The ruling body of the Church of England has given its overwhelming backing for women to be ordained as bishops.
Although women have been ordained as priests since 1994, they remained barred from the higher office. Now they could be ordained as early as 2012 after the General Synod voted by 288 to 119 that the concept of women bishops was "theologically justified".
Yesterday's vote followed a two-and-a-half-hour debate led by Dr John Sentamu, the Archbishop of York, who called for the Synod to "welcome and affirm" that admitting women to the episcopate was consonant with the faith of the church.
He said: "I must pay tribute to Anglican women who have been tested for nearly 90 years. They have kept the faith and remained loyal to the Church of England."
The Synod also approved the statement that it would be a "proper development in proclaiming afresh, in this generation, the grace and proof of Christ".
Dr Rowan Williams, the Archbishop of Canterbury, will address the Synod tomorrow to begin the process of changing the rules to allow women bishops.
It is proposed that a group would be asked to prepare a draft measure to amend Church of England legal structures to remove the obstacles to the consecration of women as bishops. The group would also be asked to draw up a draft of possible legal provisions in an effort to prevent a damaging split on the issue between traditionalists and liberals.Reuse content