Women bishops: Church of England to approve law
Historic vote is a positive step towards equality and 'changing the culture of the church', say campaigners
The Church of England is set to officially adopt legislation that will lead to the ordination of female bishops.
The general synod voted in favour of women bishops in July, but today's vote will give the final seal of approval to the legislation. The move could see the first female bishop appointed as early as next year.
The controversial issue of female bishops has dominated religious debate in recent years. The new legislation will alter the leadership profile of the Church of England and marks a milestone on the wider issue of women's rights. It comes exactly two decades after the first female priests were ordained.
Today's vote is a "mainly symbolic stage in this long process, but it's clearly an immensely historic and really significant one", says the BBC religious affairs correspondent Caroline Wyatt.
The idea of women bishops was originally defeated in 2012, when it fell just six votes short of the required majority among lay members. MPs then threatened to impose women bishops by force using equality legislation, before another vote in the summer approved the plans.
Hilary Cotton, chairwoman of Women and the Church (Watch), told Sky News that she would like women to eventually make up a third of all bishops "in order to make a difference".
"It is not just about having women wearing purple, it is about changing the culture of the church to be more equal," she said. "It is exciting, but I hope that in a few years it will be more normal for women to be appointed bishops."
However, opposition from within the church persists. The conservative evangelical group Reform estimates that at least a quarter of the Church find female bishops incompatible with their traditional beliefs.
The group maintains that "the divine order of male headship" makes it "inappropriate" for women to hold such high positions within the church.