IMAGES: First female bishop consecrated at York Minster

The Church of England’s first female bishop has been consecrated in a historic service which was disrupted by a lone protester.

Monday, 26th January 2015, 2:39 pm
The Consecration of Reverend Libby Lane the first female Bishop held at York Minster. Picture James Hardisty, (JH1007/03c)

The Reverend Libby Lane was ordained as the eighth Bishop of Stockport during a service at York Minster. The move ends centuries of all male leadership in the Church.

The protest happened around an hour into the service as the Archbishop of York, Dr John Sentamu, asked the congregation if it was their will that Rev Lane was ordained.

As the congregation of nearly 2,000 people replied “It is”, a man stepped forward near the altar and shouted: “No. Not in my name.

The Consecration of Reverend Libby Lane the first female Bishop held at York Minster. Picture James Hardisty, (JH1007/03c)

“Not in the Bible. With respect, Your Grace, I ask to speak on this absolute impediment, please.”

Dr Sentamu read out a pre-prepared statement and repeated his question. There was no further interruption and the service continued.

After the litany and an ordination prayer, Rev Lane knelt before the Archbishop while he and the other bishops present laid their hands on her head.

Dr Sentamu presented the new bishop with a Bible and anointed her head. The congregation applauded as she was officially presented as the Bishop of Stockport.

A Church of England spokesman said the protester was Rev Paul Williamson.

The spokesman described Rev Williamson as a “serial protester” and said they were expecting him to attend.

He said: “He’s got the right to protest but the contrast was between a lone voice protesting and a sea of voices affirming.”

Libby Lane has spent the last 20 years juggling her own, often unpaid, parish work with supporting her husband’s role as a vicar and bringing up their two children.

She has managed to fit in being a school governor, supporting Manchester United, learning to play the saxophone and attempting the odd cryptic crossword.

Mrs Lane was not born into a particularly religious family but she knew she wanted to work in the Church since she was a teenager.

The only problem, of course, was that as a student at Manchester High School for Girls in the 1980s, it would be another decade before the first women would be ordained into the Church of England.

In 1994, when that historic change was finally made, Mrs Lane was among the first wave to be ordained.

Since then she had been a determined part of movement for women bishops, quietly working in a range of roles in the north of England. But her selection as the first female bishop was still a surprise to commentators.

Born in Glossop, on the edge of the Peak District, she has said she was ‘’was loved into faith’’ by a small Anglican church community in rural Derbyshire.

She told the Spectator how she realised she might want to work in the church when she was 15 and, at 20, told her priest she was thinking of following in his footsteps.

She studied theology at St Peter’s College, Oxford University, where she met her husband, now the Rev George Lane.

The pair were ordained together in July 1994 - four months after the first group of women became priests.

Over the next 20 years, Mr and Mrs Lane managed to juggle a range of roles within the church with raising their children Connie and Benedict, now 20 and 18 respectively.

Mrs Lane has taken up 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, Hale, Greater Manchester, and St Elizabeth’s, Ashley, Cheshire.

Her husband is currently co-ordinating chaplain at Manchester Airport.

He thinks their story “represents the future of the Church of England”.

Mr Lane said his wife knows about the the everyday life of the Anglican vicar, recalling how his wife spent years supporting his parish work as an unpaid helper when the children were young.

Speaking after the announcement last year, he said: ‘’Libby knows what it’s like to be an unpaid priest just filling in for other people. Doing chaplain work for no money or very little money.’’

Mr Lane said he believes the Church will gain from his wife’s experience of juggling normal life.

He said: ‘’Both of us doing the cooking, both of us doing washing, both of us writing sermons and both of us dealing with some very serious and important things in people’s lives.

‘’That is what normality is to us. I think the Church will respond positively to that being normality.’’

He said: “It is a very modern tale of two people who have given and taken over 25 years of married life.

“I’m very pleased for her and I’m very pleased for the Church of England. She is a very able person and brings something new.”