First woman bishop Libby Lane: 'Pray for me as I share in the work of proclaiming the gospel'


York was teeming with robes today, as clergy from all over the world gathered to celebrate the consecration of the Church of England's first female bishop.

It had all the markings of a momentous occasion, with the best of the pomp and circumstance the Church has to offer. Hundreds of priests, bishops and well-wishers filled York Minster to overflowing, and many more waited patiently outside to congratulate the newly appointed Bishop Libby Lane.

The service began with a procession of supporting clergy and ministers through the Minster, and a welcome from the Very Rev Vivienne Faull - herself on speculative lists as a possible candidate for first woman bishop before Lane's selection in December. The Archbishop of York, Dr John Sentamu, presided over the ceremony, and urged those gathered to shout "The Lord Reigns!" as he opened proceedings.

Unsatisfied with the volume, however - "Jericho would never have fallen down with that" - he called for it again, three times. It was a perfectly unorthodox way of celebrating what promised to be a historic occasion.

It was a day campaigners have waited for for decades, and tears could be seen streaming down the faces of many during the laying on of hands, as Lane was officially elevated to the order of bishops. However, there was a single voice of dissent during the ceremony. As Sentamu asked the congregation if it was their will that Libby be ordained, a man walked to the front, shouting: "Not in my name".

It was dealt with quickly by the Archbishop, and the protestor's voice was drowned out by the rest of the congregation who declared loudly: "It is!".

Spokesperson for the Church of England, Rev Arun Arora, later confirmed that the protestor, Rev Paul Williamson, is known by the Church, and was expected to voice his dissent. He has done so at the ordination of several women priests in the past, but a decision was taken to allow him entry to the Minster today as part of the right to object.

"The contrast was between the lone voice of the protestor, and a sea of voices affirming," Arora said, adding on Twitter that it was "Better to show he is a lone voice" than deny him the opportunity to protest.

Despite continued tension within the Church of England over the issue, the atmosphere in York was one of celebration. Spontantous applause and cheers erupted from the Minster as Lane was declared bishop, and again as she processed out of the building.

Rev Kate Bottley told Christian Today the support of men for Libby Lane's consecration was important.Reuters

Rev Kate Bottley, vicar in North Nottinghamshire and star of Gogglebox, told Christian Today that Bishop Libby's consecration was an important step for unity within the Church. "It means so much that we can stand beside Bishop Libby and so many male bishops too - that's important to mention, that there are so many men here supporting Libby today - it's so affirming, so encouraging," she said.

"There are people who disagree, and we saw that today, but that was one lone voice, and then 2,000 voices were even louder, saying "It is ours as well". This is the will of God, and I'm thrilled to be a part of it."

Russ Naylor, a retired priest from Chester, has been campaigning for female ordination and consecration for over 30 years. "The Church is finally all it's meant to be," he said following the ceremony.

"This is wonderful, just wonderful. And it felt completely natural," added Rev Canon Dr Jessica Martin of Ely diocese.

Even before the ceremony began, social media was awash with messages of support, which have continued throughout the day.

Lane, now Suffragan Bishop of Stockport, was previously vicar of St Peter's, Hale and St Elizabeth's, Ashley in the Chester diocese. As she is not a diocesan bishop, she will not be among those women fast tracked into the House of Lords under new legislation.

Following her consecration, Lane said she has been encouraged by the support received so far.

"Archbishop Sentamu has observed, 'the way that we show our faith and our love for one another is with two simple things, prayer and parties.' Today is an occasion of prayer and of party - and I am thrilled that so many want to share in both," she said in a statement.

"I cannot properly express how encouraged I have been in the weeks since the announcement of my nomination, by the thousands of messages I have received with words of congratulation, support and wisdom. I've heard from people of all ages, women and men - people I have known for years, and people I have never met; people from down the road, and people from across the world....every one of them has felt this moment marks something important."

Lane added that the attention has been "a little overwhelming" and she "cannot possibly live up to everyone's expectation".

"And so today, at my consecration, I hold on to words of promise from the Bible, a reassurance that all this does not depend on me ... 'the God who calls you is faithful: He will do it' (1 Thessalonians 5:24)," she said.

"My consecration service is not really about me. With echoes of practice which has been in place for hundreds of years in the church, it is a reminder that what I am about to embark on is shared by the bishops around me, by those who have gone before me and those who will come after. It places the ministry of a bishop in the context of the ministry of all God's people. And most importantly it retells the good news of Jesus, the faithful one, who calls each of us to follow him.

"Thank you to all who are praying for me and partying with me today. Please continue to hold me in your prayers as, after the example of St Timothy and St Titus who are celebrated by the Church on this day, I share in work of proclaiming the gospel, in word and action, and bearing witness to the name of Jesus."