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Church of England Announces First Ever Woman Bishop, Breaking Centuries of Tradition

Church of England Announces First Ever Woman Bishop, Breaking Centuries of Tradition

Libby Lane, a suffragan (Assistant) bishop in the Diocese of Chester, smiles as her forthcoming appointment as the new Bishop of Stockport is announced in the Town Hall in Stockport, northern England December 17, 2014. | (Photo: REUTERS/Phil Noble)

The Church of England has for the first time in its history appointed a woman bishop, breaking centuries of tradition that had defined the position as exclusive to men. The Rev. Libby Lane was announced on Wednesday as the new Bishop of Stockport, with her consecration ceremony scheduled for January.

"I am grateful for, though somewhat daunted by, the confidence placed in me by the Diocese of Chester. This is unexpected and very exciting. 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," Lane said, responding to the news.

The Archbishop of Canterbury, the Most Rev. Justin Welby, praised the news and said that he is "delighted" that Lane was chosen for the position.

"Her Christ-centered life, calmness and clear determination to serve the church and the community make her a wonderful choice," Welby said.

"She will be bishop in a diocese that has been outstanding in its development of people, and she will make a major contribution. She and her family will be in my prayers during the initial excitement, and the pressures of moving."

Reuters noted that British Prime Minister David Cameron also congratulated Lane, who is a 48-year-old married mother of two.

"Congratulations to Rev. Libby Lane on becoming the first woman bishop in the Church. A historic appointment and important day for equality," Cameron said.

The Church of England's move to approve female bishops came following a historic vote in July, where the motion received the required two-thirds majority.

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While many within the Anglican Communion praised the vote, conservative voices said that they are disappointed in the breaking of tradition.

"There is still at least a quarter of the Church for whom this package does not provide for their theological convictions," said at the time Susie Leafe, director of the conservative evangelical group Reform, who is also a lay member.

Welby admitted earlier that the theological debate on women's position in the Church will continue.

"The challenge for us will be for the church to model good disagreement and to continue to demonstrate love for those who disagree on theological grounds. Very few institutions achieve this, but if we manage this we will be living our more fully the call of Jesus Christ to love one another. As delighted as I am for the outcome of this vote I am also mindful of those within the Church for whom the result will be difficult and a cause of sorrow," the Archbishop of Canterbury said.

Lane, who currently serves as Vicar of St Peter's, Hale, and St Elizabeth's, Ashley, was ordained as a priest in 1994. As the 8th Bishop of Stockport, she will also serve as assistant bishop in the Diocese of Chester, and will be consecrated on January 26, 2015.

The Bishop of Chester, the Rt Rev Dr Peter Forster, acknowledged that as the first woman bishop in the Church of England, Lane "will face many challenges as well as enjoying many opportunities to be an ambassador for Jesus Christ. I have no doubt that she has the gifts and determination to be an outstanding bishop."

"I am delighted at her designation as Bishop of Stockport after a lengthy process of discernment across the Church of England and beyond," he added.

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