Church of England approves women bishops in historic vote

Members of the Church of England's General Synod gathered at the University of York on July 14, 2014, and voted 351-72 to allow the ordination of women bishops.

CANTERBURY, England (RNS) After 20 years of turmoil and angry debate, on Monday (July 14) the General Synod of the Church of England said “yes” to women bishops.

Members of the Church of England's General Synod gathered at the University of York on July 14, 2014, and voted 351-82 to allow the ordination of women bishops.

Creative Commons image by Carl Spencer

Members of the Church of England’s General Synod gathered at the University of York on July 14, 2014, and voted 351-72 to allow the ordination of women bishops.

The first could be named by the end of the year with the appointment of at least three additional women sometime in 2015, say senior church officials.

The General Synod is the three-tier governing body of the Church of England and it is made up of bishops, clergy and laity.

At a meeting in York, the General Synod gave final approval to legislation introducing the changes by the required two-thirds majority.

Overall, the Synod voted 351-72 on the measure. Ten abstained.

Despite the Archbishop of York John Sentamu calling for the result to be read in silence, cheers and clapping broke out as the dispute that has dogged the established church in England and Wales ended.

Archbishop of Canterbury Justin Welby supports legislation that would allow women bishops in the Church of England.

Creative Commons image by Episcopal Diocese

Archbishop of Canterbury Justin Welby supported legislation that allowed women to be ordained bishops in the Church of England.

After the vote, Archbishop of Canterbury Justin Welby, was seen relaxed and smiling as he walked next to women clergy along a corridor at the University of York where the meeting was held.

Earlier, Welby indicated that the General Synod would be dissolved and later reconstituted if the vote was defeated, as it was by six votes in November 2012.

In a statement Welby said: “Today marks the start of a great adventure of seeking mutual flourishing while still, in some cases, disagreeing.”

In the Episcopal Church, the Rev. Barbara C. Harris was elected as the first woman bishop when she was named suffragan bishop of Massachusetts in 1988.

Referring to those who have long since opposed the consecration of women, Welby said: “I am also mindful of those within the church for whom the result will be difficult and a cause of sorrow. My aim, and I believe the aim of the whole church, should be to be able to offer a place of welcome and growth for all.”

Unlike the highly controversial issue of homosexuality, the ordination of women bishops is only sporadically controversial in Africa, where the Anglican Church is growing fastest.

“This may not necessarily mean other provinces will follow suit,” said Anglican Bishop Julius Kalu of Mombasa, in Kenya. “I think it’s not a doctrinal issue, but that of the church’s tradition.”

Kalu said it would need to be discussed among the African provinces.

Two African provinces — Nigeria and Central Africa — do not consecrate women to any position in the church.

Most of the other provinces accept women’s leadership. In 2012 and 2013, respectively, the Southern African province consecrated the Rev. Ellinah Wamukoya bishop of Swaziland and the Rev. Margaret Vertue for the False Bay diocese.

In Uganda and Sudan women bishops have been approved but no woman has been named bishop.

“We do not have a problem with women becoming bishops in the Church of Uganda,” said Archbishop Stanley Ntagali of Uganda. “I support the ordination of women as bishops in the Church of Uganda and elsewhere.”


About the author

Trevor Grundy

About the author

Fredrick Nzwili

Fredrick Nzwili is a journalist based in Nairobi, Kenya. For more than 15 years, he has written about religion, politics, peace and conflict, development, security, environment and wildlife. His articles have appeared in international media organizations among others; The Tablet, The Christian Science Monitor, The National Geographic and Kenyan local newspapers; The Standard and the People Daily.


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  • its not the size of the giants one faces be it wrong teachings by the church of England or some other goliath its all about the size of our God.

  • Agreed.

    Funny thought how you did not submit this logic to the articles about the mormon lady lobbiest who was excommunicated.

  • Because I could care less about what goes on inside any given church and how they treat its members. So I never bothered to chime in on those posts.

    In fact I even questioned the sanity of any feminist or gay person to continue being members of such a church when their leadership and rank & file are so clearly and overtly hostile to them.

  • Jesus is the son of God and when he was tempted by Satan to bow down and worship Satan in exchange of all the kingdoms of the world, Jesus said:

    “Then saith Jesus to him, “Get thee hence, Satan, for it is written: Thou shalt worship The Lord thy God, and him ONLY thou shalt worship” (Matthew 4:10).

    Also, Jesus gave us the model prayer to God and it is addressed only to our Heavenly Father, the Father of Jesus, and not to his son, Jesus (Matthew 6:9-13).

    However, our prayers should be directed to Almighty God through his son, Christ Jesus, since he is the mediator between imperfect mankind and perfect God (1 Timothy 2:5).

    Our worship should then be directed to Almighty God, whose name is Yahweh or Jehovah (Psalms 83:18, King James Version).

  • This is a sign of honesty and wisdom, a true cause of joy for any who claim to be followers of Jesus these millennia later. It’s a latter day, but one must ask, why not bishops if priests. And now we must ask the same questions of the Catholic leadership–and the people in the pews ought to be included in those questions and answers–why not start showing respect for sex and marriage, why not start respecting women?

    Men only and a distortion of the purpose of celibacy after 1,000 years demands correction.

  • Fran: “Pray” tell. What does all you write have to do with women? After all, if you consider Jesus to be the “Son of God,” don’t forget that he was born of a woman.

    We must leap forward from the scriptural mythology composed by men long, long before even the so-called Dark Ages.

  • Rob: I presume, because you claim to be so authoritative in measuring God that you ought to be able to be more precise about “the size of God.”

  • The Bible says that men lead and women follow, both in the church and at home. Nothing good can come of ignoring God’s plan for an orderly society. However, there are no Christians left in Socialist Atheist England so it’s all a formality anyway.

  • You might not approve of tolerance and equality but that doesn’t mean God approves of your sexism.

  • Gilchan, I was responding to Rob’s question regarding who should be our God, a church or Jesus.

    An answer was provided to him through Scriptures in the Bible.

    Jesus was required to be born of a woman in order to be a human, and he needed to be a human to be a perfect ransom sacrifice for imperfect mankind.