Supporters of women bishops are gearing up for months of frantic lobbying after the vote which might have approved the move was postponed yesterday during a meeting of the General Synod in York.
The decision to wait until November is a bitter-sweet victory for those who wish to see the Church of England's final glass ceiling shattered. Many were on the verge of voting against the legislation after the church's House of Bishops – led by the Archbishop of Canterbury – tabled a last-minute amendment providing stronger safeguards for those theologically opposed to female leadership.
Those who wanted to see women bishops felt the wording would continue to enshrine gender discrimination within the church. They called on supporters to opt for an adjournment in the hope it will pile pressure on senior clergy to abandon – or significantly reword – the offending amendments.
The House of Bishops will meet in September and the newly worded legislation is expected to return to the General Synod in November. The postponement is an embarrassment for Dr Rowan Williams and the clerics who backed the last-minute safeguards.
The bishops had hoped the amendments would avoid the prospect of conservative evangelicals and Anglo-Catholics walking out unless they are given guarantees they will not have to serve under a woman.