Church of England votes 'yes' to women bishops

Supporters of the drive for women bishops display their campaign symbol last month, when the Church of England voted against the measure.
Peter Macdiarmid

The Church of England’s General Synod has voted to allow women to serve as bishops, just a year after the church’s governing body voted against it.

In 2012, the synod rejected legislation to introduce female bishops by just six votes, disappointing the vast number of churchgoers who support the idea and prompting Prime Minister David Cameron to warn that the church needed "to get on with it.”

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This year, support for the change was overwhelming: The legislation passed 378 to eight, with 25 members of the church’s governing body, comprised of bishops, clergy and laity, abstaining.

The legislation allows women to become bishops and archbishops in the church while declaring that the wishes of traditional dioceses that want to be led by male bishops only must be accommodated. Local church officials will decide how to accommodate the traditionalist congregations. An ombudsman will be tasked with settling any disputes over local decisions.

Wednesday’s vote results make it likely that another vote next year to formalize approval for the change will permit women bishops.

During the debate, Canon Rosie Harper, chaplain to the Bishop of Buckingham, argued that young people were interested in Jesus, but put off by a church that appeared to be “always telling people off and rife with discrimination of all sorts.” She urged, “stop being weird and vote ‘yes.’ ”

Following the vote, Cameron said, "I strongly support women bishops and I hope the Church of England takes this key step to ensure its place as a modern church, in touch with our society."