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

Sally Hitchiner
Monday 26 January 2015 19:40
Comments
Libby Lane, the first female bishop in the Church of England, smiles following her consecration service at York Minster in York
Libby Lane, the first female bishop in the Church of England, smiles following her consecration service at York Minster in York

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.

Register for free to continue reading

Registration is a free and easy way to support our truly independent journalism

By registering, you will also enjoy limited access to Premium articles, exclusive newsletters, commenting, and virtual events with our leading journalists

Please enter a valid email
Please enter a valid email
Must be at least 6 characters, include an upper and lower case character and a number
Must be at least 6 characters, include an upper and lower case character and a number
Must be at least 6 characters, include an upper and lower case character and a number
Please enter your first name
Special characters aren’t allowed
Please enter a name between 1 and 40 characters
Please enter your last name
Special characters aren’t allowed
Please enter a name between 1 and 40 characters
You must be over 18 years old to register
You must be over 18 years old to register
Opt-out-policy
You can opt-out at any time by signing in to your account to manage your preferences. Each email has a link to unsubscribe.

Already have an account? sign in

By clicking ‘Register’ you confirm that your data has been entered correctly and you have read and agree to our Terms of use, Cookie policy and Privacy notice.

This site is protected by reCAPTCHA and the Google Privacy policy and Terms of service apply.

Join our new commenting forum

Join thought-provoking conversations, follow other Independent readers and see their replies

Comments

Thank you for registering

Please refresh the page or navigate to another page on the site to be automatically logged in