THE first woman bishop in the Church of England, the Rt Revd Libby Lane, is to be the next Bishop of Derby, it was announced this week.
Bishop Lane will be translated from the suffragan see of Stockport in the diocese of Chester, where she was installed in 2015 (News, 30 January 2015).
On Tuesday, she said that her priorities when she joined the Bishops’ Bench next year would include mental health and the welfare of children and young people — she is vice-chair of the trustees of the Children’s Society.
“It is partly from the lived experience of those I love and have lived closely with over many years that I recognise that mental health is such a significant part of people’s lives,” she said. “I would hope to be able to partner those who want to ensure that there is good provision, and that people are given the resources they need to be able to thrive mentally as well as physically.” Such care was “not always consistent across the whole country”.
Bishop Lane grew up in Glossop, in the north-west of Derbyshire, and was among the first women ordained in 1994. She served her title at St James’s, Blackburn, providing her with early experience of work in a “very multifaith parish”, she said. Being a woman priest has meant that, in interfaith work, people “are perhaps particularly attentive to making it work. . . That opens up possibilities.”
Last month, during a service to mark the centenary of women’s suffrage, she described how she had “very publicly had my life transformed by freedoms newly open to women not available previously”. She spoke of a commitment to continuing “the struggle for women, and all who are disenfranchised, excluded, oppressed, or discriminated against, in our own communities and nation, and across the world” (News, 23 November).
In conversation with Rabbi Robyn Ashworth-Steen at the Manchester Jewish Museum this month, she observed of sexism: “What is much more destabilising is the stuff that’s insidious and diminishing, even when it’s not meant to be.
“There is still that sense that we still need protecting. For us to do things on an equal basis with our male peers is something more to comment on. Often that is meant to be encouraging, but I receive it on the inside, deep down, honestly, as undermining and diminishing.”
She has previously equivocated over whether she would describe herself as a feminist (News, 19 December 2014).
Bishop Lane is a member of the Bishops’ reflection group on sexuality, which will guide the next stage of the Church of England’s debate on same-sex relations (News, 23 September 2016).
On Wednesday she said she wanted to “lead a Church in Derbyshire where people find hope because they know they are loved by God in Christ; and I pray that hope sets us free to live our lives in ways that bring change for good.”
While she would not count herself as an academic, she placed a high value on theology and theologians, she said. Her first degree, at Oxford, was in theology, years before ordination to the priesthood was a possibility; she chairs the Council of a theological college, Cranmer Hall, Durham.
“I am really aware of what a gift it is for those ordinands and others across the country, in courses as well as residential colleges, to have access to the academy . . . because it is so formational and deeply resourcing,” she said. “It is really important that it continues to be offered to the Church at every level: theology for all, not just for those who are academic.”
She has spent the past few weeks leading a curates’ book club, exploring Luther’s Gospel by the Bishop of Kensington, Dr Graham Tomlin.
She will be installed in Derby Cathedral after Easter.