The Church of England's governing body the General Synod has voted against the appointment of women bishops.
The Archbishop of Canterbury Dr Rowan Williams had said he feels a "deep personal sadness" at the result, which has been described as a "a disaster for the Church of England".
Dr Williams, who leaves his post at the end of this year, wished his successor the Rt Rev Justin Welby, "every blessing" with resolving the issue.
"Of course I hoped and prayed that this particular business would be at another stage before I left, and course it is a personal sadness, a deep personal sadness that that is not the case," he said.
"I can only wish the Synod and the archbishop all good things and every blessing with resolving this in the shortest possible time."
The draft measure to allow women to become bishops failed to gain the necessary two-thirds majority among the lay members.
The House of Bishops voted 44 in favour, with three against and two recorded abstentions. In the House of Clergy, 148 voted in favour, 45 against and there were no abstentions.
But in the House of Laity, which represents lay members in parishes around the country, 74 voted against, compared to 132 in favour with no abstentions.
It will be 2015 before the issue is debated again.
The Rev Rachel Weir, of the campaign group Women and the Church, said: "We're absolutely devastated. Not just devastated on behalf of clergy women - obviously this will be an enormous blow to clergy women, it's awful for their morale - but it's a disaster for the Church of England."
Christina Rees, a campaigner for women bishops, said the result was a "disaster".
She added: "It's a real shame. I really thought it would go through, most of the Synod is in a state of shock.
"Seventy-four per cent of the Synod said yes, but it had to have a two thirdsmajority in each house - it only failed in the House of Laity.
"I think it's a betrayal of trust in the wider church."
The Rt Rev Justin Welby had earlier urged the General Synod to give the legislation the necessary majority.
But a series of speakers opposed giving final approval to the legislation.
Canon Simon Killwick, chairman of the Catholic Group in the General Synod, urged members to vote against the legislation.
"I do not believe that this draft legislation will be good for the Church of England," he had said.
"We are all desperate to move on from the sad infighting of the last few years - but this legislation does not provide a clear way forward."
General Synod member Susie Leafe said she believed the result was because of faults in the legislation.
"There were a lot of places along the way that we could have had a measure in front of us that wouldn't have been voted down, and it's very sad that this was able to go on without us facing the reality of the situation.
"I know there is a large minority in the church that feel the same way as I do. We knew it was going to be very, very close."
But she said supporters will still try and go on with their fight, adding: "We'll take a new piece of paper and we'll start again and we'll find a way of doing this.
"Churches will still be open on Sunday."
The vote was the biggest decision to be taken by the 470-strong body in 20 years and the defeat means the legislation will take at least another five years before it could reach the same stage for debate.
The result has been criticised on Twitter. Former Home Secretary Jacqui Smith wrote "Sick of waiting for the established church to come in line with every other major inst. Disestablish - they don't represent my country."
Following the vote, Father Gillean Craig, the vicar at St Mary Abbotts, the church David Cameron and his family attend, emailed her congregation saying: "Please pray with me for our church and especially for those women who feel that their own priestly ministry has been savagely undermined and devalued by this failure to acknowledge that God has endowed them with gifts and talents that makes them worthy to share in the church's ministry of leadership ... This is a day of shame for our church."
A spokesman for the Church of England said there would be an emergency meeting of the House of Bishops on Wednesday.