By Joe Mellor, Deputy Editor
The Church of England has voted to allow women to become bishops for the first time in its history. The Dean of Salisbury, the Very Reverend June Osborne, said it was a “historic day”.
She said: “I don’t think you can overstate the fact that the Church of England allowing women to take up the role of bishop is going to change the Church.
“I think it’s going to change our society as well because it’s one more step in accepting that women are really and truly equal in spiritual authority, as well as in leadership in society.”
The Church broke with 2,000 years of tradition and will now allow women to become bishops from next year. The first diocesan job to become open to women is Gloucester, followed by Oxford and then Newcastle. The vote also means that the next Archbishop of Canterbury or York could be a woman.
Spontaneous applause broke out in the public gallery after the announcement, which ends 20 years of bitter disputes, after women were allowed to become priests in 1994.
Only 45 lay members of the synod voted against it and 152 in favour. The majorities among bishops and clergy were even greater. Archbishop of Canterbury, Justin Welby, had prepared contingency plans to dissolve it and call fresh elections if the vote had gone the wrong way.
Archbishop Welby said: “Today this legislation allows us to move forward together, all of us as faithful Anglicans, all of us committed to each other’s flourishing and the life of the Church not just in what we say but in how we now live and work together in the months and years ahead.
“That is as true for those who find this difficult to accept as it is for those who rejoice in it and vice versa.”
The jovial mood was summed up by the Reverend Dr Rosemarie Mallet, from Southwark diocese, who said: “I’m absolutely joyful, thank God after 20 years of very hard work we now have a decision that can help us work for everyone in the Church and engage everybody to be part of that ministry.
“Over the past year or so the Church has been growing in its work in the community, through credit unions and food banks, but people didn’t think we got it because at the heart of it we weren’t engaging everyone and saying our women are as good as our men.”