Women Bishops: Church Of England Faces Vote

The Church of England gets a second chance to back the introduction of women bishops today - almost two years after the plan was controversially rejected.

The Church's governing body, the General Synod, will be asked to sign off on the legislation - which could see the first female diocesan bishop appointed by Christmas.

The vote against women bishops in November 2012 - decided by just six votes cast by lay members - caused shock and recriminations within the Church and led to threats of an intervention by Parliament.

Mediation and conflict management experts were subsequently brought in to help resolve differences between Anglo-Catholics and conservative evangelicals opposed to women bishops and supporters of ordination for women.

The new legislation includes a declaration by CofE bishops outlining arrangements for parishes that do not accept the authority of a woman bishop, with an ombudsman to be appointed to help resolve disputes.

The plan has been backed by 43 out of 44 dioceses - two of which voted against in the past - with the European diocese failing to complete the consultation in time.

If given final approval, the plan will go to the ecclesiastical committee of Parliament and the House of Commons and House of Lords for consideration before royal assent is given.

The General Synod would then meet on November 17 to formally declare that women can be bishops.

Archbishop of Canterbury, the Most Rev Justin Welby, has said he is "hopeful" that the legislation will be passed and that the general public would find it "incomprehensible" that women bishops had not yet been introduced.

The first women were ordained in 1994 in the Church of England and they now make up about a third of all clergy.

There are six female cathedral deans and more than 20 women archdeacons.

The Rev Jody Stowell, from Harrow, northwest London, and a spokeswoman for Women and the Church, said they were "hopeful" of success in the vote.

She said: "We are hopeful because of all the work that has been done within the General Synod in terms of relationships between people who have different opinions on this.

"We would not say we are overly confident at all because it is the same set of people who voted it down in November 2012 so we have to be realistic about that."

Fr David Houlding, an Anglo-Catholic vicar in north London and a General Synod member, said he would be voting against giving final approval for the legislation on principle.

But he said he was "quite happy" for the legislation to be approved as he feared a rejection would be a "terrible disaster" and could cause the Church to split.