The Rev. Justin Welby, the next spiritual leader of the worldwide Anglican Communion, has said that the Church of England will soon have women bishops, despite losing in a crucial vote on Tuesday in the General Synod.
"It's clear those women are going to be bishops in the Church of England," said Welby, who is set to take over from Rowan Williams in March 2013 as Archbishop of Canterbury.
"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," Welby said during a visit to Nigeria, where he was promoting peace among the world's largest mixed Christian-Muslim population, Reuters reported.
The vote on Tuesday resulted in 64 percent of the House of Laity voting in favor of a proposal that would allow women to serve as bishops – but that fell just short of the two-thirds majority needed to push it over the approval line. Six votes were all that separated the U.K. from joining Australia, New Zealand, Canada and the United States as countries that have allowed women to be ordained at the highest echelons of clergy.
Welby, along with Williams, campaigned hard for the proposal to pass on Tuesday, and expressed great disappointment when the vote fell short of passing the legislature. It will take at least another five years before such a proposal can be brought up for a vote again, but supporters of women bishops are seeing that the tide is turning.
Traditional views maintain that since all of Christ's 12 disciplines were men, there is no evidence in the Bible that supports female bishops, but progressives insist that since women can be appointed as clergy in Anglican churches, it makes no sense to prohibit them from serving as bishops.
Welby's trip to Nigeria brought up how intractable differences can cause bloody conflicts and years of turmoil, citing the situations in the Middle East and Africa where many nations are torn apart by civil war.
Islamic terrorist group Boko Haram has killed hundreds of Christians in Nigeria in their mission to impose Shariah Law on the country, making followers of Christ second-hand citizens subject to Muslim law. Welby, who has visited Nigeria 75 times, has served as a negotiator between militants in the Niger Delta swamps before, and expressed hopes that the West African country will be able to smooth out tensions between its 160 million population, split almost evenly between Christians and Muslims.
"Their combination of determination and energy and patience, but with this terrific good humor, is something we need to take with us for the issues we're facing," the future Anglican head said of the Nigerian people.