THE Church of England’s first female bishop has been consecrated in a historic service which was disrupted by a lone protester.
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.
“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.”
The new bishop entered York Minster at around 11am in a procession of clergy and ministers.
The Archbishop of York introduced the service and welcomed Mrs Lane and her family.
Mrs Lane was presented to be ordained and consecrated to the office of bishop by the Bishops of Exeter and Chester.
She spoke to affirm and declare her belief in the faith and swore oaths of allegiance and canonical obedience.
The oaths were followed by hymns, Bible readings and psalms before the ordination.
At the end if the two-hour service the new Bishop of Stockport left the Minster in a procession with Dr Sentamu.
She smiled at the congregation as they applauded.
Mrs Lane was named as the new bishop last month. The announcement came a month after the General Synod formally adopted legislation allowing women bishops.
BISHOP LIBBY WILL BRING ‘NORMALITY’ TO ROLE
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.”
• The culmination of today’s ceremonial proceedings was the moment when Dr Sentamu ‘layed hands’ on the new bishop who previously served in the Diocese of York.
Yet continuing resentment by some clergymen to the role of women means the Archbishop will not lay hands on Reverend Phillip North when he becomes Bishop of Burnley next month.
Writing exclusively in The Yorkshire Post today, Dr Sentamu notes the role of women in society and how they have “often been the backbone of the Church, unheralded, unsung, invaluable”.
He adds: “In God’s economy there are no seniors and juniors. He has no favourites. Some may carry heavier responsibilities than others and they will be equipped for that task. Christians ought not be in competition with each other.”
Meanwhile Hull North MP Diana Johnson has challenged the Church and Parliament to step up the pace of reform, saying it is wrong for women bishops to be denied a seat in the House of Lords.