- Conservative Anglican group says, "Though it grieves us, it comes as no surprise"
- The Rev. Libby Lane is named as the Church of England's first woman bishop
- Lane: "On this historic day ... I am very conscious of all those who have gone before me"
- Her appointment closes a thorny chapter in the church's recent history
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 the issue 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."
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.
Archbishop of York John Sentamu said he would preside over Lane's consecration as a bishop "with great joy."
Lane, a mother of two whose husband is an airport chaplain, will serve as a suffragan, or junior, bishop in the Diocese of Chester.
Reform, an Anglican evangelical network that has opposed the introduction of women bishops, warned that Lane's appointment would strain relations in the diocese.
"We have known since July that the Church of England would seek to appoint women to the episcopate -- against the biblical model of good church leadership," Rod Thomas, chairman of Reform, said in a statement.
"Though it grieves us, it comes as no surprise. We pray that the Bishop of Chester will uphold the promises made in July and enable the many thriving conservative evangelical churches in his Diocese to continue to serve their communities with theological integrity under the oversight of a male bishop."
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.