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Church of England to allow female bishops

By Susannah Cullinane, CNN
updated 7:45 PM EDT, Mon July 14, 2014
The Church of England is the largest church of the Anglican Communion, with more than 26 million baptized members.
The Church of England is the largest church of the Anglican Communion, with more than 26 million baptized members.
STORY HIGHLIGHTS
  • NEW: Anglican priest says she thinks the decision is "wonderful news"
  • Church of England leaders have voted to allow women to become bishops
  • It required a two-thirds majority by all three voting bodies -- the bishops, clergy and laity
  • The church said the first female bishop could be appointed by the end of the year

(CNN) -- Church of England leaders have voted to allow women to become bishops, the church announced Monday.

The measure required a two-thirds majority in all three voting bodies of the church: the House of Bishops, the House of Clergy and the House of Laity.

The legislation was passed at the church's General Synod, the three-times-a-year meeting that sets policies for the church, which is being held in the city of York.

The first female bishop could be appointed by the end of the year, the church said.

The head of the Church of England, Archbishop of Canterbury Justin Welby, said he was "delighted" with the result.

Church of England rejects women bishops
Female clergy for the Church of England?

"Today marks the start of a great adventure of seeking mutual flourishing while still, in some cases disagreeing," he said in a statement. "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."

The measure is subject to approval by Britain's Parliament. This is seen as a legal formality.

The Church of England first began ordaining women as priests in 1994 and has been debating whether they should become bishops since 2005.

"To those who ask 'What took you so long?' my answer is that every decision has a cost and there will be those within our body who will be hurting as a result of this decision, the archbishop of York, John Sentamu, said. "Our answer to the hurting should not be 'Get over it' but rather 'We will not let go until you have blessed us.'

"We move slowly because we move together. But in moving together we achieve not only what is just but also model what is right."

The Rev. Sally Hitchiner tweeted that she told her 8-year-old niece that she can be a bishop now. The niece said she didn't want to be a bishop.

"Yes but you CAN," Hitchiner tweeted, who earlier called the decision "wonderful news."

Two lay members of the church told the BBC that they were upset with the vote.

Lorna Ashworth told the network there is "not going to be a smooth road ahead," and Susie Leafe said the decision fails 25% of those in the church who don't believe women should be bishops.

Previous votes

At its General Synod meeting in 2012, draft legislation that would have allowed women to become bishops failed by six votes to get a two-thirds majority in the House of Laity.

In 2010, the church's governing body narrowly rejected a measure, aimed at satisfying conservatives, that would have allowed parishes that opposed women bishops to have an additional male bishop.

The Church of England is the largest church of the Anglican Communion, with more than 26 million baptized members.

The communion represents more than 85 million people in 165 countries, including the U.S. Episcopal Church.

The Anglican Communion News Service lists church districts that already have serving women bishops as New Zealand and Polynesia, Australia, Canada, The Episcopal Church, Cuba, Southern Africa, Ireland and South India.

The Church of England broke from the Catholic church in the 16th century during the Reformation, which saw the establishment of Protestant churches.

On its website, the Church of England says it "consciously retained a large amount of continuity with the Church of the Patristic and Medieval periods in terms of its use of the catholic creeds, its pattern of ministry, its buildings and aspects of its liturgy, but which also embodied Protestant insights in its theology and in the overall shape of its liturgical practice."

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