The Church of England's ruling body has said that women bishops should be allowed, paving the way for their ordination despite objections from traditionalists.
Members of the Church's national assembly, the General Synod, rejected calls on Monday for further delays in the progress of a draft law following a marathon 12-hour debating session.
Local Church of England assemblies will now consider a scheme where women bishops would be able to make arrangements for objectors.
Providing most approve the idea, the legislation would return to the General Synod in 2012 for further drafting and final approval.
"We have decided to send to the dioceses a number of suggestions, proposals, by way of draft legislation about which the feelings of many people in this hall are still very mixed," said Rowan Williams, Archbishop of Canterbury.
At the meeting in York, northern England, the head of the Church of England conceded the issue was divisive, saying that "holding together" was proving "desperately difficult".
Christina Rees, a leading campaigner in favour of women bishops, described the decision to press ahead with the legislation as a "wonderful outcome".
"In one sense I am not surprised but I am delighted, it is very, very good news," she said.
But the Reverend Prebendary David Houlding said: "The more this goes on in this manner, the more it seems as if the door is shutting.
"The scope for remaining in the Church of England is getting more and more narrow and the options are rapidly closing."Reuse content