Church Of England Changes Tune, Allows Women Bishops

Monday afternoon the Church of England's governing body, the General Synod, voted to allow women to become bishops.
Posted at 4:47 PM, Jul 14, 2014

Two decades after gaining the right to be priests, women will now be allowed to be bishops in the Church of England.

The decision comes from the General Synod, the governing body of the church that includes the House of Bishops, House of Clergy and House of Laity. All three houses vote separately, and all three approved women bishops Monday afternoon.

The tradition of male-only bishops stretches back centuries, but the Anglican Communion's website points out the Church of England will be joining 20 other dioceses that already allow women bishops. (Via Anglican Communion News Service)

A move to allow women to serve was rejected in November 2012, falling just six votes short. This time around, the members who voted no in 2012 said they would accept the new legislation, even if they disagreed with it. (Via Euronews

Those who initially opposed the legislation changed their votes at the urging of Archbishop of Canterbury Justin Welby. 

They were also given a concession in the form of an opt-out clause, meaning if a diocese doesn't want a woman as its bishop, it doesn't have to appoint one. (Via The Telegraph)

The new clause allows both sides to get what they want, what one church leader dubbed a "mutual flourishing." A synod member who voted no in 2012 said, "I shall be voting in favour today - by doing so, I am betraying what I believe, I am betraying those who trusted in me. I hope that the promised commitment to ‘mutual flourishing’ is not a commitment that will run out of steam in a few years." (Via The Telegraph)​

Supporters looked forward to when women bishops would be the norm.

"This does give a very clear signal to younger women in the church. What I look forward to is when we don't talk about women bishops, we just talk about bishops." (Via BBC)

"Up in Scotland, they voted for women bishops 11 years ago and still haven't got one. That won't happen in England." (Via ITV)

But opponents stood by church tradition, in which men-only leadership is deeply ingrained.

"Women should be involved in church leadership, but not the overall responsibility. I think God calls men to be responsible." (Via Channel 5)

The General Synod is still working out the details, but the first women bishops are expected to be appointed early next year.