Women can now become bishops following an historic vote by the Church of England’s General Synod today.
Following a day of debate at the General Synod meeting in York on the issue of women in the episcopate, at least two thirds majority of each house – laity, clergy and bishops – voted in favour of the measure1 to pass.
General Synod votes in favour in all three houses:
- Bishops: 37 in favour, 2 against, 1 abstention.
- Clergy: 162 in favour, 25 against, 4 abstentions.
- Laity: 152 in favour, against 45, 5 abstentions.
This means the first woman bishop could potentially be appointed by the end of the year. It also means that the Church of England joins 20 other Provinces or Extra-Provincial dioceses that allow women bishops.
Before the vote, the Archbishop of York John Sentamu asked for the result to be met “with restraint and sensitivity” but when it was announced there was a flurry of cheers.
Today’s vote comes 18 months after the proposal was last voted upon in November 2012 when the proposal failed to achieve the required two thirds majority in the House of Laity.
The Archbishop of Canterbury, Justin Welby, said:
“Today is the completion of what was begun over 20 years with the ordination of women as priests. I am delighted with today’s result. Today marks the start of a great adventure of seeking mutual flourishing while still, in some cases disagreeing.
The challenge for us will be for the church to model good disagreement and to continue to demonstrate love for those who disagree on theological grounds. Very few institutions achieve this, but if we manage this we will be living our more fully the call of Jesus Christ to love one another. As delighted as I am for the outcome of this vote I am also mindful of those within the Church for whom the result will be difficult and a cause of sorrow.
My aim, and I believe the aim of the whole church, should be to be able to offer a place of welcome and growth for all. Today is a time of blessing and gift from God and thus of generosity. It is not winner take all, but in love a time for the family to move on together.”
The legislation approved today includes a House of Bishops declaration, underpinned by five guiding principles and a disputes resolution procedure. Following the vote on the measure which enables women to become Bishops, the Synod voted on enabling legislation (Canon) and also rescinded existing legislation (Act of Synod) as part of a package of measures being proposed.
Following today’s vote the measure moves to the Legislative Committee of General Synod and then to the Ecclesiastical Committee of the Houses of Parliament where the legislation will be considered. Subject to Parliamentary approval the measure will return to the General Synod in November of this year where it will come into force after its promulgation (legal formal announcement).
Today’s vote follows a process which began at the 2013 July Synod which created a steering committee on women bishops, chaired by the Bishop of Rochester James Langstaff, with a mandate to draw up a package of new proposals. Bishop James opened the debate on behalf of the steering committee and responded to the debate urging synod members to vote for the proposals.