Libby Lane on Monday was ordained as the Church of England’s first female bishop, a controversial break in the church’s tradition of an all-male leadership. During the ceremony, a lone voice of dissent said aloud that the clergy’s top hierarchy is no place for a woman, an echo of the opposition that she has faced since her appointment was announced last month. A recent law approved by the queen now permits women to become bishops within the official church.
During the ceremony, the Archbishop of York, the Most Rev. John Sentamu, who was the officiant, announced, “Brothers and sisters, you’ve heard how great the charge that Libby is ready to undertake, and you’ve heard her declarations. Is it now your will that she shall be ordained?” In unison, many of those in attendance replied, "It is.” Immediately afterward, though, one person insisted, "No! Not in the Bible, with respect, Your Grace, I ask to speak on this absolute impediment, please.”
The Rev. Paul Williamson, the person reportedly behind the objection, has a history of opposing the church’s inclusion of ordaining women into priesthood. The fact that Libby was becoming a bishop apparently spurred Williamson's outburst. Sentamu, however, was not to be deterred. “Today, we have assembled to consecrate Libby Lane as bishop in the Church of God," Santamu responded. "The Church of England is by law established. The consecration of a woman to the office of bishop is now lawful under the canon of the Church of England, which is part of the law of the land.” The rest of the service went on without further interruption.
Afterward, Lane, 48, released a statement detailing the goals she hopes to attain in her new position. "My consecration service is not really about me," Lane said in part. "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."