ENGLAND — The first woman bishop to serve in the Church of England was named Wednesday, in a historic step that follows years of sometimes contentious debate.
Downing Street announced that the Rev. Libby Lane, who was been a priest since 1994, will be the new Bishop of Stockport, in northern England. She will be consecrated as a bishop on January 26.
Her appointment brings to a close a thorny chapter in the church’s recent history.
Women have been able to serve as priests in the Church of England since the early 1990s. But some traditionalists resisted the move to allow them to become bishops, culminating in it being narrowly voted down in 2012 by the General Synod, the three-times-a-year meeting that sets policies for the church.
Two years earlier, the church’s governing body had narrowly rejected a measure, aimed at satisfying conservatives, that would have allowed parishes that opposed women bishops to have an additional male bishop.
A revised proposal was finally approved by Church of England leaders last month.
Speaking at a news conference in Stockport, Lane said she was grateful but also “somewhat daunted” to be chosen.
“This is unexpected and very exciting,” she said. “On this historic day as the Church of England announces the first woman nominated to be Bishop, I am very conscious of all those who have gone before me, women and men, who for decades have looked forward to this moment. But most of all I am thankful to God.”
The Archbishop of Canterbury, Justin Welby — who has backed allowing women to be bishops — said he was delighted by her selection.
“Her Christ-centered life, calmness and clear determination to serve the church and the community make her a wonderful choice,” he said.
The Church of England is the largest church of the Anglican Communion, with more than 26 million baptized members.
The communion represents more than 85 million people in 165 countries, including the U.S. Episcopal Church.
The Anglican Communion News Service lists church districts that have women bishops including New Zealand and Polynesia, Australia, Canada, The Episcopal Church, Cuba, Southern Africa, Ireland and South India.