Church of England moves closer to a vote on women bishops - but it's not over yet

Archbishop of Canterbury Justin Welby, whose church is still deciding how to bring in women bishops Credit: Joe Giddens/PA Wire/Press Association Images

Supporters of the idea are telling me that today's vote could mean that the Church of England could see women bishops by the end of the year.

And that is possible. Because what happened today - cutting the consultation period on the issue from six to three months - could pave the way for a straight 'yes or no' vote this July.

This could be followed by a new law in November, and the first women bishops as early as the new year.

But that's the reformers rather optimistic view. The more cautious view is that today was really a vote about when to have the big, decisive vote: today wasn’t the make or break moment that will make it a certainty.

Of course, the fact that the proposal was passed so strongly - by about 9 -1 in favour - will give hope to the reformers that any vote in the summer will be easily passed.

But there was still some disquiet about the compromise on offer for objectors and reformers, who have been waiting three decades for this already. They have come close before to see their hopes dashed - most notably 15 months ago at Synod.

As one of the most senior female members of clergy said to me after the vote: "I wont actually believe it until I see the women bishops standing in front of me." And that wasn't guaranteed today.

The church is a step closer - but it hasn’t quite sealed the deal.

Read: Church of England to vote on women Bishops