CHURCH APPOINTS FIRST FEMALE BISHOP

Reverend Libby Lane has been announced as the
first female bishop for the Church of England,
just a month after a historic change to canon
law.
She will become the new Bishop of Stockport, a
post that has been vacant since May.
Mrs Lane has been the vicar at St Peter’s Hale
and St Elizabeth’s Ashley, in the diocese of
Chester, since 2007.
The general synod voted to back plans for
female bishops in July and formally adopted
legislation on 17 November.
The appointment will end centuries of male
leadership of the Church and comes 20 years
after women became priests.
Mrs Lane was ordained a deacon in 1993 and a
priest in 1994, serving her curacy in Blackburn,
Lancashire. Since 2010 she has also held the
role of Dean of Women in Ministry for the
diocese of Chester.
‘Unexpected and exciting’
Speaking at Stockport town hall the new bishop,
whose role was approved by the Queen, said it
was a “remarkable day for me and an historic
day for the Church”.
“This is unexpected and very exciting,” she said.
“I’m honoured and thankful to be called to serve
as the next Bishop of Stockport and not a little
daunted to be entrusted with such a ministry.”
Prime Minister David Cameron congratulated Mrs
Lane and said: “This is an historic appointment
and an important step forward for the Church
towards greater equality in its senior positions”.
Mrs Lane will be consecrated as the eighth
bishop of the town at a ceremony at York
Minster on 26 January.
The first women priests were ordained in 1994,
but to date women have not been able to take
on the Church’s most senior roles.
Legislation to fast track women bishops into the
House Of Lords will be introduced to Parliament
on Thursday.
But Mrs Lane will not be able to enter the House
of Lords, as the post she is taking up is a junior
or suffragan appointment within the Diocese of
Chester, the BBC’s religious correspondent
Caroline Wyatt said.
The first women bishop eligible to take up a seat
in the Lords is expected to be announced in the
new year.
Mrs Lane, who was schooled in Manchester and
then the University at Oxford, before training for
ministry at Cranmer Hall in Durham, dismissed
suggestions her appointment was just a symbolic
gesture by a Church still predominantly run by
men.
The bishop and her husband, who is also a
priest, were one of the first married couples in
the Church of England to be ordained together.
Mrs Lane’s interests include being a school
governor, supporting Manchester United and
learning to play the saxophone, according to her
church’s website.
The general synod, the Church’s law-making
body, gave the final seal of approval to the
legislation on women bishops after it passed
through Parliament in October.
After the change was approved, the Archbishop
of Canterbury Justin Welby said that the Church
was entering into a “completely new phase of
our existence”.
But divisions still remain in the church between
Anglicans who feel the change is consistent with
their faith and traditionalists who disagree.
One of the first crucial steps towards appointing
female bishops came in 1975 when the general
synod voted that there was “no fundamental
objection” to the ordination of women to the
priesthood, but it did not pass a second motion
asking for the legal barriers to women’s
ordination to be removed.
In 1985, a vote allowed women to become
deacons, and in 1992 women were officially
permitted to be ordained in the priesthood, but
the first women priests were not announced until
two years later.
In November 2012, the vote to allow female
bishops failed by six votes in the House of Laity.
But in July 2013, it voted 152 in favour of the
motion, with 45 against, and five abstentions.
Gloucester, Oxford and Newcastle are also
among the dioceses where new bishops will also
soon be appointed, and interviews for the
vacancy as bishop for the Southwell and
Nottingham diocese took place at the start of
December.
Churches in Scotland, Wales and Northern
Ireland already allow women as bishops, but
haven’t appointed one yet.

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