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.

welby williams synod

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.

The incoming Archbishop of Canterbury the Rt Rev Justin Welby, also urged the General Synod to give the legislation the necessary majority.

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.

women bishops vote

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:


Alexandra Lilley
Unbelievable. Think I'll become a Methodist


Ship of Fools
Would the last person to leave the church please turn the lights out?


Alison Ely
didn't realise how much I cared about women bishops until fifteen minutes ago.very sad and rather confused.


Barbara Carpenter
So sad about the decision. Praying for my brothers and sisters in the Anglican communion, but especially for my sisters.


Joel Taylor
Unbelievable, blinkered stupidity by House of Laity at the . Such outdated intransigence pushes the CoE further to margins of society

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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  • BRITAIN-RELIGION-ANGLICAN-WOMEN-VOTE

    Marie-Elsa Bragg, Assistant Curate, embraces a collegue after the Church of England's draft legislation approving women bishops failed to pass during the England General Synod at Church House in central London on November 20, 2012. The legislation needed a two-thirds majority among the three houses of bishops, clergy and laity, but failed by just six voters among the laity. AFP PHOTO/BEN STANSALL (Photo credit should read BEN STANSALL,BEN STANSALL/AFP/Getty Images)

  • BRITAIN-RELIGION-ANGLICAN-WOMEN-VOTE

    Marie-Elsa Bragg embraces a collegue after the Church of England's draft legislation approving women bishops failed to pass during the England General Synod at Church House in central London on November 20, 2012. The legislation needed a two-thirds majority among the three houses of bishops, clergy and laity, but failed by just six voters among the laity. AFP PHOTO/BEN STANSALL (Photo credit should read BEN STANSALL,BEN STANSALL/AFP/Getty Images)

  • BRITAIN-RELIGION-ANGLICAN-WOMEN-VOTE

    The Bishop of Norwich Graham James speaks to the media after the Church of England's draft legislation approving women bishops failed to pass during the England General Synod at Church House in central London on November 20, 2012. The legislation needed a two-thirds majority among the three houses of bishops, clergy and laity, but failed by just six voters among the laity. AFP PHOTO/BEN STANSALL (Photo credit should read BEN STANSALL,BEN STANSALL/AFP/Getty Images)

  • BRITAIN-RELIGION-ANGLICAN-WOMEN-VOTE

    Female members of the clergy leave after the Church of England's draft legislation approving women bishops failed to pass during the England General Synod at Church House in central London on November 20, 2012. The legislation needed a two-thirds majority among the three houses of bishops, clergy and laity, but failed by just six voters among the laity. AFP PHOTO/BEN STANSALL (Photo credit should read BEN STANSALL,BEN STANSALL/AFP/Getty Images)

  • Vote on female bishops

    Dr Rowan Williams, the outgoing Archbishop of Canterbury, during a meeting of the General Synod of the Church of England - where a vote on whether to give final approval to legislation introducing the first women bishops will take place - at Church House in central London.

  • Vote on female bishops

    Dr Rowan Williams, the outgoing Archbishop of Canterbury, after draft legislation introducing the first women bishops in the Church of England failed to receive final approval from the Church of England General Synod, at Church House in central London.

  • Vote on female bishops

    Rt Rev Justin Welby, the incoming Archbishop of Canterbury (top) with Dr Rowan Williams, the outgoing Archbishop of Canterbury (back to camera), after draft legislation introducing the first women bishops in the Church of England failed to receive final approval from the Church of England General Synod, at Church House in central London.

  • Vote on female bishops

    Rt Rev Justin Welby, the incoming Archbishop of Canterbury (background) looks on as Dr Rowan Williams, the outgoing Archbishop of Canterbury is given a hug, after draft legislation introducing the first women bishops in the Church of England failed to receive final approval from the Church of England General Synod, at Church House in central London.

  • Vote on female bishops

    Dr Rowan Williams (back to camera), the outgoing Archbishop of Canterbury, provides a shoulder of comfort after draft legislation introducing the first women bishops in the Church of England failed to receive final approval from the Church of England General Synod, at Church House in central London.

  • Vote on female bishops

    Dr Rowan Williams, the outgoing Archbishop of Canterbury, after draft legislation introducing the first women bishops in the Church of England failed to receive final approval from the Church of England General Synod, at Church House in central London.

  • Vote on female bishops

    Dr Rowan Williams, the outgoing Archbishop of Canterbury (left) listens to a speech by the Right Reverend Nigel McCulloch, Bishop of Manchester, during a meeting of the General Synod of the Church of England - where a vote on whether to give final approval to legislation introducing the first women bishops will take place - at Church House in central London.

  • Vote on female bishops

    A general view of the Assembly Hall of Church House, during a meeting of the General Synod of the Church of England - where a vote on whether to give final approval to legislation introducing the first women bishops will take place - in central London.

  • Vote on female bishops

    The Venerable Rachel Treweek, Archdeacon of Hackney speaking during a meeting of the General Synod of the Church of England - where a vote on whether to give final approval to legislation introducing the first women bishops will take place - at Church House in central London.

  • Vote on female bishops

    The Venerable Rachel Treweek, Archdeacon of Hackney speaking during a meeting of the General Synod of the Church of England - where a vote on whether to give final approval to legislation introducing the first women bishops will take place - at Church House in central London.

  • Vote on female bishops

    The Reverend Janet Appleby speaking during a meeting of the General Synod of the Church of England - where a vote on whether to give final approval to legislation introducing the first women bishops will take place - at Church House in central London.

  • Vote on female bishops

    Canon Rosie Harper speaking during a meeting of the General Synod of the Church of England - where a vote on whether to give final approval to legislation introducing the first women bishops will take place - at Church House in central London.

  • Vote on female bishops

    Rt Rev Justin Welby, the incoming Archbishop of Canterbury speaking during a meeting of the General Synod of the Church of England - where a vote on whether to give final approval to legislation introducing the first women bishops will take place - at Church House in central London.

  • Vote on female bishops

    Dr Rowan Williams, the outgoing Archbishop of Canterbury (left) listens to a speech by the Right Reverend Nigel McCulloch, Bishop of Manchester, during a meeting of the General Synod of the Church of England - where a vote on whether to give final approval to legislation introducing the first women bishops will take place - at Church House in central London.

  • Vote on female bishops

    Dr Rowan Williams, the outgoing Archbishop of Canterbury during a meeting of the General Synod of the Church of England - where a vote on whether to give final approval to legislation introducing the first women bishops will take place - at Church House in central London.

  • Vote on female bishops

    Rt Rev Justin Welby (centre), the incoming Archbishop of Canterbury after speaking during a meeting of the General Synod of the Church of England - where a vote on whether to give final approval to legislation introducing the first women bishops will take place - at Church House in central London.

  • Vote on female bishops

    Dr Rowan Williams, the outgoing Archbishop of Canterbury during a meeting of the General Synod of the Church of England - where a vote on whether to give final approval to legislation introducing the first women bishops will take place - at Church House in central London.

  • Vote on female bishops

    Rt Rev Justin Welby, the incoming Archbishop of Canterbury speaking during a meeting of the General Synod of the Church of England - where a vote on whether to give final approval to legislation introducing the first women bishops will take place - at Church House in central London.

  • Vote on female bishops

    Rt Rev Justin Welby (centre), the incoming Archbishop of Canterbury after speaking during a meeting of the General Synod of the Church of England - where a vote on whether to give final approval to legislation introducing the first women bishops will take place - at Church House in central London.

  • Vote on female bishops

    Dr Rowan Williams, the outgoing Archbishop of Canterbury during a meeting of the General Synod of the Church of England - where a vote on whether to give final approval to legislation introducing the first women bishops will take place - at Church House in central London.

  • Vote on female bishops

    Dr Rowan Williams, the outgoing Archbishop of Canterbury, speaking during a meeting of the General Synod of the Church of England - where a vote on whether to give final approval to legislation introducing the first women bishops will take place - at Church House in central London.

  • Vote on female bishops

    Dr Rowan Williams, the outgoing Archbishop of Canterbury, after speaking during a meeting of the General Synod of the Church of England - where a vote on whether to give final approval to legislation introducing the first women bishops will take place - at Church House in central London.

  • Vote on female bishops

    Dr Rowan Williams, the outgoing Archbishop of Canterbury, speaking during a meeting of the General Synod of the Church of England - where a vote on whether to give final approval to legislation introducing the first women bishops will take place - at Church House in central London.

  • Vote on female bishops

    A general view of the Assembly Hall of Church House, during a meeting of the General Synod of the Church of England - where a vote on whether to give final approval to legislation introducing the first women bishops will take place - in central London.

  • Vote on female bishops

    A 'No Entry' sign in the Assembly Hall of Church House, during a meeting of the General Synod of the Church of England - where a vote on whether to give final approval to legislation introducing the first women bishops will take place - in central London.

  • Vote on female bishops

    A general view of the Assembly Hall of Church House, during a meeting of the General Synod of the Church of England - where a vote on whether to give final approval to legislation introducing the first women bishops will take place - in central London.

  • Vote on female bishops

    A general view of the Assembly Hall of Church House, during a meeting of the General Synod of the Church of England - where a vote on whether to give final approval to legislation introducing the first women bishops will take place - in central London.

  • The Church of England's Synod Vote On Women Bishops

    LONDON, ENGLAND - NOVEMBER 20: Visitors enter Church House for the afternoon session of the Synod on November 20, 2012 in London, England. The Church of England's governing body, known as the General Synod, will later today vote on whether to allow women to become bishops. (Photo by Peter Macdiarmid/Getty Images)

  • Vote on female bishops

    A general view of the voting handset which will be used during a meeting of the General Synod of the Church of England - where a vote on whether to give final approval to legislation introducing the first women bishops will take place - in central London.

  • Vote on female bishops

    PLEASE NOTE THE PERSON'S NAME ON SMARTCARD PIXELATED BY REQUEST OF THE CHURCH AUTHORITIES : A general view of the voting handset which will be used during a meeting of the General Synod of the Church of England - where a vote on whether to give final approval to legislation introducing the first women bishops will take place - in central London.

  • Vote on female bishops

    PLEASE NOTE THE PERSON'S NAME ON SMARTCARD PIXELATED BY REQUEST OF THE CHURCH AUTHORITIES : A general view of the voting handset which will be used during a meeting of the General Synod of the Church of England - where a vote on whether to give final approval to legislation introducing the first women bishops will take place - in central London.

  • The Church of England's Synod Vote On Women Bishops

    LONDON, ENGLAND - NOVEMBER 20: Reverend Sally Hitchiner crosses her fingers outside Church House during a lunch break on November 20, 2012 in London, England. The Church of England's governing body, known as the General Synod, will later today vote on whether to allow women to become bishops. (Photo by Peter Macdiarmid/Getty Images)

  • The Church of England's Synod Vote On Women Bishops

    LONDON, ENGLAND - NOVEMBER 20: Reverend Sally Hitchiner stands outside Church House during a lunch break on November 20, 2012 in London, England. The Church of England's governing body, known as the General Synod, will later today vote on whether to allow women to become bishops. (Photo by Peter Macdiarmid/Getty Images)

  • The Church of England's Synod Vote On Women Bishops

    LONDON, ENGLAND - NOVEMBER 20: Reverends (L-R) Jody Stowell, Nicola Shephard and Sally Hitchiner talk with Peter Broadbent, The Bishop of Willesden outside Church House during a lunch break on November 20, 2012 in London, England. The Church of England's governing body, known as the General Synod, will later today vote on whether to allow women to become bishops. (Photo by Peter Macdiarmid/Getty Images)

  • The Church of England's Synod Vote On Women Bishops

    LONDON, ENGLAND - NOVEMBER 20: Reverend Sally Hitchiner stands outside Church House during a lunch break on November 20, 2012 in London, England. The Church of England's governing body, known as the General Synod, will later today vote on whether to allow women to become bishops. (Photo by Peter Macdiarmid/Getty Images)