Comments: The Rt Revd Libby Lane

Very moving indeed.

So right and fitting.

And an international occasion as befits something which other provinces and denominations have been doing for decades.

Good to see Old Catholics and Lutherans and other ecumenical partners; including Porvoo.

Posted by Laurie at Monday, 26 January 2015 at 4:36pm GMT

Praise God from whom all blessing flows!

I note that the Sun still rises in the East. The Earth is still rotating on its axis. The Universe is still intact. Her Majesty still sits upon the throne. God is in His/Her heaven, and all is well.

Posted by peterpi - Peter Gross at Monday, 26 January 2015 at 8:01pm GMT

So right and fitting indeed, as Laurie says. But why, for such a significant and profound occasion were we subjected to such a surprisingly dull, theologically 'thin' and (at times) cringe-inducing sermon? It began in typical 'girl church' fashion and, as my wife said to me, why do these women wonder why no-one takes them seriously? For such a momentous moment in the Church's history, how come we didn't hear Sarah Coakley, Ann Loades, Angela Tilby or Judith Maltby? I know, you will quickly tell me that consecrands are allowed to choose their own preacher. But why? Deacons and priests are not given the option. It was a missed opportunity for something engaging and penetrating to be said (and hopefully in less than the 25 minutes taken by this morning's preacher).

Posted by Tom Marshall at Monday, 26 January 2015 at 8:07pm GMT

Peter, I further note that the south transept of York Minster is still intact and has not been struck by lightening.
Tom, perhaps one of the most memorable sermons delivered at a consecration was given by Canon F A Simpson at Southwark cathedral when Mervyn Stockwood was elevated to the episcopacy. The full story is told in "A Last Eccentric" where one of the last Prince Bishops takes up the story:-
"in November 1958 Monsignor Gilbey gave his customary dinner in honour of Simpson's birthday. My appointment to Southwark had just been announced. The Monsignor, who knew more about the customs of the Church of England than I did, told us that the new bishop had the right to choose the preacher for the service and suggested that I nominate Simpson."
"The sermon, when it was eventually delivered, won warm approval from some: others, including Archbishop Fisher, said it ought never to have been preached. I found it deeply moving and helpful."
The entire oration was addressed solely to Mervyn, despite the fact that the Bishop of Barking was also being consecrated at the same time! The homily included this passage:-
"I hesitate to say this. For to you has been given a measure of eloquence, a rare gift, a noble gift, although unharnessed it can be a dangerous gift. But harnessed, not shackled, it will be all the more valuable in your new office, since not many holders of that office possess it."
No wonder Fisher was spitting blood and feathers!
I further recall that at the consecration of a former Bishop of Stockport (Frank Sergeant) also in York Minster, the preacher was Canon Trevor Collins, Vicar of Boston who said on that occasion words to this effect.
Whenever I see gatherings of bishops I am reminded of the words from the Christmas Carol -
"Say, ye holy shepherds say, what your joyful news today."

Posted by Father David at Tuesday, 27 January 2015 at 5:34am GMT

She is wrong to say that this is not about her. She was consecrated not womankind. I have seen precious little about the merits of her appointment as an individual. It seems that it is sufficient that she is a woman which sells both her and other candidates short. There should have been a full and frank discussion of her merits alongside those of other "possibles". Would be interesting to see her compared with say Jeffrey John

Posted by Stan Shaw at Tuesday, 27 January 2015 at 8:18am GMT

'There should have been a full and frank discussion of her merits alongside those of other "possibles"'

I don't believe it is customary for the CNC to release information about their deliberations. Why should they make an exception in this case?
Or were you rather saying that there should have been a lot more public gossip and speculation about it?

ED notes: this was a suffragan see, not under the purview of the CNC.

Posted by Erika Baker at Tuesday, 27 January 2015 at 9:49am GMT

I think the very clear merits of Libby Lane's candidacy are these: she is an experienced parish priest; she was chosen because those who have worked closely with her have discerned her gifts for episcopacy; and she has experience of being part of a diocesan senior staff team. I am actually delighted by this, and that the first consecration was not one of the Ruth Gledhill sweep stake hot tips(Winkett, Hedges, Osborne, Grenfall and so on). In fact, I detect something of the Welby/Sentamu strategy coming to fruition here, if you think about it. The last thing either of them want is a more liberal complexion to the house of bishops - and the 'usual suspects' would alter the balance considerably. Several would bring a much-needed theological rigour to proceeding (and they won't want that).
Libby Lane also fits the bill as far as the archbishops are concerned(St John's, Durham, around the time Welby trained there - just like the new Bishop of Europe over whom Welby had a completely free hand in the appointment). I think we'll possibly see Vivian Faull in Southwell & Nottingham. But I am prepared to wager that the others may be leap-frogged and left behind by women who fit the archiepiscopal corporate criteria.

Posted by James A at Tuesday, 27 January 2015 at 10:04am GMT

The Bishop of Chester's public account available on the diocesan website is:

"Last summer we took a decision not to delay the appointment until female candidates could be considered, partly because of uncertainty about when the necessary Canon would be promulged. After a very careful search, we invited three priests to meet in September with me and my advisory group. To our surprise, although they were a talented group, none of the candidates were judged to be quite right for this post.

Reviewing the situation, it was then clear that the Canon to permit the admission of women to the episcopate would be promulged in November, and by this time Libby had come through the (new) national process of assessment for candidates for the episcopate, with a strong endorsement. She subsequently met with an enlarged advisory group, who were unanimous in supporting her appointment.

God works in a mysterious way, his wonders to perform...."

You need also to remember that she was already chosen by her peers to be the 'north western' additional female observing member of the House of Bishops.

Posted by Peter Mullins at Tuesday, 27 January 2015 at 10:54am GMT

Thank you for the correction, Editor!

Posted by Erika Baker at Tuesday, 27 January 2015 at 10:58am GMT

Like James A I, too, am delighted that a woman who has faithfully served at the coal-face of several Northern parishes, who has not been grasping a BBC microphone at every available opportunity for the past two decades, and who has manifestly not been positioning herself for the purple, was the first woman to be made a bishop. The Bishop of Chester and his senior colleagues are to be congratulated for such wise discernment and for setting an example for the future. But... oh... that sermon! Yes, please (in response to Tom Marhsall) much more discernment in that direction for the future, too, please.

Posted by David Gibson at Tuesday, 27 January 2015 at 11:03am GMT

So she is an experienced parish priest. I think that the CofE may have an ample supply of those. I do not see it as a sufficient qualification. Those who have worked with her have discerned her gifts. Great. I am not saying that she does not have gifts to be discerned just that it would be nice if someone let us know what was discerned?

As for the Ruth Gledhill "sweepstake" the fact that it exists merely evidences that there were other possibilities. It would be good and I think helpful to her to hear someone (anyone) discuss their relative merits.

I am not saying that her gender should not carry weight merely that she should reach a threshold of competence before it does. I expect that she has but I have never seen it discussed.

People seem to be running around shouting "she's a woman". I would prefer it if they were shouting, "Great appointment and by the way she's a woman"

I will repeat my earlier question. In what respect, other than gender, is she a stronger candidate than say Jeffrey John?

Posted by Stan Shaw at Tuesday, 27 January 2015 at 11:18am GMT

Re the sermon. Agreed. It was a perfect example of 'Members of the Club talking to Members of the Club' - and for far, far too long. But... this may be a preview of the new cloned, corporate and managerial C of E. Let's hope the Archbishop of York takes his public role - and the public character of the Church - more seriously when he preaches next Monday in York Minster. Unfortunately, I suspect the BBC will not be providing live streaming for Fr North's consecration.

Posted by Simon R at Tuesday, 27 January 2015 at 11:27am GMT

Sorry but I thought sermon was brilliant - as did just about everyone I spoke to after the service. Responses to preaching are pretty subjective so we may have to agree to differ.

However, Sarah did provide theological depth in an accessible way in my view. (And it was about the same length as other consecration sermons I've heard). Using the midwife image of God (very Biblical...) was apt and she did what I think Libby might have hoped she's do -shift the focus away from Libby and onto what God is doing (through Libby). A sermon is not a campaign speech. We've had lots of those. (I've made plenty).

And please try to avoid lumping Libby and Sarah in with a move to managerialism in the CofE. Yes they were at college with ++Justin but 2+2 does not equal 5. Can't we rejoice at what the Cof E has finally done and critique other developments elsewhere? (And they certainly need critiquing.)

Posted by Charles Read at Tuesday, 27 January 2015 at 12:09pm GMT

Sorry, @Stan Shaw. This is the Diocese of Chester we are talking about. Hell would freeze over before Jeffrey John would be appointed to anything - let alone a Suffragan See - in that Evangelical-majority stronghold.

Posted by James A at Tuesday, 27 January 2015 at 12:25pm GMT

When the incumbents of Cromer, Heswall and St Pancras were announced to be the future Bishops of Grimsby, Huddersfield and Burnley (to take a few recent examples almost at random), nobody was suggesting that it was odd that their CVs and aptitude weren't being publically ranked against those of other theoretical candidates, so I'm not sure where the suggestion is coming from that the appointment as Bishop of a parish priest already chosen by her peers to be one of a handful of additional female observing member of the House of Bishops should be discussed in those terms.

Posted by Peter Mullins at Tuesday, 27 January 2015 at 1:29pm GMT

I'd say that with the exception of the 'plant pot' interrupting, the day went very well. You have to wonder though when it gets to the third or fourth women bishop; will they be remembered once the media circus has moved on? How many people now remember the astronauts names of the third moon landing?.When a previous commentator described Bishops Libby's attributes, then it would also describe Fr North. One thing that did jar me with the coverage was when it referred to Fr North as 'hardline'. A decent, caring and dedicated man - which we all can agree with, and catholic -yes, some may hesitate, but hardline - no. Ian Paisley was hardline

Posted by Henry Dee at Tuesday, 27 January 2015 at 1:40pm GMT

Just out of interest why in anglican ordinations are bishops not given mitres?

Posted by Mark Wharton at Tuesday, 27 January 2015 at 1:48pm GMT

You write - 'it would be nice if someone let us know what was discerned'. 'Us' being 'who'? - the rest of the church? Everyone? Why? It's not our job. There are careful processes and people charged with working through them. I am grateful to those who do. I don't expect to be invited to sit in judgment over how that works or what is decided. I am not qualified to be either in ay case. Bishop Libby was publicly announced and commended - as all bishops have been before her. Not sure why you expect more now than what normally happens? I agree that gifts and call are what is important, not gender. But given that she was the first woman ever it is surely not surprising that her gender is noted at this point!

Posted by David Runcorn at Tuesday, 27 January 2015 at 3:59pm GMT

This thread needs to avoid sexism.

We can find that elsewhere aplenty.

Posted by Laurie at Tuesday, 27 January 2015 at 5:48pm GMT

Oh come on, @Charles Read. It was an absolute travesty. Never before have I heard such self-indulgence and cringe-making froth. If you need your theology to be simplified to that degree, it's probably time to resurrect Enid Blyton. We have excellent women theologians in the UK (already mentioned in this thread) and, when you consider this consecration was being streamed across the world, I am, frankly, ashamed that an opportunity to offer an intelligent, humane and rigorous account of Christian tradition, aimed at the millions who were tuning in, was abused by a senior cleric who seemed to have little sense of her wider responsibilities. Compare it, even, to Barry Rogerson's sermon at the ordination of the first women priest's in Bristol in 1994 - or Angela Tilby's sermon at the 10th anniversary of womens' priesting in St Paul's in 2004. It was, as someone else has already said, the 'Club' speaking to the 'Club.'

Posted by Gareth P at Tuesday, 27 January 2015 at 11:02pm GMT

Does anyone know how to 'watch again' the consecration on the BBC News Channel?

Posted by Anne at Wednesday, 28 January 2015 at 8:13am GMT Church of England bishop wore a mitre until the 1880s.Then it was a minority for at least another fifty years. Wallace Benn was the last bishop to refuse to wear a mitre.Indeed in the Church of Ireland only two have recently done so since 2000.

Posted by robertian williams at Wednesday, 28 January 2015 at 9:15am GMT

Further to Mark's question about mitres, I was wondering why Libby Lane was wearing a black chimere, when all her fellow bishops, including the women bishops from elsewhere in the Anglican Communion, were wearing red. Surely the church's wish should be to emphasise that +Lane is absolutely equivalent to all her fellow bishops, and having her differently attired doesn't seem like a good idea.
I have seen consecration rites in which the chimere is put on only after the anointing and laying on of hands, and I can see the symbolic sense in that.

Posted by Malcolm Dixon at Wednesday, 28 January 2015 at 11:34am GMT

"Just out of interest why in anglican ordinations are bishops not given mitres?"

I think the customary dress at CofE ordinations of Bishops has not changed over a couple of hundred years and dates back to the time before CofE Bishops took to wearing mitres.

Posted by Peter Mullins at Wednesday, 28 January 2015 at 11:50am GMT

@Gareth P: Quite. What Orthodox and Roman Catholic observers must have made of it, I cannot begin to imagine. It was an excellent example of how to trivialise and domesticate something of universal significance. Here was an opportunity for the Church of England to speak to the whole Oecumene about our understanding of episcope, and how what we did last Monday is a legitimate and faithful development of catholic faith and order. Obviously, this is not something Monday's preacher considered to be remotely important. No wonder others in this thread are asking if this is the tone of what is to come in the future.

Posted by William Richards at Wednesday, 28 January 2015 at 3:04pm GMT

Why do bishops at their consecration in the Southern Province wear red chimeres while those being consecrated to serve in the Northern Province wear black chimeres at their consecration?

Posted by Father David at Wednesday, 28 January 2015 at 4:52pm GMT

Black chimeres were always the norm at consecrations tho I think there have been one or two in the southern province where the new bishop has worn red....Of courses red chimere really presumes a doctorate...which most bishops don't have ( tho until the 1960s I think, every new bishop was given a doctorate by their university on assuming office)I notice that when +Justin comes to evensong in Canterbury he wears black ( and a black rather than purple shirt) At a recent ordination where all were in red) he said to a bishop who had a doctorate " You're one of the few here who deserves to wear a red chimere"

Posted by Perry Butler at Wednesday, 28 January 2015 at 4:55pm GMT

Malcolm Dixon: "I was wondering why Libby Lane was wearing a black chimere ...."

This would appear to be a provincial custom. Examination of the pictures of the consecrations that took place in 2014 shows that in the Northern Province all the consecrands wore black chimeres while in the Southern Province all wore red ones.

I don't think there was any attempt, intentional or otherwise, to single out +Libby. She simply followed all who went before her in that place.

Posted by RPNewark at Wednesday, 28 January 2015 at 6:50pm GMT

Mitre-free Bishops -- also the norm in TEC in mid century last and up to the 60s. Have a look at old pictures.

Posted by cseitz at Wednesday, 28 January 2015 at 7:38pm GMT

Traditionally, bishops holding earned doctorates wear a red chimere and those who do not wear a black one. Neither Libby Lane nor ++Justin have doctorates and so they wear black chimeres.

Posted by Daniel Lamont at Wednesday, 28 January 2015 at 9:31pm GMT

Perry the Province of Canterbury no longer observes that custom. Scarlet all around at the last one I attended.

Daniel sadly I have seen many a bishop without a doctorate wearing scarlet.

Posted by Simon Sarmiento at Wednesday, 28 January 2015 at 10:09pm GMT

"Let's hope the Archbishop of York takes his public role - and the public character of the Church - more seriously when he preaches next Monday in York Minster. Unfortunately, I suspect the BBC will not be providing live streaming for Fr North's consecration".
- Posted by: Simon R on Tuesday -

Now, with F.i.F.'s problems about bishops who have taken part in the ordination of women bishops; is it true that the ABY (who has already done this) is going to be allowed by F.i.F. to actually preach at Fr. North's episcopal ordination?

One might have thought that even the preaching of such a bishop (women-affirming) might be anathema in such a situation.

Of course, the rest of us in the world-wide Anglican Communion understand the right of the Provincial Archbishop to preach, but I'm a bit puzzled why his plea of 'gracious restraint' has not been extended to the preachment.

One can only guess it might be a calculated effort at damage control - in a divided household of B.'s

Posted by Father Ron Smith at Wednesday, 28 January 2015 at 10:38pm GMT

“I am not saying she does not have the gifts to be discerned just that it would be nice if someone let us know what was discerned.”

@Stan Shaw - It is a cardinal principle of appointments that there should be openness and transparency of process, coupled with confidentiality of deliberation. I did not see the role specification for the new Bishop of Stockport but is reasonable to make some obvious assumptions about what the Bishop of Chester wanted. He would have convened a small advisory group and solicited candidates, both through advertisement and by consulting widely. Names would have been gathered. The Archbishops’ Appointments Secretary would have supplied information on the candidates, or if not available would have obtained it from the candidates (with or without telling them at that stage what vacancy they might be being considered for). This information contains a statement by the candidate and is an opportunity for them to set out their views on episcopal ministry and the skills and experience they would bring through preferment. There would have been a longlist of some 6-8 names. The group would have advised the bishop on the basis of which 3-4 candidates would have been called for interview. References would have been obtained. We now know, from an Ad Clerum, that the bishop initially decided not to wait and hold the vacancy open until the Bishops and Priests (Consecration and Ordination) Measure was promulged. In the event he interviewed three men, following which it was decided not to appoint. As it became clear that the law would be changed in November he then invited Libby Lane for interview to meet a wider group. It is speculation on my part, but her name would have been mentioned at an earlier point, despite her candidature being then academic. Should he have assembled a fresh shortlist of men and women? There is no reason why he needed to. In effect he compared Libby Lane against the three men already interviewed. As to her qualifications, there has been a process for enabling potential women to prepare for episcopal office since November 2012. Entitled the Transformation Agenda it is designed to support women in preparing for episcopal leadership and help bishops assess whether any particular candidate is ‘ready now’ for consideration. That Libby Lane was on that list with a strong endorsement is unsurprising. She held a senior role in a diocese (that of Dean of Women’s Ministry), had earlier been actively involved with vocations (as an Associate Director of Ordinands) and has led parish churches into growth. Significantly, she had been elected as one of eight participant observers to the House of Bishops for the North West region, the electors for which were broadly women clergy in a cluster of dioceses. Was she papabile? Clearly. Is her gender a factor? Well, as the first woman bishop it was bound to be. Was she nominated just because she was a woman? Most clearly not. However, I am on record elsewhere in a BBC interview in saying that where there are two candidates of equal potential, male and female, we may well see some affirmative action in the early stages of this new paradigm, but in Libby Lane’s case it appears that she ‘saw off’ three other (male) candidates!

Posted by Anthony Archer at Wednesday, 28 January 2015 at 10:58pm GMT

Apparently the custom was different in Thomas Cranmer's day (and he had a DD). I kinda miss those natty little caps the Tudor bishops used to wear, though! Way more stylish than mitres!

Posted by Tim Chesterton at Thursday, 29 January 2015 at 12:10am GMT

Sorry, I linked to the wrong image in the previous post. The natty little cap is more visible in this one.

Posted by Tim Chesterton at Thursday, 29 January 2015 at 12:12am GMT

We know that the Archbishop of York will preach the gospel at Fr. Philip's consecration on Monday but, as far as I am aware, we do not yet know the identity of the Chief Consecrator! I wonder who Ebor has nominated in his stead to perform this sacred task?

Posted by Father David at Thursday, 29 January 2015 at 9:00am GMT

Yet in Parliament these convocational robes are forever black, doctorate or no!
As I understand it, This woman, as things stand, will not be eligible to wear any colour garment in the Lords as the new legislation only fast tracks diocesan bishops.

Posted by Martin Reynolds at Thursday, 29 January 2015 at 9:14am GMT

Anthony Thank you for a very helpful, shrewd and positive summary of the process.

Posted by David Runcorn at Thursday, 29 January 2015 at 9:52am GMT

Thanks to all those who have answered my question about the colour of chimeres. Despite ++Justin's reported views on the subject, I note that he too was wearing a red chimere on Monday!

Posted by Malcolm Dixon at Thursday, 29 January 2015 at 11:01am GMT

Chief Consecrator next Monday? What about Bp London? He wasn't there this last week, he is Philip North's current Diocesan, and he has never ordained a woman priest (nor a man, for that matter.) And he is after all, number three in the hierarchy after Cantuar and Ebor. Just a question of not being from the northern province....

Posted by peter kettle at Thursday, 29 January 2015 at 6:35pm GMT

But as a sign of priestly humility the ABC more often than not wears a black shirt rather than an imperial and regal purple shirt.
I see from the York Minster website that the Bishop of Chichester will be the Chief Celebrant on February 2nd. The ABY has had to go all the way to the South Coast of England to secure a serving diocesan to stand in his stead, as there isn't a single a Traditionalist Diocesan Bishop left in the whole of the Northern Province. Nevertheless, this is a good choice for + Martin to take on the important role as Chief Celebrant as before he was given his own diocese he was Suffragan Bishop of Whitby so will be well known in the diocese of York.

Posted by Father David at Thursday, 29 January 2015 at 6:38pm GMT

There's no doubt the appointment was made predominantly on merit. That's not to say other factors weren't taken into consideration. Given that the Bishop of Chester was one of the signatories of the letter blocking Jeffrey John's appointment in 2003 and has also endorsed gay 'cure' therapies, it was never likely that someone with outspoken pro-gay views would have been appointed, regardless of gender. As one of the observers, we assume, during the time of the HoB's meeting last year to consider their Valentine day statement, her views may have been made known. That doesn't mean she agreed with it, only that her participation in the discussion may have been a factor.

Posted by Andrew at Thursday, 29 January 2015 at 7:31pm GMT
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