Women Bishops one year on: The women who have broken the stained glass ceiling

One year ago today the Church of England's General Synod voted to approve women bishops. Six women have since been made bishop, marking the beginning of a historic change in the CofE and a move towards Archbishop Justin Welby's call for unity amidst disagreement. One year on from the vote, here are the women to have broken the (stained) glass ceiling:


Libby Lane: Bishop of Stockport

A saxophone-playing Oxford graduate, Libby Lane, was appointed the first woman bishop in the Church of England last December. Previously a vicar in the Diocese of Chester, Lane was consecrated at York Minster in January in a ceremony led by Archbishop of York, John Sentamu. A single protestor attempted to disrupt proceedings, but Lane's appointment was affirmed by hundreds more who flooded into York to support her.

"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," Lane said.

"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."

Alison White: Bishop of Hull

Alison White – the new Bishop Suffragan of Hull.

Rev Canon Alison White was the next woman to be appointed to the role of Bishop, becoming the Bishop Suffragan of Hull at her consecration on July 3, also at York Minster. Previously the priest-in-charge of St James', Riding Mill in the Diocese of Newcastle and diocesan adviser for Spirituality and Spiritual Direction, she succeeded the Rt Rev Richard Frith, who became Bishop of Hereford last November.

White's husband, Frank, is the Assistant Bishop of Newcastle, making them the first husband and wife bishop team, and her appointment was celebrated by Sentamu. In a statement, he said it was a "joyous day" he was "delighted" with her appointment.

"Alison is a person of real godliness and wisdom – it is fantastic that she has accepted God's call to make Christ visible together with all of us in this Diocese of York."

Rachel Treweek will be the first woman bishop to sit in the House of Lords.

Rachel Treweek: Bishop of Gloucester

Rachel Treweek, the Archdeacon of Hackney, was announced as the first diocesan woman bishop in the Church of England in March. Set to be consecrated on July 22, she will be the first woman to sit in the House of Bishops with voting rights and under fast-track legislation recently passed in Parliament, will also be the first woman to sit on the Bench of Bishops in the House of Lords.

She said she was "deeply privileged" to have been offered the position. "It is exciting, humbling, and somewhat overwhelming," she said in a statement.

"My journey to this day has been one of human encounter and relationship, shaped first and foremost by a deep relationship with Jesus Christ. If my story so far has anything to commend it, it would simply be this: there is nothing better anyone can do with their lives than become a follower of Jesus Christ."

Sarah Mullallay: Bishop of Crediton

Diocese of Exeter

Also due for consecration on July 22, former nurse Sarah Mullally will become the fourth woman bishop and the third suffragan in the Church of England. Married with two children, Mullally held several leadership roles in her nursing career including director of nursing at the Chelsea and Westminster Hospital. In 1999 she was appointed as chief nursing officer in the Department of Health – the youngest person to hold the post.

An amateur potter, she was ordained in 2001 and left her NHS post to serve as a full-time priest, going on to become team rector of Sutton Team Ministry at St Nicholas' Church in Sutton, London. She is currently involved in an Anglican clergy leadership programme.

Of her appointment, she said: "Throughout my life, as both a nurse and a priest, I have experienced God's enduing love and I hope as bishop to be able to share that love with others."

Ruth Worsely: Bishop of Taunton

A pioneer in women's ministry, the Ven Ruth Worsely is to be the fifth woman bishop in the Church of England as suffragan Bishop of Taunton. The first woman to be Archdeacon of Wiltshire, Worsely has been a steadfast proponent of women's ordination but said she was "surprised and amused" to be chosen as bishop.

"I grew up in a non-conformist church where women held no roles of leadership," she explained. "I am delighted to be heading to Somerset to join the diocesan team in this wonderful part of the world, moving 'next door' as it were. It will be a great privilege to meet and serve everyone who lives and works in the county."

The Diocese of Salisbury is the first diocese to provide two female bishops in the Church of England: Canon Mullaly and now Archdeacon Worsley.

Bishop of Sherborne Graham Kings wrote on Thinking Anglicans: "Excellent news. Ruth will be a wonderful bishop and the Diocese of Bath and Wells will be blessed by God through her mission and ministry. Go west, young bishops."

Bishop of Bath and Wells Peter Hancock said: "The mission of the Church will be greatly enhanced through Ruth's contribution to the leadership of the diocese as together we seek God's vision for the people and places of Somerset."

Anne Hollinghurst: Bishop of Aston

Photo by Steve Squires

The latest woman to be appointed to the role of bishop is Rev Anne Hollinghurst, Vicar of St Peter's in St Albans. 

Hollinghurst described herself as both a "contemplative" and a "want-to-make-it-happen" person who likes walking and being outdoors and is keen on environmental issues. Her other interests include reading, the arts and real ale pubs.

She said: "I hope to contribute my experience and practice in mission in a whole variety of contexts, in walking alongside the many clergy and lay people of the diocese, who are doing all sorts of wonderful and exciting things—helping to focus in together on God's priorities and God's call. A lot of that is about encouragement and in the realising and releasing of gifts. Each step of my journey has been enormously exciting and stretching and now I take a rather large gulp as I look towards this next step in ministry to which I believe God is calling me."

The Bishop of Birmingham, David Urquhart, who will be her diocesan, said: "I am delighted that Anne has accepted the invitation to join in leading the mission of God across Birmingham and region. She comes with a wealth of experience of nurturing discipleship and growing the Church. I look forward to having a new episcopal colleague and to seeing faith in Jesus Christ flourish in this generation."