(Photo: REUTERS/Finbarr O'Reilly)
All the 44 dioceses of the Church of England have voted to approve ordination of women as bishops, and the change in the denomination's centuries-old practice is now just one step away. The final vote is scheduled for July.
"The Church of England's dioceses have now all voted in favor of the current draft legislation to enable women to be bishops," the denomination with more than 80 million adherents worldwide announces on its website.
The voting was held Thursday as per a decision taken by the church's governing General Synod in February to send draft legislation in favor of female bishops to all the dioceses.
The church says in a statement that Manchester was the last diocese to vote, and now they, too, have approved the motion at a meeting of their Synod.
"The dioceses have now expressed their view very clearly and the matter now comes back to General Synod in July," James Langstaff, the Bishop of Rochester and Chair of the Steering Committee for the Draft Legislation for Women in the Episcopate, says. "I pray that the Synod will continue to approach this decision in a prayerful and generous way as we move towards voting on the proposal that women may be bishops in the Church of England."
In 2011, London and Chichester diocesan synods voted against the legislation.
The issue has long divided the Anglican Communion, although affiliated churches in the United States, Australia and New Zealand already have women serving as bishops.
Traditionalists argue that all of Christ's 12 disciples were men, and that the Bible doesn't support female bishops. Progressives, on the other hand, ask that if women can be appointed as clergy in Anglican churches, why they can't serve as bishops.
In 2012, the General Synod decided against allowing women to serve as bishops.
That decision had a "damaging effect [on] the Church of England's self-confidence and national reputation," The Telegraph quoted Rt. Rev. Dr. Martin Warner, Bishop of the Diocese of Chichester, as saying after the 2012 vote.
Before taking over from Rowan Williams as Archbishop of Canterbury, the Rev. Justin Welby said that the Church of England would soon have women bishops, despite losing in a crucial vote. "It's clear those women are going to be bishops in the Church of England," Reuters quoted him as saying. "It was a pretty grim day for the whole church. There is a lot to be done but I am absolutely confident that at some point I will consecrate a woman bishop."