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Church of England Votes in Women Bishops

After a historic and overwhelming vote, women will be able to become Church of England Bishops for the very first time, breaking the almost 2,000-year-old tradition in Christianity of only men permitted to take the role.

Women were first allowed to become priests in 1992 – more than twenty years ago – and now around 20% of all Church of England priests are female.

But in 2012, a vote to allow women to become bishops as well was blocked by traditionalists, though it was only six votes from the House of Laity that derailed everything while the House of Bishop and the House of Clergy actually backed the change.

But now, the highest governing body of the Church of England, the General Synod, made up those three Houses, has voted again, needing only a two-thirds majority for the legislation to be approved.

The House of Bishops voted 37 in favour of implementing the change, two against, and there was one abstention, which means that one person declined to vote. The House of Clergy saw 162 votes in favour, 25 against, with four abstentions.

But the House of Laity, which blocked the vote two years ago, voted 152 in favour of women being able to become bishops, 45 were against the motion, and there were five abstentions.

The Archbishop of York John Sentamu asked that any result he read out be met with sensitivity and restraint, though cheers echoed around as he made the announcement.

Before the motion is official, it will need to go before the ecclesiastical committee in Parliament (Parliament’s faction pertaining to the Church), which examines measures coming from the General Synod, before being formally declared in November. This means that the first ever woman bishop could be appointed by the end of the year!

The Very Reverend June Osborne, Dean of Salisbury, said that the fact that the Church of England is allowing women to take up the role of a bishop should not be overstated, and will not only change the Church but will also change society. “It is one more step in accepting that women are really and truly equal in spiritual authority, as well as in leadership in society,” she explained.

Women striving for equality come up against the biggest of obstacles when facing religious faculties. The Church of England has shown that it understands the importance of equality in society with its decision, and could perhaps pave the way for other religions to consider gender equality in their own ranks.

“Generations of women have served the Lord faithfully in the Church of England for centuries,” said the Archbishop of York. “It is a moment of joy today. The office of Bishop is open to them.”

 

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