Libby Lane named as Church of England’s first female bishop

Posted Dec 17, 2014
Libby Lane, a suffragan bishop in the Diocese of Chester, smiles as her forthcoming appointment as the new bishop of Stockport is announced in the Town Hall in Stockport, northern England, Dec. 17, 2014. Lane will become the Church of England's first female bishop. Photo: REUTERS/Phil Noble

Libby Lane smiles as her forthcoming appointment as the new bishop of Stockport (a suffragan bishop in the Diocese of Chester) is announced in the Town Hall in Stockport, northern England, Dec. 17, 2014. Lane will become the Church of England’s first female bishop. Photo: REUTERS/Phil Noble

Editors’ note: Story updated at 11:40 EST Dec. 17 with statement from Presiding Bishop Katharine Jefferts Schori

[Church of England press release] Downing Street has announced that the new bishop of Stockport – and the first female bishop in the Church of England – will be the Rev. 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 eighth bishop of Stockport at a ceremony at York Minister on Jan. 26, 2015.

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 eight years she has served as vicar of St. Peter’s and St. Elizabeth’s.

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 bishop of Stockport, 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, Archbishop of York 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 Rev. 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.

Archbishop of Canterbury Justin Welby said: “I am absolutely delighted that Libby has been appointed to succeed Bishop Robert Atwell as bishop of Stockport. Her Christ-centered 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.”

Episcopal Church Presiding Bishop Katharine Jefferts Schori said the church gives thanks for Lane’s appointment. “We give thanks for her ministry and that of so many other women in the Church of England, and pray that others will soon be named as bishops in other sees,” Jefferts Schori said.  “Would that all the people of God were able to see the image of God reflected in their ordained and lay leaders, and to see themselves reflected as well.”

Bishop of Chester 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 northwest 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 Lane as the new bishop of Stockport was approved by the Queen and announced Dec. 17. Lane succeeds the Rt. Rev. Robert Atwell, who is now the bishop of Exeter.

Biographical Details
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, Lane 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 adviser.

Lane 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.

Resources available:

A video statement by the Rev. Libby Lane on her appointment is available from the Diocese of Chester Website here (Chester Diocese YouTube channel is available here).

An audio interview with the Rev. Libby Lane on today’s announcement is available as part of a Church of England podcast here.

A photostream from today’s announcement including photos of the Rev. Libby Lane are available here.


Comments (15)

  1. Victoria Spiegel says:

    This is an awesome moment for the entire Anglican Communion. Many blessings to the Reverend Lane as she begins her episcopacy and to her family as well.

  2. Alleluia!!! The choir of angels sing! This announcement is a wonderful Christmas gift for the Anglican Communion and for the world!! ¡¡Bendciones y paz Rvda. Libby Lane!!!

  3. Myron B. Hawkins says:

    I thought the same thing and was therefore similarly confused.
    Read the Wikipedia article on the Diocese of Chester, which is of ancient origin and has had a very confused history and lineage. It will explain what the Bishop of Stockport has to do with the Diocese of Chester.
    Seems the Diocese of Chester has two suffragan bishops, one of whom is the Bishop of Birkenhead and the other is the Bishop of Stockport.
    I wonder if this situation isn’t similar to the Roman Catholic practice of an auxiliary bishop (the Roman equivalent of a suffragan) being named as “Titular Bishop” of some ancient (no longer extant) see — which title is held until the auxiliary bishop later is given a “real” diocese of his own.

    1. Charles Jett says:

      Or her own as the case may be. Maybe this will bring us closer together in the future.

      1. Myron B. Hawkins says:

        I wondered how long it would be before someone checked me on that.
        Unfortunately, in the case of the RCC, “his own” is the only way it will happen for any foreseeable future. In fact I think it likely that the practice of ordaining women as priests and consecrating them as bishops will if anything constitute an obstacle to bringing the Anglican Communion and the RCC together to the point of intercommunion.
        Progress is already being made toward giving women positions of leadership and responsibility at parish, diocesan and even Vatican levels. One can only hope that gradually this may yield fruit in a broader perspective that will at last overcome current male-only clericalism. It’s something to dream on … and pray for.

  4. Don McCleary says:

    This has been such a long time coming.
    Thanks be to God!
    The Reverend Daniel Velez-Rivera said it better than I ever could.
    Yes, Bishop Lane is a real Christmas gift for the Anglican Communion,
    and more specifically the Church of England!

  5. Joseph F Foster says:

    Becomng bishopess of an increasingly beside the point church is almost as good as becoming Captain of RMS Titanic.

    1. Michael R. Scullary says:

      I don’t know….for a “beside the point church,” the past ten plus years have seen the Anglican Communion navigate through those “icicles” by generally remaining centrist in reference to the key social/religious/political issues that have been hot topics overall. Is everyone happy all the time with this approach? No, and that’s the point…..dialogue, compromise, and reflection among conservative/orthodox, liberal/progressive, and moderate factions are the keys to the Communion’s survival.

      Case in point: Bishop Lane. Those of us with a bit of common sense applaud that the Church of England has finally decided to take a step backward — to reflect on the foundations of Jesus-centered Christianity and the eventual historical/social/political consequences of male chauvinism/superiority-based Christianity (I’m going to assume that your use of the term “bishopess” correlates to the common Anglican term for a female deacon/archdeacon, “deaconess,” and that you’re not being snarky and pompous) — and start the process to address and correct those negatives.

      Of course, the CoE still has plenty of “David Hortons” lol. However, like Mr. Horton, eventually perceiving and interacting with female priests in a realistic and practical light illustrates that they aren’t so bad after all…. 🙂

  6. Myron B. Hawkins says:

    For the record: My message (above) regarding the history of the Diocese of Chester and its two suffragan bishops was written in response to a message from Father Phil Hughes reflecting confusion from an earlier wording of the article about Libby Lane becoming both a suffragan Bishop of Chester and Bishop of Stockport.
    Apparently the ENS editors revised the opening of the article for clarification and dropped the message from Father Hughes — which left my message appearing to reply to and concur with remarks by Joseph F. Foster referring to Bishop-to-be Lane as “bishopess,” to a “beside the point church,” and to the Titanic.
    I do not agree with or support Mr. Foster’s remark. Women becoming bishops in the Church of England is long overdue. I sincerely hope that the expanding involvement of women in the top leadership echelons of the C of E will make it increasingly difficult in the coming years to characterize the C of E as “beside the point.”

  7. martha knight says:

    So delighted for the Anglican Communion.

  8. JAN rOGOZINSKI says:

    “Would that all the people of God were able to see the image of God reflected in their ordained and lay leaders, and to see themselves reflected as well.”

    But there is more to it than genitalia. What I look for is someone who shares my total commitment to sanctification. If such a person existed in the Episcopalian denomination, I would not care if her skin color were blue with little green dots.
    I am sure the new bishop will do no worse a job as an administrator than a male person would. But her female genitalia do not add anything to her skills.

  9. Anne Bay says:

    Finally! I know the British don’t move too fast! But they are coming along. Good news! Here in the Diocese of Los Angeles we have had two women Bishops for a long time! More women will be consecrated bishops as the years go along. The bottom line is there shouldn’t be any male or female selectivity in jobs, including the church. People should be selected for their education, experience, and what they bring to the job. Period. thankfully the young people are wise to the old folks quoting parts of the bible to manipulate things to be done a certain way. I don’t know too many young people going to church, but even for us older folks, glad to see this.

  10. Anne Bay says:

    Frankly speaking, what we do in the Anglican Communion should be be done with any thought on how this affects other parts of Christianity, including the Roman Catholic Church. The old guard of the RCC from what we have seen in the U.S. has little understanding of women’s anatomy or any interest in learning about women’s anatomy and causing a lot of misinformation on it and as a result, has put women’s health in a precarious and needless potential danger. The HollyHobbie company being allowed to not cover contraception for its employees is only one of a myriad of dangerous health policies for women and pushed by the RCC and conservative religious groups. The refusal of the RCC to stand up against discrimination toward the LGBT community is very scary and downright wrong also. The old cardinals in the Vatican having a melt-down when the RCC nuns are given any positions that are ones that only men should have-ie. the president of a RCC university in the U.S. , and the list goes on……all clearly show the RCC is stuck in the middle ages. And that’s too bad, but the Anglican Church doesn’t have to be and it’s 2014 and time to be aware of modern science and get away from the ridiculousness of male superiority in all phases of modern life, church included. My husband was forced to go to the RCC in his family of origin and as soon as he turned legal age, has never returned, and the older I get, the more I see why. Thankfully am a lifelong Episcopalian and the churches I was in all were in the here and now, not the then and then. Although, the Episcopal church dragged its feet for women’s ordination to the priesthood, eventually it did and the church is so much better for it. I can’t believe people accept men only ordination to the priesthood/bishops in this day and age. My mother said the Anglican church encourages to use your brain, and that’s what the Anglican church needs to do. Forget what other churches do. Also, my husband said another 300 years and the RCC will make some changes, and maybe ordain women. Who knows.

    1. Anne Bay says:

      The first sentence in my opinion should read “should not be done, etc. “

    2. Michael R. Scullary says:

      Great points, Ms. Bay! With the current pontiff, as well as the diverse geographical social and political aspects of the RCC, it will be interesting to see not only how long it take that denomination, but the other Orthodox churches (they even allow their priests to marry) as well.

      Coincidentally, I’m sure you are aware that there is already a RCC “splinter group” started by nuns that were ordained as deacons/priests/bishops. Considering that the nuns generally run the show anyway, I’d say this was a smart move lol 🙂

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