'The time of singing has come': House of Commons approves women bishops

John Stillwell/PA Wire

The House of Commons yesterday approved women bishops without a vote following the passing of legislation in the House of Lords last week.

The proposal was passed by the General Synod in July but required the consent of Parliament. The Queen must also now approve the measure.

Speaking before the Commons yesterday, Second Church Estates Commissioner Sir Tony Baldry said, "I hope this whole debate will be joyful, because this is a very joyful day for the Church of England and society as a whole."

"Over the past 20 years many women have given outstanding leadership to the Church of England and to our communities as vicars, archdeacons and cathedral deans," he said.

"Now every type of post will be open to them. It is right to acknowledge the immense patience among many women in the Church who have waited for this day. We acknowledge, as we need to, the pain and hurt that there has often been as a consequence of the delay in arriving at where we are at today."

Referring to Justin Welby's address in the House of Lords last week, in which the Archbishop affirmed that "the Church of England is deeply committed to the flourishing of all those who are part of its life in the grace of God," Baldry added: "Indeed, I think we would all hope that every part of the Church of England can now flourish and thrive."

He said women priests could be eligible for consideration as bishops as early as November 17.

MP for Bishop Aukland Helen Goodman urged her fellow peers to support the legislation. "I am proud to have been able to speak in this debate," she said.

"The time of crying is past; the time of singing has come."

There was some debate as to which diocese will appoint the first female bishop. MP Diana Johnson recommended her own city of Hull.

"I want to put in an early bid. The Bishop of Hull is leaving his post and moving on, and, as Hull is a pioneering city - remember William Wilberforce and Amy Johnson - I believe that the bishopric of Hull would be an ideal starting place for the first woman bishop in the House of Lords," she said.

Baldry, however, added that "there might be some competition from around the country".

"The Bishop of Oxford is retiring shortly. There are many excellent women in senior posts in the Church, and I have absolutely no doubt that the first women bishops - and, indeed, all those women who are made bishops - will be excellent candidates," he said.

"This measure is long overdue. The ability of the Church of England to consecrate women bishops is long overdue. The arrival of women bishops in the House of Lords is long overdue. I commend the Measure to the House."

The proposal was passed without a vote, much to the delight of campaigners.

A statement from Women and the Church (WATCH) read: "History was made today as the Women Bishops Measure successfully made its way through both Houses of Parliament.

"WATCH would like to thank Peers and MPs for their overwhelming support and encouragement for women's ministry both lay and ordained at every level.

"All the long years of debate are over and after so many words we are speechless with joy."