Final approval given to women bishops at General Synod

Justin Welby at the General Synod at The University of York in July, where the motion to allow women bishops was passed.Lynne Cameron/PA Wire

The Church of England today gave the final seal of approval to women bishops, following the passing of legislation by the General Synod in July.

At the Synod's meeting this afternoon at Church House, an amendment which states that "A man or woman may be consecrated into the office of bishop" was written into Canon Law following a final show of hands.

Six officers signed the instrument of enactment before members of the Synod. The House of Bishops is scheduled to meet immediately after the close of Synod today.

Archbishop of York John Sentamu prayed for unity within the Church following the motion being carried.

It has been branded "an historic" day by Rev Sue Booys of Oxford, who gave the opening address.

The legislation was approved by both the House of Commons and the House of Lords last month, and has also already received royal assent.

In a speech before peers in October, Archbishop of Canterbury Justin Welby commended the move as "long overdue".

"Over the past 20 years many women have given outstanding leadership as vicars, archdeacons and cathedral deans. Now for the first time, every post will be open to them," he said.

"For many people within the Church of England and others it has been a process full of frustration when looked at from the outside; and it has been somewhat baffling, particularly in recent years, that something which seems so simple and obvious should have become such a considerable problem."

Canon Tim Allen of the Diocese of St Edmundsbury and Ipswich called on the Church to move quickly in appointing women bishops after today's promulgation.

"It is vital that the Archbishops should actively use their formidable powers of control, leadership and forceful persuasion to ensure that the CNC moves boldly with all speed and determination to appoint as many as possible, and the best of the Church of England's excellent senior women as bishops, and give them seats in the House of Lords," he said.

"The time for debate is now over, it is the time for speedy and decisive action."

William Fittall, Secretary General of Synod, said last month that the CofE could have its first woman bishop within a year, likely in the diocese of Nottingham and Southwell.

The dioceses of Gloucester, Oxford and Newcastle each have vacancies, Fittall said, and any of them could become home to the first female bishop in the Church of England. However, Nottingham and Southwell will be the first to have the Crown Nominations Commission (CNC) meet, the process by which candidates are nominated, since women bishops were approved by the Houses of Parliament.

Fittall confirmed that conversations were already taking place within those dioceses with vacancies as to who will become their next bishop, adding that "the key test will be who is best placed for the particular seat in question".

While "positive action" may be implemented, whereby extra effort is put into preparing and encouraging female candidates and women are favoured over men in the case of a dead-heat, committees will always strive to appoint the best person for the job, whether male or female, Fittall said.

"I would be surprised if the first [woman bishop] didn't happen in 2015," he added.

"When you have half the human race not eligible for a post, as we have done, when we're at the point where they do [become eligible] would be surprising if some weren't considered suitable for the position [in 2015]".