membership.
The earliest point at which gay marriage could become part of the Anglican canon was in 2016.
"Archbishop Philip will do an admirable job; change will not happen any faster or slower than that of his predecessor," Mr Cardy said.
"The machinery of the church takes longer than the machinery of state."
He would personally like to see more speed. "Whenever there is discrimination against a group of people in society, it is imperative to make change."
Mr Richardson will combine his new role with continuing as bishop of Taranaki and will continue to live with his family in New Plymouth.
However, he has conceded his skiing days are now probably over. He and wife Belinda Holmes have enjoyed skiing at Cardrona in central Otago since his days as a theology student at Selwyn College in Dunedin.
He said he would now have to forsake the field's Skyline Ridge run, which he described as his own private cathedral in the sky, so that he could fulfil his church duties.
- Fairfax Media