LONDON -- The Church of England announced the appointment of its first female bishop this week. Reverend Libby Lane, a 48-year-old parish priest from Hale and mother of two, will become the next Bishop of Stockport in Greater Manchester, according to reports.
Rev. Lane's appointment was kept secret, and comes more than 20 years after the very first woman was ordained a priest. Lane has been a priest since 1994 and is a participant observer in the House of Bishops, a leadership body that shapes policy relating to doctrine, episcopal ministry, as well as the mission and national issues affecting the denomination.
"This is unexpected and very exciting," she said in a statement. "On this historic day as the Church of England announces the first woman nominated to be Bishop, I am very conscious of all those who have gone before me, women and men, who for decades have looked forward to this moment. But most of all I am thankful to God."
"I stand in a long line of women and men whose self-giving service has changed the world for good," Lane added.
Women becoming bishops has been a controversial and divisive issue in the Church of England. On one hand are traditionalists who demand bishops be men only – some have even left their faith for the Catholic church in protest, Financial Times reported. Pushing a more progressive viewpoint are increasingly liberal churchgoers and the Queen, who approved the appointment of the first female bishop.
Lane wants to steer the focus towards ministry and service, though.
"So today I pray will not be simply about one woman called up a new ministry in the church but much more than that, an opportunity to acknowledge all that has gone before and to look ahead to what is still to be done," Lane said.
Lane's appointment was supported by the Archbishop of Canterbury Justin Welby. Welby pointed out Lane's "Christ-centered life, calmness and clear determination to serve the church and the community" as reasons for her appointment.
Lane is married to Rev. George Lane, graduated from Oxford University, trained in ministry at Cranmer Hall in Durham and served her curacy in Blackburn, Lancashire.