Mark Waugh/PA Wire

'If it's in my lifetime, I will rejoice' says Bishop Libby about woman Archbishop of Canterbury

Tue 12 Mar 2019
By Cara Bentley

On the 25th anniversary of women priests in the Church of England, Bishop Libby has spoken to Premier about her calling and the future of women in the church.

The legislation to allow women priests went through General Synod in 1992 while the Rt Rev Libby Lane - who was to later become the first female Bishop - was at theological college with her husband, George Lane. They got ordained together in 1994.

She told Premier: "I was in that first cohort of women who were selected and trained and ordained exactly in parallel alongside their male peers, so we knew that that was going to be our trajectory, that when we completed our training, which we had done at the same time, we would be deaconed and then priested at the same time."

In January 2015, she took on the role as suffragan Bishop of Stockport after the vote to allow women bishops passed the year before.

When asked about how what the 'next thing' is for women in the Church of England was and what she thought of the next Archbishop of Canterbury being a woman she said: "I think the issue around Archbishop will come when it comes. There are certainly women who have their gifts and who will have the experience when those vacancies arise and I pray that they will be discerned alongside their brothers who exercise episcopal ministry and that time will come.

"I don't know when that will be. But if it does, and it's in my lifetime, I will rejoice."

However, she added that there were bigger issues than the one that might get the most media attention: "I think that the wider questions about the ways that women exercise their gifts in the life of the Church and through the Church for the kingdom of God in the wider world - I think attention being given to that across every level of the Church is at least as important, and if not more important, as to when a woman holds the role of an Archbishop."

Bishop Libby will also join the House of Lords benches this year, something she said she is looking forward to: "The invitation will come relatively soon because there is now a vacancy among what's called the Lords Spiritual...and I am the next person to take that vacancy."

The invitation is expected to come soon although she doesn't know exactly when, and she will be introduced in the next few months.

"I think it is a remarkable privilege to be able to exercise that role in the life of the nation. And I'm looking forward to be able to do that and to learning from other bishops and those who exercise that role in the House of Lords more widely.

"I hope to, you know, lend what I can bring into that and to do that well for the well-being of our nation.

"I think that is part of what the Church of England understands our vocation to be - to be servants of the nation and lend what we have to the flourishing of the whole nation and I hope that I'm able to be one of those who contributes to that through the work of the House of Lords.

"It is exciting, yeah, it really is."

There are, of course, a range of views across the Church of England on ordination - listen to this conversation with Bishop Libby Lane; Rev. Preb. Angela Berners-Wilson, who was the first of the group of women to be ordained in 1994; Amy Wicks, a student at Oakhill who has decided to not get ordained; and Rachel Browning, who decided to be ordained as a deacon and not a priest:

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