The Bishop of Salisbury, the Right Revd Nicholas Holtam, has expressed his ‘great joy’ that the legislation allowing women to become Church of England bishops has passed its final hurdle.
The Church of England has now formally adopted legislation which means its first female bishops could be ordained next year.
The Rt Rev Christopher Foster was among those who voted in favour of legislation that will pave the way for women bishops. The legislation was passed by all three of the General Synod’s houses – the House of Bishops, House of Clergy and House of Laity – by the required two-thirds majority.
Bishop Christopher said: “I welcome the vote that women can be called to be bishops in the Church of England. This decision is later than many had hoped, but it is made now with substantial support across the church and with trust and understanding of the differences that there have been.
This means the first woman bishop could potentially be appointed by the end of the year. Today’s vote comes just 18 months after the proposal was last voted upon in November 2012, when it failed to achieve the required two-thirds majority in the House of Laity.
The Right Rev. Tim Dakin, Bishop of Winchester, has welcomed the news that women can now be ordained as Bishops saying at last gifted women can rise through the Church of England.
He said:“Synod's decision has sent out a joyful message. At last, gifted women leaders will be able to serve as bishops. I’m delighted, I hope this decision will allow for reconciliation and enable all to flourish in the church’s life and mission.
"For so long, including in our own diocese of Winchester, the Church of England has benefited greatly from the outstanding ministry of both women and men working together. Now, we can look forward to working together in our mission as bishops as well.
" This has been an emotional journey. That applies as much for those who have campaigned steadfastly for this day, as well as those whose traditional views have been challenged.
The Bishop of Salisbury, the Right Revd Nicholas Holtam, has welcomed the historic decision that will lead to the consecration of the first women bishops in the Church of England.
Bishop Nicholas said: "Although this is a new departure for England, it should be noted that Anglican women are already bishops in nine other countries. In some countries, women bishops have now been serving for a quarter of a century.
“I was particularly pleased by the principled and generous spirit in which this debate took place. I look forward to helping ensure that spirit continues to nurture a Church in which all can flourish, including the minority who cannot, in conscience, support this step.”
There are already female Anglican bishops serving in Australia, Canada, Cuba, India, Ireland, New Zealand, South Africa, Swaziland and the United States.
The Church of England has voted in favour of allowing women bishops for the first time in its history.
The result means women bishops could potentially be appointed by the end of the year.
After almost five hours of debate, the legislation to allow women to take up senior roles in the church received the required two thirds majority in all three Houses of the General Synod.
Thirty-seven bishops voted in favour with two against and one abstention, while 162 clergy approved with 25 against and four abstentions.
In the House of Laity, there were 152 votes in favour, 45 against and five abstentions.
Two General Synod members on opposite sides of the argument, Christina Rees and Lorna Ashworth, tell ITV News correspondent Tim Ewart why they are adamantly for or against the introduction of women bishops.
The Bishop of Rochester has warned that a decision to vote against introducing women bishops today could harm morale in the Church of England.
"The Church of England has spoken very clearly through the voting of the diocesan synods and we today have, I believe, a responsibility to show that we have listened," Rt Rev James Langstaff said.
"Wherever each of us stands on the spectrum of views, I want to suggest today that we have a responsibility to be guided, yes, by what we ourselves think, but also by what we assess to be the settled view of the great majority within the Church of England."
Speaking at York University, Bishop Langstaff said he respected the views of opponents of women bishops who felt they had no option but to vote against the legislation. But he hoped other opponents might choose to abstain from the vote.
Annabel Heywood of St Ebbe's Church in Oxford argues the bible says men have Godly leadership and is against the Church of England voting in favour of women bishops.
David Cameron said he was in favour of women bishops as the Church of England prepares for a second vote on the issue.
The Prime Minister said: "I am in favour of women bishops. I think Archbishop Welby has shown great leadership on this issue and I wish him well."