The Church of England has voted to allow women priests to be ordained as bishops, overturning centuries of tradition in a church that has been deeply divided over the issue.
After almost five hours of debate, the General Synod, the governing body of the Church of England, approved on Monday the proposal to allow women to take up senior roles in the Church.
Ahead of the vote, Justin Welby, spiritual leader of the world’s 80 million Anglicans, said the general public would find it “almost incomprehensible” should the General Synod fail to support the move.
Al Jazeera’s Emma Hayward, reporting from York, described the scene outside the meeting, as “jubilant” following the vote.
Jody Stowell, a woman priest from North London, said supporters had low expectations that the proposal would be approved.
“I think we went through the stages of shock, through amazement to joy, which you are seeing here now,” Stowell told Al Jazeera. “When it happened it was just amazing.”
Ruth Chapman, another female clergy member told Al Jazeera that the vote was “very close.”
The vote comes two years after similar legislation failed to reach a two-thirds majority among the General Synod’s lay members, despite approval from bishops and clergy.
The long-running debate pitted reformers, keen to project a more modern and egalitarian image of the church as it struggles with falling congregations in many increasingly secular countries, against a minority of conservatives who see the change as contradicting the Bible.
The issue of female clergy has divided Anglicanism globally.
Women serve as bishops in the United States, Australia, Canada and New Zealand but Anglican churches in many developing countries do not even ordain them as priests.
|Church of England weighs vote on women bishops|
“I think we look ridiculous. God has been calling us on this road for a long time and we need to get on with it,” Meg Gilley, a female clergy member at the Durham Diocese in England, told Al Jazeera.
The Church approved the ordination of women priests in 1992, but delayed making them bishops because of opposition within its previously all-male clergy.
Traditionalists within the church, however, opposed the move to ordain female bishops, claiming that their argument is based on theology.
“In principle the bible teaches that men and women were created equal but different,” Susie Leafe, director of Reform, told Al Jazeera. “God has different roles for us in the church in the chrch family, and so for me bishop represents a role that is designed for man.”
The Church of England is part of the Anglican Communion, which has the largest Christian denomination in Britain and a presence in more than 160 countries.