History in the making – C.of E.’s First Woman Bishop

Libby Lane is now Bishop of Stockport

undefinedLibby Lane has been consecrated as the Church of England’s first woman bishop in a service at York Minster today (Monday 26 January 2015).

She was ordained as the Bishop of Stockport and anointed with oil by the Archbishop of York, the Most Revd Dr John Sentamu.

Libby was first presented by the Bishops of Chester and Exeter (the Rt Revd Dr Peter Forster and the Rt Revd Robert Atwell) and surrounded by fellow bishops at the foot of the nave platform. The Archbishop of Canterbury, the Most Revd Justin Welby, attended, and other senior Christian pastors and faith leaders.

The laying on of hands – during the consecration of Libby Lane.

Bishop Libby received a Bible from Archbishop Sentamu before being welcomed by the Bishop of Chester. At the end of the service she was given a pastoral staff and went in procession outside the minster where she was photographed and filmed by various media.

The consecration was filmed by the major British broadcasters and shown on lunchtime news programmes across the various networks, including BBC, Sky News and ITV. The historic event was covered by media from around the word.

Libby, who had been Vicar of St Peter’s, Hale, and St Elizabeth’s, Ashley (near Altrincham) since 2007, is now the eighth Bishop of Stockport.

There will be a separate ceremony of installation on Sunday 8 March at Chester Cathedral, starting at 3.30pm.

Libby Lane (above) is with close friends and colleages from the Diocese of Chester, including George Colville (Diocesan Secretary), Canon Betty Renshaw (Chairman of the Diocesan Board of Finance), Ian Bishop (Archdeacon of Stockport) and Michael Gilbertson (Archdeacon of Chester).

Aged 48, Libby is married to the Revd George Lane, 46, who is the co-ordinating chaplain at Manchester Airport. They have two adult children.

Bishop Libby said: “Archbishop Sentamu has observed, ‘the way that we show our faith and our love for one another is with two simple things, prayer and parties’.

“Today is an occasion of prayer and of party – and I am thrilled that so many want to share in both. I cannot properly express how encouraged I have been in the weeks since the announcement of my nomination, by the thousands of messages I have received with words of congratulation, support and wisdom. I’ve heard from people of all ages, women and men – people I have known for years, and people I have never met; people from down the road, and people from across the world.

“Many those who have been in touch have little or no contact with the Church of England; not all have been people of faith, but every one of them has felt this moment marks something important. That all this personal – and media – attention has centred on me has been a little overwhelming: I cannot possibly live up to everyone’s expectations. And so today, at my consecration, I hold on to words of promise from the Bible, a reassurance that all this does not depend on me … ‘the God who calls you is faithful: He will do it’ (1 Thessalonians 5:24).

“My consecration service was not really about me. With echoes of practice which has been in place for hundreds of years in the church, it was a reminder that what I am about to embark on is shared by the bishops around me, by those who have gone before me and those who will come after. It places the ministry of a bishop in the context of the ministry of all God’s people. And most importantly it retells the good news of Jesus, the faithful one, who calls each of us to follow him.

“Thank you to all who are praying for me and partying with me today. Please continue to hold me in your prayers as, after the example of St Timothy and St Titus who are celebrated by the Church on this day, I share in work of proclaiming the gospel, in word and action, and bearing witness to the name of Jesus.”

The Rt Revd Dr Peter Forster, Bishop of Chester, said: “The announcement of Libby Lane’s designation as Bishop of Stockport was greeted with much appreciation.

“As she now takes up her episcopal ministry, I am conscious of the pressures and expectations on her, and I am completely confident that she will meet these and be an outstanding bishop.”

Libby’s ministry in our diocese has included her being, at various times: Dean of Women in Ministry; Team Vicar in the Stockport South West Team; Family Life Officer for the Committee for Social Responsibility; and Assistant Diocesan Director of Ordinands.

After school in Manchester and University at Oxford, Libby 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. Libby has also served in the Diocese of York, as Chaplain in hospital and further education.

The Archbishop of York, Dr John Sentamu said: “Today, in York Minster, history has been made. Libby Lane, who was already a priest in the Church, is the first woman in the Church of England to be made a bishop.  It is a momentous occasion: a solemn act of worship and a jubilant celebration. I was thrilled to be presiding at the service.  Jesus Christ calls ordinary people like you and me to serve him joyfully and confidently. We are simply called to serve.”

The consecration service was followed by a reception and lunch for more than 200 guests hosted by Bishop Peter at the Royal York Hotel. As Bishop Libby was introduced to guests, Bishop Peter led everyone in singing a resounding version of an old favourite  … ‘For She’s A Jolly Good Bishop!’.


This article, from the web-site of the Church of England Diocese of Chester, gives a lovely overall picture of the new era of that Church, where women are now welcomed as members of the House of Bishops. For a long time now, the organisation for the promotion of women as bishops has been selling an iconic tea towel with the words ” A Woman’s place is in the House – OF BISHOPS. That now has been secured!

The sheer number of bishops present at Bishop Libby Lane’s episcopal ordination proves that the overwhelming majority of members of the House of Bishops in the Church of England are happy with the new trajectory of women’s ministry in leadership roles. The fact that there will be a few bishops who will have a problem with that situation – and who will take advantage of the mandated ‘alternative option’ for male-only bishops to minister among them – could not dim the general celebration of Anglicans around the world who have already welcomed women bishops into their own Churches.

Let’s hope that this ordination of the first woman to the episcopate in the Mother Church of England will soon be followed by others, whose presence among the bishops will prove that women in the Church are able to perform the tasks of ministry with at least as much skill, grace, propriety and devotion as their male colleagues.

Congratulations to the Church of England. Let’s all now get down to the task of showing the Love of God at work in the world – which the grace and faithfulness of Jesus Christ and the first disciples directed to ALL people – not just the favoured few.

Father Ron Smith, Christchurch, New Zealand

About kiwianglo

Retired Anglican priest, living in Christchurch, New Zealand. Ardent supporter of LGBT Community, and blogger on 'Thinking Anglicans UK' site. Theology: liberal, Anglo-Catholic & traditional. regarding each person as a unique expression of Christ, and therefore lovable.
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