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The Church of England’s first woman bishop — and those who follow

by
02 January 2015

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From the Revd Alan Fraser

Sir, - Two things struck me about your coverage (News, 19/26 December) of the appointment of the Revd Libby Lane as the first female bishop in the Church of England.

The first is your startling suggestion in the headline that the diocese of Chester had won a "race". I, like most of the Church of England, I imagine, was unaware that the appointment of bishops was a competitive process in which dioceses sought to steal a march on each other. I had laboured under the delusion that the appointment might have been made after appropriate prayerful consideration.

Second, sadly, it would appear that an opportunity truly to break with tradition and signal that we are serious about the "radical reform" that Lord Green urged (News, 12 December) has been lost.

You reported (News, 5 September) that fully 50 per cent of bishops were privately educated and 42 per cent had first degrees from Oxford and Cambridge. This compares with seven per cent of the general population who are privately educated, and less than one per cent who went to Oxbridge.

At the time, it was taken to be axiomatic that these figures needed to change. Many of us hoped that the elevation of women to the episcopate would provide one mechanism to assist with this process. Unfortunately, it appears that while Ms Lane may "break the mould" in one regard, the Church has chosen to stick with what is familiar in others. Not only was she privately educated, but her first degree is from Oxford.

It is no good saying "We can't simply go on as we are if the Church of England is to flourish," as Archbishop Welby is reported to have urged elsewhere in your pages, only then to do precisely that. I do not doubt Ms Lane's gifts, and certainly wish her well in her ministry, but it is too easy for us to jump on the apparently "obvious" candidates while not reflecting sufficiently on why they might seem so obvious to us. All too often, it is because they share and reflect our values and upbringing, and, therefore, appear to be "one of us".

If these are the kind of "radical steps" we can look forward to, to create the "bias to the poor" promised by the Archbishop, then it does not bode well for the social diversity of the upcoming talent pool.

ALAN FRASER
41 Hobhouse Close, Great Barr
Birmingham B42 1HB

 

From the Revd Adam Young

Sir, - Christmas and New Year are, for many, times of rejoicing, but, to some, times of sorrow. How fittingly that describes the recent announce-ment of the Revd Libby Lane as the first female bishop: gladness for most and sadness for some.

I count myself among the former, but have great empathy for the latter. I am glad Ms Lane is a parish priest and not a fast-tracked business mogul. It is also good that the appointment was made sooner rather than later. I just hope that the Bishops will now keep their other promises to help biblical or traditional complementarians flourish in the C of E.

While I have no idea what this will entail (probably more bishops, for a start), my Christmas wish is, as it were, that we would all be able to work humbly together to maintain church unity for the glory and proclamation of Christ in 2015.

ADAM YOUNG
4 Oxford Street
Saltburn-by-the-Sea TS12 1LG

 

From Canon Margaret Guite

Sir, - I hope that among the first women bishops to be consecrated there may be at least one who was originally admitted to the order of deaconesses. If this hope is fulfilled, it would be very appropriate for her to use as her episcopal pectoral cross the distinctive silver deaconess cross bearing the chirho, which we wore until 1987, when many of us were ordained deacon.

In this way, there would be a fitting and encouraging statement that episcopacy incorporates the distinctive charism of this order of ministry, which has served God and the Church of England faithfully since 1862, as well as the charisms associated with deacons and priests.

MARGARET GUITE
St Mark's Vicarage
Barton Road
Cambridge CB3 9JZ

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