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Tue, Sep

Church of England appoints first female Bishop

Reverend Libby Lane has been announced as the first female bishop for the Church of England, just a month after a historic change to canon law.

She will become the new Bishop of Stockport, a post that has been vacant since May.

Mrs Lane has been the vicar at St Peter's Hale and St Elizabeth's Ashley, in the diocese of Chester, since 2007.

The general synod voted to back plans for female bishops in July and formally adopted legislation on November 17.

The appointment will end centuries of male leadership of the church and comes 20 years after women became priests.

Mrs Lane was ordained a deacon in 1993 and a priest in 1994, serving her curacy in Blackburn, Lancashire. Since 2010, she has also held the role of Dean of Women in Ministry for the diocese of Chester.

At Stockport town hall, the new bishop, whose role was approved by the Queen, said it was a "remarkable day for me and a historic day for the church".

"This is unexpected and very exciting," she said.

Prime Minister David Cameron congratulated Mrs Lane and said: "This is an historic appointment and an important step forward for the Church towards greater equality in its senior positions".

Mrs Lane will be consecrated as the eighth bishop of the town at a ceremony at York Minster on  January 26.

Legislation to fast track women bishops into the House Of Lords will be introduced to Parliament on Thursday.

But Mrs Lane will not be able to enter the House of Lords, as the post she is taking up is a junior or suffragan appointment within the Diocese of Chester, the BBC's religious correspondent Caroline Wyatt said.

The first woman bishop eligible to take up a seat in the Lords is expected to be announced in the new year.

Mrs Lane, who was schooled in Manchester and then the University at Oxford, before training for ministry at Cranmer Hall in Durham, dismissed suggestions her appointment was just a symbolic gesture by a church still predominantly run by men.

The bishop and her husband, who is also a priest, were one of the first married couples in the Church of England to be ordained together.