The Church of England has voted to allow women to become
bishops for first time in its history.
Its ruling General Synod gave approval to legislation introducing the change by the required two-thirds majority.
A previous vote in 2012 was backed by the Houses of Bishops
and Clergy but blocked by traditionalist lay members. The Archbishop of Canterbury Justin Welby said he was “delighted” but some opponents said they were unconvinced by the concessions offered to them.
The crucial vote in the House of Laity went 152 in favour, 45 against, and there were five abstentions. In November 2012 the
change was derailed by just six votes cast by the lay members.
In the house of Bishops, 37 were in favour, two against, and there was one abstention. The House of Clergy voted 162 in favour, 25 against and there were four abstentions.
It is hard to exaggerate the significance of today’s decision at
the York Synod.
It breaks a hitherto unbroken tradition of exclusively male
bishops inherited from the first Christians almost 2,000 years
Some Anglicans see it as a “cosmic shift” – arguing that the
Church’s theology has been changed by its acceptance that
men and women are equally eligible to lead and teach Christianity.
With the decision, the Church is acknowledging the importance
secular society places on equality, signalling that it wants to
end its isolation from the lives of the people it serves.
The legislation leaves traditionalists relying largely on the
goodwill and generosity of future women bishops, a source of
anxiety for many, but heralded by some as a sign of a new
culture of trust and co-operation in the Church.
With the even more divisive issue of sexuality on the horizon,
the Church will need that culture as never before.