Hundreds attended the very first sermon preached by a female bishop in the Church of England Sunday when Right Reverend Libby Lane led services at Chester Cathedral, which has been the seat of the Bishop of Chester for more than four centuries.
Sunday's service marked the formal beginning of Lane's ministry. Lane, 48, was ordained as deacon in 1993 and as priest in 1994. She has served as Dean of Women in Ministry for the Diocese of Chester since 2010. She studied theology at St. Peter's College at Oxford. In December 2014, when she was named as the Church's first female bishop, she called the appointment "unexpected and very exciting," and the day "historic."
Lane was ordained Bishop of Stockport in January during a two-hour service at York Minster before more than 1,000 people. Archbishop of York John Sentamu led the service. He wrote in a local newspaper the same day that ever since the Virgin Mary, "women have often been the backbone of the Church, unheralded, unsung, invaluable." He added, "It is high time we had women bishops. I have been praying and working for this day."
But Lane's ordination was not without its detractors. When the Archbishop asked whether Lane should be ordained, Rev. Paul Williamson spoke up, shouting, "Not in the Bible," the BBC reported. Conservative groups have also voiced opposition to the idea of ordaining women as bishops, and Roman Catholic bishops who ordinarily attend such ceremonies were not present, the Guardian reported.
In November 2014, the Church of England passed legislation that would allow women to be appointed as bishops. The action occured two decades after the first group of women were ordained as priests in the Church of England.
"In a few years' time," Sentamu wrote in January, "when more and more women will be bishops, I predict we shall be wondering how we ever managed without them."