Skip to main content

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."

ADVERTISEMENT
Part of complete coverage on
updated 10:42 PM EDT, Thu October 23, 2014
Successful launch of lunar orbiter, seen as a precursor for a planned mission to the surface of the moon, marks significant advance for the country's space program.
updated 3:15 PM EDT, Thu October 23, 2014
Cpl. Nathan Cirillo, shot while standing guard at Ottawa's National War Memorial, was known for his easygoing manner and smile.
updated 4:06 PM EDT, Wed October 22, 2014
Non-stop chatter about actress' appearance is nasty, cruel, hurtful, invasive and sexist.
updated 6:08 PM EDT, Thu October 23, 2014
CEO's 30-min Putonghua chat is the perfect charm offensive for Facebook's last untapped market.
updated 11:45 PM EDT, Thu October 23, 2014
Chinese leaders want less odd architecture built in the country.
updated 4:58 PM EDT, Wed October 22, 2014
Air New Zealand's new 'Hobbit' safety video stars Peter Jackson, Elijah Wood, elves and orcs.
updated 10:14 AM EDT, Thu October 23, 2014
A 15-year-old pregnant girl is rescued from slavery, only to be charged with having sex outside of marriage, shocked rights activists say -- a charge potentially punishable by death.
updated 11:33 PM EDT, Tue October 21, 2014
After sushi and ramen, beef is on the list of must-eats for many visitors to Japan.
updated 12:07 PM EDT, Mon October 20, 2014
Airports judged on comfort, conveniences, cleanliness and customer service.
updated 1:48 PM EDT, Wed October 22, 2014
Scientists use CT scans to recreate a life-size image of the ancient king.
updated 5:59 AM EDT, Wed October 22, 2014
Despite billions spent on eradicating poppy production, Afghan farmers are growing bumper crops, a U.S. government report says.
updated 6:21 AM EDT, Fri October 24, 2014
Each day, CNN brings you an image capturing a moment to remember, defining the present in our changing world.
Browse through images from CNN teams around the world that you don't always see on news reports.
ADVERTISEMENT