Women bishops could be appointed by the end of this year after Yorkshire hosted a “watershed” vote on an issue that has divided the Church of England.
Members of the Church’s governing body, the General Synod, overwhelmingly backed a measure allowing women bishops at a historic meeting at York University yesterday.
Despite appeals from the Archbishop of York, Dr John Sentamu, for silence, there was clapping and shouts of “brill” in the hall as some were unable to contain their joy at the result.
The success in the make-or-break vote comes after a plan to introduce women bishops collapsed in the face of opposition in November 2012.
Prime Minister David Cameron said yesterday’s vote was a “great day for the Church and for equality”.
Deputy Prime Minister and Sheffield Hallam MP Nick Clegg added: “This is a watershed moment for the Church of England and a huge step forward in making our society fairer.”
Labour leader Ed Miliband said it was “wonderful news”.
The result was a personal success for the Archbishop of Canterbury, the Most Rev Justin Welby, who had staked his authority on a new set of proposals, bringing in mediation and conflict experts to resolve differences.
In an emotional debate before the vote, the General Synod heard from a series of speakers who said they had voted against the legislation in November 2012 but would now cast in favour or abstain.
In the end, the vote in favour of the measure received the backing of 95 per cent of the bishops, 87 per cent of the clergy and 77 per cent of lay members who voted.
The Reverend Lindsay Southern, from the parish of Catterick with Tunstall, North Yorkshire, said she was “ecstatic” at the result. “I don’t think any of us really expected that it really would go through,” she said. We’re very relieved, very joyful, and I really want to go and hug a bishop.”
Bishop of Leeds, the Rt Revd Nick Baines, said: “It’s been a long time coming, but that’s because the Church of England has worked hard to hold together those of contrasting views, even when those opposed were in the minority.”
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