IT WAS, the Dean of York, the Very Revd Vivienne Faull, said, a
"wonderful and glorious morning". The Archbishop of York, Dr
Sentamu, described it as "a great day of rejoicing".
It was the day of the consecration of the Church of England's
first woman bishop, the next Suffragan Bishop of Stockport. There
were live broadcasts from York Minster on national TV and radio
networks, and the hashtag "#BishopLibby" was trending on
The service began, as all such services do, with a great
procession of clergy, choir, legal officials, and dignitaries. But
this was different. There were bishops from around the York
province, and representatives from the wider Anglican Communion,
including Ireland, the United States, South Africa, New Zealand,
and those whom Dean Faull described as the "intrepid travellers
from the Southern Province of the C of E", including the former
Archbishop of Canterbury Lord Carey, and Archbishop Welby, who took
their places in the middle of the ranks of about 110 bishops.
The Presidents of the Methodist Conference and the Baptist
Union, the Moderator of the United Reformed Church, and leaders
representing the Moravian and Coptic Orthodox Churches were also
present, as well as a congregation of more than 2000 clergy and
Dr Sentamu said that the consecration of the Revd Libby Lane put
her in a long line of women who had borne witness to Jesus Christ,
dating back to St Mary Magdalene; but the service was not about Ms
Lane, he said; it was, instead, "all about Jesus".
In the sermon, the Archdeacon of York, the Ven. Sarah Bullock,
described God as the "midwife" who was bringing "into life a new
stage of ministry".
She had been struck by a line in the Christmas edition of the
BBC TV drama Call The Midwife, in which a character,
Cynthia, was struggling with God's call in her life. "I don't
understand this," Cynthia said. "Why does he want me? I have
nothing to offer - so little to sacrifice in response to his
Archdeacon Bullock said that the character went on to realise
that "when we offer ourselves to the living God, with all our
failings, God blesses the offering." And there was no pecking order
with God: whether it came from bishops or lay people, "God blesses
When the consecration was about to take place, Dr Sentamu asked
the congregation: "Is it now your will that [Libby Lane] should be
ordained?" A voice, later identified as that of the Revd Paul
Williamson, Rector of St George's, Hanworth, a longstanding
campaigner against the ordination of women, shouted "No! Not in the
He said: "With respect, Your Grace, I ask to speak on this
absolute impediment, please."
In response, Dr Sentamu read a prepared statement that explained
the legal processes that made the consecration lawful; and he
reminded the congregation that, at the beginning of the service,
the principal registrar of the province, Lionel Lennox, had read
the Queen's mandate for the consecration. "There is no impediment
in law in me obeying Her Majesty's command," Dr Sentamu said.
He repeated his question, and the congregation, twice as loud as
before, replied: "It is."
"I'm really pleased that there was a voice of dissent," the
Vicar of Blyth and Scrooby with Ranskill, the Revd Kate Bottley,
said after the service, "but even more pleased that there were more
than 2000 who shouted that [the consecration] was our will."
She made her comments outside the Minster as clergy, bishops,
and laity celebrated the consecration. Earlier, after they had
processed out, the bishops staged an impromptu "team photo". The
new Bishop of Stockport took centre stage at the front, flanked by
the Archbishops of Canterbury and York.
Dr Sentamu, with Bishop Lane to his left, and her husband, the
Revd George Lane, to his right, expressed his happiness by giving
the photographers a double thumbs-up sign. Mr Lane is a chaplain at
Afterwards, the Bishop of Liverpool, the Rt Revd Paul Bayes,
said that the service was "not the end of the journey for the
Church of England, but a milestone on the way".
And the Bishop of Worcester, Dr John Inge, said that it was "a
really very significant and symbolic day for the Church of
"There was a tremendous atmosphere of joy in the Minster this
morning - hundreds of people; and, of course, it was only the tip
of the iceberg," he said. "There will come a time when it will seem
extraordinary that it was such a long time coming."
"I hope that people will be touched by all that has happened in
the Minster today, and that it will speak not just of the
consecration of a woman as a bishop, but of God's great love."
The Roman Catholic co-chairman of the Anglican-Roman Catholic
International Commission, the Archbishop of Birmingham, the Most
Revd Bernard Longley, said he would remember Bishop Lane in his
Interviewed on Vatican Radio, he noted the presence of women
bishops already in the worldwide Anglican Communion, and said that,
although the ordination of women presented challenges to the
dialogue, this latest development "shouldn't affect the way in
which the dialogue is continued".