First female Church of England bishop consecrated

Signal of change / First female Church of England bishop consecrated

By Anna Simpson / 25 Jan 2015

The Church of England has consecrated its first female bishop during a ceremony at York Minster. On 26 January 2015, the Reverend Libby Lane, 48, was ordained as the new 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 Dr John Sentamu, who led the service, told the Yorkshire Post, “It is high time we had women bishops. I have been praying and working for this day". He added, "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."

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

The service was briefly delayed by an opponent, the Rev Paul Williamson, who protested “not in the Bible”, when – in accordance with the ceremony – the Archbishop of York asked the church if Mrs Lane should be ordained as a bishop. However, on second asking there was no opposition.

A Church of England spokesman said Williamson had “the right to protest, but the contrast was between a lone voice protesting and a sea of voices affirming".

Bishop Lane 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 Credit: Bernard Blanc / Flickr

So what?

Advocates of gender equality in Britain are looking to see what more doors this small but significant step might help to prise open for women.

Bishops have political sway, with allocated seats in the House of Lords. Currently, five of these places go to the most senior bishops, and the remaining 21 to the longest serving ones. This leaves Libby Lane, a junior bishop, at the back of the queue. However, a temporary change to the law means that, for the next 10 years, any vacancies will be filled by the most senior female bishop available at the time – ahead of the most senior male Bishop.

Diana Johnson, Labour MP for Hull North, wrote in the Yorkshire Post: “In British society it is nearly a century since the Suffragettes won women the vote, 45 years since the Equal Pay Act and 36 years since the first UK woman Prime Minister.” She called for “a united front in celebrating the role of both women and men in the Church and representing modern England in this century”.


What might the implications of this be? What related signals of change have you seen?

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