The Anglican Church of Canada has elected a female archbishop for the first time in its history.

Melissa Skelton, bishop of the diocese of New Westminster, was elected by the ecclesiastical province's electoral college on Saturday. She now becomes the 12th archbishop of the ecclesiastical province of British Columbia and the Yukon.

The 67-year-old, who was born in the US, told the Anglican Journal she was humbled and grateful to have the position. She said she had been unaware, when she agreed to stand for election, that she would become the Anglican Church of Canada's first female metropolitan - a post which comes with the honorary title of archbishop - if elected.

“Any time a woman is the first to take on a role…not only in our church but in secular society, then the rest of us women are strengthened thereby,” she said. “We are affirmed; we are encouraged, and that’s not a trivial thing at all.”

Archbishop Skelton takes office immediately but will be formally installed as archbishop in September.