Libby Lane's appointment as the first female bishop might have been understated, but its importance echoes around the world

Having campaigned for over two decades, women in the Church of England are finally feeling validated

Click to follow
The Independent Online

Libby Lane's consecration was as understated as the creation of the first woman bishop in the Church of England could possibly be.

Recently commended by the Archbishop of Canterbury for her “lively sense of humour and lack of self-importance”, Lane looked solemn and spoke in her deep, measured voice, heavy with the gravitas of what she was doing.

All of this was in sharp contrast to the excitement of the media, the Church, onlookers from around the world, and not least female priests like myself. We’ve not stopped pouring the fizz since December when it was announced, and our long-standing hopes and fears were all focussed on one woman this morning.

Lane has always been a dark horse. She was plucked from being a respected local parish priest in a part of the UK far from the national media spotlight. No bookmaker bothered to put odds on her, as they did with the most of the senior church women in the UK. The national press hadn’t even heard of her name.

Of course this was deliberate. Despite a small but vocal opposition, and a yapping media that's been trying to make a celebrity out of her, Lane has been chosen because she will be good at the job. And that is all the Church wishes to say about her. The service was about the task at hand, without any distractions.


It was an understated service, but let's not kid ourselves: the impact of what happened today echoes around the world. Having campaigned for over two decades, women in the Church of England are finally feeling validated. And it's only the start: we are also feeling hopeful towards the other changes to the House of Bishops we will now be able to make as women.

Women who are not religious must be relieved that the Church is no longer “overtly sexist”, and perhaps are one step closer to considering faith for themselves. What's more, women who are in other Christian denominations, who are a long way from achieving this in their own churches, may restart the conversation with their cardinals and bishops.

But Lane's main concern was less for women than for girls, who will now grow up with such a wider realm of possibilities open to them. In her speech today Lane highlighted her potential to be a role model and how, if her appointment inspires just one young woman, then it will have been worth it. Yes, her appointment may be a historical milestone, but for the first woman in the English episcopate, it's the smaller achievements in life that count for now.