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Church Of England General Synod Votes No To Women Bishops (PICTURES)

20/11/2012 18:22 | Updated 20 November 2012

The Church of England has been plunged into turmoil after legislation introducing the first women bishops failed to clear its final hurdle at the General Synod.

The draft measure was carried in the houses of bishops and clergy of the General Synod but failed to gain the necessary two thirds majority amongst the lay members of the General Synod.

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Both the Bishop of Durham, Justin Welby, and the Archbishop of Canterbury, Dr Rowan Williams, had wanted a yes vote

The House of Bishops voted 44 in favour, with three against and two recorded abstentions. In the House of Clergy, 148 voted in favour, 45 against and there were no abstentions.

But in the House of Laity, 74 voted against, compared to 132 in favour with no abstentions.

The result will be seen as a major blow to the authority of the Archbishop of Canterbury Dr Rowan Williams, who launched a campaign in favour of a yes vote last month.

Dr Williams spoke of his "deep personal sadness" after the vote and said he wished the incoming Archbishop of Canterbury "every blessing" with resolving the issue.

"Of course I hoped and prayed that this particular business would be at another stage before I left, and course it is a personal sadness, a deep personal sadness that that is not the case," he said in a pooled broadcast interview.

"I can only wish the Synod and the archbishop all good things and every blessing with resolving this in the shortest possible time."

The vote comes after a series of speakers opposed giving final approval to the legislation.

Canon Simon Killwick, a vicar in Moss Side, Manchester, chairman of the Catholic Group in the General Synod, urged members to vote against the legislation.

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Dr Canon Paula Gooder alongside Dr Rowan Williams, the outgoing Archbishop of Canterbury, after the vote

"I do not believe that this draft legislation will be good for the Church of England," he said.

"We are all desperate to move on from the sad infighting of the last few years - but this legislation does not provide a clear way forward.

Early reaction on Twitter was hostile to those who had blocked the changes:

If six people had changed their vote from no to yes in the House of Laity, the legislation would have received the necessary two thirds majority.

The defeat will mean the legislation will take at least another five years before it could reach the same stage for debate in the General Synod.

A spokesman for the Church of England said there would be an emergency meeting of the House of Bishops on Wednesday morning in the light of the result.

Earlier, the the Rt Rev Welby had told the Synod: "It is time to finish the job and vote for this measure, but also the Church of England needs to show how we can develop the mission of the Church in a way that demonstrates that we can manage diversity of view without division - diversity in amity, not diversity in enmity."

general synod women bishops

It was the lay members of the General Synod who prevented the motion from being passed

Dr Williams said it was time to "turn a page", adding: "I am rather clearer that a no vote would not do anything positive for our mission in this country."

The vote was the biggest decision to be taken by the 470-strong body in 20 years.

The Rev Rachel Weir, of the campaign group Women and the Church, said: "We're absolutely devastated.

"Not just devastated on behalf of clergy women - obviously this will be an enormous blow to clergy women, it's awful for their morale - but it's a disaster for the Church of England.

"We've spent 10 years working for this legislation. There's something badly wrong with the system.

"In the General Synod we have a grossly over-representational number of extremely conservative wings of the Church.

"They're not representational views from the pews, the majority of people would love to have women bishops.

"It's really tragic for us, clearly we're need to have women bishops in the Church of England."

Asked what happens next, Ms Weir, from the Oxford Diocese, said: "We'll move heaven and earth to get this back on track as soon as possible."

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