First female bishop Rev Libby Lane is a 'bridge-builder'

Bishop Libby Lane at her press conference Image copyright Reuters
Image caption Bishop-designate Lane is remembered as having an 'incisive brain' by her school religion teacher

One of Stockport's most noted landmarks is its viaduct - one of Europe's largest brick structures.

But according to its former bishop, the viaduct is also a fitting symbol for his successor, who will become the Church of England's first female bishop.

The Right Reverend Robert Atwell, now Bishop of Exeter, is the former "boss" of the Reverend Libby Lane, 48, who will follow him as Suffragan Bishop of Stockport in the Diocese of Chester.

"One of Stockport's claims to fame is that it has the biggest built viaduct in the country which spans over the River Mersey," he said.

'Very warm'

"It is a great icon of Stockport, and Libby is herself - she is a great bridge builder."

Describing her as "very warm", the bishop added: "I think she is such a wise appointment.

"She will build bridges between the Church and the local community and between people of different opinions.

"I have every confidence she will go through her ministry with great panache and joy."

Vicki Wells, churchwarden at St Peter's, Hale, where the Rev Lane has served for the past seven years, said she had the ability to reach out to everyone from toddlers to the oldest pensioners.

Image copyright Stephen McKay/Geograph
Image caption Stockport's new bishop is a 'bridge-builder', her predecessor says

"Our congregation has increased threefold since she came here. It speaks for itself, really," she said.

Appointing female bishops has been a divisive issue in the Church of England, but even opponents of female ordination in the Diocese of Chester have respect for a woman who has served as the diocese's family life officer.

'Agree to disagree'

Fr Peter Walsh, Vicar of St Andrew's, West Kirkby, welcomed the appointment, despite his congregation's objection to the ordination of women.

The parish comes under the supervision of the Bishop of Beverley as part of the Church of England's Alternative Episcopal Oversight, its concession to those opposed to female bishops and priests.

"She is somebody I have worked with and we look forward to working with her again," said Father Walsh.

"There are things we agree and we will just have to agree to disagree on this matter."

Another person welcoming the Reverend Lane's appointment was the new bishop's former religion teacher.

Eleanor Marshall remembers fondly her bright A-Level theology student from the 1980s at Manchester Girls' High School.

"I'm elated. I have always been in favour of women's ordination - it is wonderful to see your former students do well," she said.

"She was a wonderful person. I remember her incisive mind and very good style of writing. She had a very compact style and I sometimes had to get her to expand it.

"I never thought I would be teaching the first female bishop."

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