Church of England appoints first female bishop

Church of England appoints first female bishop
The Church of England has appointed Libby Lane, a vicar from Greater Manchester, its first female bishop in a historic move only a month after a vote by the church’s ruling body allowed women to become top clerics.

Lane, 48, currently vicar of St Peter's, Hale, and St Elizabeth's, Ashley, will be consecrated as the Bishop of Stockport in a ceremony at York Minster on January 26.

The decision to allow women to become bishops was made at a synod vote in July, and legislation was formally passed on November 17.

Speaking at the announcement in Stockport, Lane said she was grateful “but someone daunted” by the prospect of her new role.

“This is unexpected and very exciting,” she said.

“On this historic day as the Church of England announces the first woman nominated to be bishop, I am very conscious of all those who have gone before me, women and men, who for decades have looked forward to this moment. But most of all I am thankful to God.”

A general view shows York Minster in York, northern England (Reuters / Nigel Roddis)

Lane’s appointment comes 20 years after the first Church of England priest was ordained, and marks a historic end to centuries of exclusive male leadership.

While she may have gained the highest position available, Lane is not eligible to sit in the House of Lords.

She has been appointed a suffragan bishop, but only the most senior 26 diocesan bishops are permitted to join the Lords. The government is reportedly altering legislation to make allow female senior diocesan bishops to “queue-jump” into the Lords, but this may not happen until the New Year.

Lane attended school in Manchester and University at Oxford, then trained for ministry at Cranmer Hall in Durham. She was ordained a deacon in 1993 and a priest in 1994, serving her curacy in Blackburn, Lancashire.

Her husband George is also a priest, and they were one of the first married couples to be ordained together.

Rev John Sentemu, Archbishop of York, expressed his pleasure at the decision to appoint Lane. He spoke of a conversation he had with Archbishop Desmond Tutu, who seemed overjoyed at the decision to allow female bishops.

“When I wrote to [Tutu] last weekend to offer my prayers for his battle with prostate cancer, he replied with these words: ‘Wonderful that you over there will soon have women bishops. Yippee! I know you have pushed for this for a long time. Yippee again!’”

The Archbishop of Canterbury, Justin Welby, congratulated Lane on her appointment, saying he was “delighted.”

“Her Christ-centered life, calmness and clear determination to serve the church and the community make her a wonderful choice,” he said.

“She will be bishop in a diocese that has been outstanding in its development of people, and she will make a major contribution. She and her family will be in my prayers during the initial excitement, and the pressures of moving.”

Welby has recently come under fire for his plan to give 300 selected candidates managerial training in preparation for promotion. His ideas, seen as a way to ensure women gain higher positions in the church, was criticized for being an imitation of corporate culture.

Welby has defended the plans.

ICYMI