A little-known vicar from a Lancashire village will become the first woman to smash through the stained-glass ceiling when she becomes Bishop of Stockport in January.
The Rev Libby Lane, 48, was announced yesterday as the first woman to become a bishop in the Established church. Her appointment comes just a month after church leaders made a historic vote to allow women into the episcopate.
Ms Lane, who is currently Vicar of St Peter’s church in Hale, Greater Manchester, and St Elizabeth’s church in Ashley, Cheshire, was an outsider for the landmark Church of England job. She was not among the bookies’ favourites and has been a dedicated local clergywoman rather than a public figure.An important note made by the Guardian:
As a suffragan bishop, Lane could be appointed without passing through the tangle of committee meetings required to choose a diocesan – one who has their own cathedral and may sit in the House of Lords.This may explain why the Rev. Libby Lane is unexpected. I bet some of the heavy favorite names, such as the Very Rev. Vivienne Faull, Dean of York Minster, will be more likely to be considered as Diocesans. And as Thinking Anglicans tells us, that may come with a seat in the House of Lords, with the introduction of the Lords Spiritual (Women) Bill:
Currently, the Archbishops of Canterbury and York and the Bishops of Durham, London and Winchester automatically take seats in the House of Lords. The remaining 21 seats are occupied by Bishops in order of seniority (length of service). Under the current system, it would be many years before women bishops were represented in the Lords.
The Government’s Bill, which is supported by the Church of England, proposes a modification of this rule for the next ten years, so that if a female bishop is available when a Lords Spiritual seat becomes vacant, they will automatically be appointed to the House of Lords. If no female bishop is available, the vacancy would be filled by the next most senior male bishop, as currently happens…Not everyone is reacting well. One anti-women group called Reform wrote a very mean comment. On a public facebook page, the new Bishop's husband the Rev. George Lane commented,
I have read some horrendously unkind comments directed at my wife from complete strangers who know nothing about Libby, her family, her friendships, her ministry or her character. (She's already had homophobic abuse on the grounds that she has short hair and must therefore be a lesbian!)That's sad, but hardly surprising, given the hang-ups over women . Indeed, it's no coincidence that the ire against including women is similar to that against including LGBT. Of course, there are no open LGBT bishops in the C of E, and gay clergy there are forbidden to marry. Inclusion remains a work in progress.
Let's hope that most C of E members can agree to disagree civilly, as necessary, and wish the new Bishop much luck. Congratulations! And Merry Christmas!