Libby Lane: First female Church of England bishop consecrated

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Media caption,

Libby Lane was ordained as the Church of England's first female bishop in a ceremony at York Minster

The Church of England has consecrated its first female bishop during a ceremony at York Minster.

The Right Reverend Libby Lane, 48, was made Bishop of Stockport in front of more than 1,000 people.

The Church formally adopted legislation last November to allow women bishops, following decades of argument over women's ordination.

Archbishop of York John Sentamu, who led the service, said he had been "praying and working for this day".

During the two-hour service Dr Sentamu and other bishops laid their hands on Bishop Lane and prayed. This was followed by lengthy applause.

Media caption,

A man interrupts the ordination of Libby Lane as bishop, calling it an "absolute impediment"

Writing in today's Yorkshire Post the archbishop said: "It is high time we had women bishops. I have been praying and working for this day.

"In a few years' time when more and more women will be bishops, I predict we shall be wondering how we ever managed without them."

However, in an indication that some Anglicans still oppose women's ordination, the service was briefly delayed by an opponent of the changes.

The Rev Paul Williamson stepped forward shouting "not in the Bible" after the Archbishop of York asked the church if Mrs Lane should be ordained as a bishop.

The second time Dr Sentamu asked the congregation, there was no opposition and the ceremony continued.

A Church of England spokesman said of Mr Williamson, priest in charge of a church in Hanworth, Middlesex: "He's got the right to protest but the contrast was between a lone voice protesting and a sea of voices affirming."

'Very emotional'

Bishop Lane had said the consecration would be a very "emotional" moment.

She said: "It is a remarkable thing that this happens to me, and people have been very supportive of me personally, but actually this is about a moment in the Church's history."

Image caption,
Hundreds of people attended the service in York Minster
Image source, Getty Images

Speaking after the service her son Benedict said: "We've been building up to it now for a long time and it's satisfying that it has finally happened and we are finally here.

"She's the best person for the job."

Libby Lane has been vicar of St Peter's Hale and St Elizabeth's Ashley, in Greater Manchester, since April 2007.


By Philippa Thomas, BBC News correspondent, in York

At York Minster today I've met Anglican women bishops from the US, New Zealand, South Africa, Iceland, Sweden and Germany delighted to welcome her to their ranks.

Retired Swedish bishop Christina Odenberg told me it was inevitable England would catch up.

Meanwhile, long-time campaigner Christina Rees of Women and the Church said that, now the mother church had made this move, she felt other provinces of the Anglican Communion which had been holding back out of "deference" would follow suit.

I was also struck by young journalist Carey Lodge of "Christian Today", who was born the year before the Church of England voted in favour of women priests.

She said her friends were filling her social media space with tweets and updates revelling in what one woman is achieving today. All of them believed others would follow quickly.

Libby Lane's former curate at Hale, Georgina Watmore, told me with a big beam on her face that she looked forward to the day when there would be a female archbishop - and "probably in my lifetime".

Her consecration comes more than 20 years after women became priests in the Church of England.

And it comes after the general synod gave the final seal of approval to the legislation on women bishops following its passage through Parliament last year.

After the change was approved, Archbishop of Canterbury Justin Welby said that the Church was entering a "completely new phase of our existence".

Who is the Right Reverend Libby Lane?

Image source, PA
  • Vicar of St Peter's Hale and St Elizabeth's Ashley, in Greater Manchester, since April 2007
  • Ordained as deacon in 1993 and as priest in 1994, serving her curacy at St James's Church, Blackburn
  • Since January 2010, she has been Dean of Women in Ministry for the Diocese of Chester
  • Her husband, George, is also a priest
  • They were one of the first married couples in the Church of England to be ordained together
  • She is a Manchester United supporter and is learning to play the saxophone, according to her church's website

But divisions still remain between Anglicans who feel the change is consistent with their faith and traditionalists who disagree.

Opponents of women bishops include some who place great importance on the laying on of hands by existing bishops in the consecration of new bishops, and wish to be looked after by bishops not affected by the involvement of women in this process.

Church of England women priests


full-time C of E priests


are women

  • 101 male C of E bishops

  • 30 Anglican women bishops worldwide

  • 21 years since first C of E women priests ordained


A vicar from Blackburn used her service on Sunday to protest at changes being made to the consecration of the Bishop of Burnley next month. The laying on of hands on the Rev Philip North will be performed by other bishops but not by Dr Sentamu (who by then will have laid hands on Bishop Lane). Mr North opposes women bishops.

Dr Sentamu said the changes to Mr North's consecration were made "for prayer, not politics". He pointed to the arrangements within the Church that "a suitable supply of bishops continues" for opponents of women's ordination.

Gloucester, Oxford and Newcastle are among the dioceses where new bishops will also soon be appointed, while interviews for the vacancy as bishop for the Southwell and Nottingham diocese took place at the start of December.

Anglican churches in Scotland and Wales already allow women as bishops, but have not appointed any yet.