The Revd Libby Lane Announced as Bishop of Stockport
Downing street have today announced that the new Bishop of Stockport – and the first woman bishop in the Church of England – will be the Revd Libby Lane, currently Vicar of St Peter’s, Hale, and St Elizabeth’s, Ashley.
As Bishop of Stockport she will serve as a suffragan (assistant) bishop in the Diocese of Chester. She will be consecrated as the 8th Bishop of Stockport at a ceremony at York Minister on Monday 26 January 2015.
Libby Lane was ordained as a priest in 1994 and has served a number of parish and chaplaincy roles in the North of England in the Dioceses of Blackburn, York and Chester. For the past 8 years she has served as Vicar of St. Peter’s Hale and St. Elizabeth’s Ashley.
She is one of eight clergy women from the Church of England elected as Participant Observers in the House of Bishops, as the representative from the dioceses of the North West
Speaking at Stockport town hall where she was announced as the new Bihsop of Stockport Libby Lane said: “I am grateful for, though somewhat daunted by, the confidence placed in me by the Diocese of Chester. This is unexpected and very exciting. 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.
“The church faces wonderful opportunities, to proclaim afresh, in this generation, the Good News of Jesus and to build His Kingdom. The Church of England is called to serve all the people of this country, and being present in every community, we communicate our faith best when our lives build up the lives of others, especially the most vulnerable. I am excited by the possibilities and challenges ahead.”
Responding to news of the announcement the Archbishop of York, the Most Revd Dr John Sentamu, said: “It is with great joy that on January 26, 2015 – the feast of Timothy and Titus, companions of Paul – I will be in York Minster, presiding over the consecration of the Revd Libby Lane as Bishop Suffragan of Stockport. Libby brings a wealth of experience in parish ministry, in hospital and FE chaplaincy, in vocations work and the nurture of ordinands. I am delighted that she will exercise her episcopal ministry with joy, prayerfulness, and trust in God.
“When the General Synod rejected the previous proposals in November 2012, Archbishop Desmond Tutu, wrote to ‘pour some balm on (my) wounded heart’. That year, he encouraged me, his province was finally celebrating the election of two women bishops. ‘Be comforted’, he said, ‘it will come.’
“When I wrote to him 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!’
“Praise be to God in the highest heaven, and peace to all in England!”
The Archbishop of Canterbury, the Most Revd Justin Welby, said: ““I am absolutely delighted that Libby has been appointed to succeed Bishop Robert Atwell as Bishop of Stockport. Her Christ-centred life, calmness and clear determination to serve the church and the community make her a wonderful choice.
“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”.
The Bishop of Chester, the Rt Revd Dr Peter Forster, said: “Libby has had a varied and distinguished ministry, and is currently a first-rate parish priest. She has already demonstrated her ability to contribute nationally through her representative role in the House of Bishops, on behalf of the north-west England dioceses.
“As the first woman bishop in the Church of England she will face many challenges as well as enjoying many opportunities to be an ambassador for Jesus Christ. I have no doubt that she has the gifts and determination to be an outstanding bishop.
“I am delighted at her designation as Bishop of Stockport after a lengthy process of discernment across the Church of England and beyond.”
The nomination of Libby as the new Bishop of Stockport was approved by the Queen and announced today (Wednesday 17 December 2014). Libby succeeds the Rt Revd Robert Atwell, who is now the Bishop of Exeter.
NOTES FOR EDITORS:
Libby Lane has been the Vicar of St Peter’s Hale and St Elizabeth’s Ashley, in the Diocese of Chester, since April 2007, and from January 2010 has also been Dean of Women in Ministry for the diocese. After school in Manchester and University at Oxford, she 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.
Prior to moving to Hale, Libby was Team Vicar in the Stockport South West Team, and Assistant Diocesan Director of Ordinands in the Diocese of Chester, advising and supporting those considering a vocation to ministry in the church. She continues to be a Bishop’s Selection Advisor.
Libby has served in the Diocese of York, as Chaplain in hospital and further education, and as Family Life Officer for the Committee for Social Responsibility in the Diocese of Chester.
She is one of eight clergy women from the Church of England elected as Participant Observers in the House of Bishops, as the representative from the dioceses of the North West.
Her husband, George, is also a priest; they were one of the first married couples in the Church of England to be ordained together. George is Coordinating Chaplain at Manchester Airport, licensed in the Diocese of Manchester. They have two grown up children in higher education.
Her interests include being a school governor, encouraging social action initiatives, learning to play the saxophone, supporting Manchester United, reading and doing cryptic crosswords.
We have reached a significant mile-stone in the ministerial history of the Church of England! With this announcement from Downing Street of the selection of the Revd. Libby Lane, a Vicar in the diocese of Chester, U.K., the Mother Church of England will have its very first Woman Bishop – not a diocesan, but a suffragan to the Bishop of Chester. Her husband George is also a priest. They were one of the first married couples to be ordained together in the English Province of the Anglican Communion.
The fact that Libby was one of the eight women selected by the House of Bishops to be present at Bishop’s Meetings as ‘Observers’ would have marked her out as one of those women destined to be among the first to be ordained a bishop. This paragraph in the communique, from the Anglican Church News Service (ACNS), gives us some insight into her qualification for service as a Bishop in the Church:
“Prior to moving to Hale, Libby was Team Vicar in the Stockport South West Team, and Assistant Diocesan Director of Ordinands in the Diocese of Chester, advising and supporting those considering a vocation to ministry in the church. She continues to be a Bishop’s Selection Advisor.”
The fact that the Church of England is now ready to give to women episcopal authority – even though not yet as Diocesan Bishops – augurs well for her relationship with other Provinces, like us in Aotearoa/New Zealand, who removed this barrier to women’s full participation in the leadership of our Churches years ago.
Notwithstanding this movement towards the equality of women and men in the leadership of the Church of England, there will still be those in the Church – even in leadership – who refuse to accept the authority of women as either bishops or clergy. However, the situation in the C. of E. was such that General Synod had no alternative but to allow this anomaly – the provision of ‘Alternative Oversight’ for the dissenters – in order to ensure passage of the relevant legislation enabling Women to share episcopal oversight in situations where it is accepted.
Let’s hope that this first opening to a Women Bishop in the Church of England will signal a more general acceptance of the role of women in the mission of Christ’s Church, thus dispelling the general assumption of a tradition of unresolved misogyny .
Father Ron Smith, Christchurch, New Zealand