The Church of England's bishops are to hold an emergency meeting on Wednesday after legislation paving the way for the first women bishops narrowly failed to clear its final hurdle at the General Synod of the Church of England.

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 in all three houses of the General Synod.

The Rev Prebendary Rod Thomas, a vicar in Plymouth and chairman of the conservative evangelical grouping Reform, which recommended a no vote, said: "My overall conclusion is that it is very good news for the Church of England.

bishops

Demonstrators protest against the ordination of women bishops

"We have avoided what could have been a disastrous mistake for our unity and witness."

The Catholic Group on the General Synod, which backed a no vote, said in a statement: "We regret the Synod was put in the position whereby draft legislation failed at final approval because it was unclear and unfair in its provision for those who, in conscience, are unable to accept the ministry of women as bishops or priests.

"The Catholic Group calls on the House of Bishops to reconvene the talks started in the summer between representatives of different groups, chaired by Bishop Justin Welby."

The defeat comes in spite of a series of appeals from senior bishops in the Church of England for the General Synod to back final approval for the legislation.

Bishop Welby, speaking to the General Synod, pledged to protect those who oppose the ordination of women if the legislation was passed.

He said it was "time to finish the job" and vote in favour of final approval for legislation.

"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," he said.

Appeals from senior bishops for people to vote in favour of the motion were followed by a series of speeches at the General Synod opposing giving final approval to the legislation. One speaker said the Church of England was facing a "train crash".

Dr Charles Hanson told the General Synod that if women bishops were approved now it would be "second class legislation".

He added: "Being asked to sign this legislation is like being asked to sign a blank cheque."

Susannah Leafe said more discussion was needed, adding: "I genuinely believe that we can do better.

"And I just wonder if you looked at this the other way round.

"What if we say we wanted to stay together first and then try to discuss legislation for women bishops?"

The Rev Canon Chris Sugden from the Oxford Diocese urged a vote against. "Christian doctrine is not set by a popular vote as though it was Strictly Come Dancing," he said.

The Rev Angus MacLeay, from Sevenoaks in the Rochester Diocese, speaking against giving final approval to the legislation, said: "Whatever the outcome, there is no victory in the coming days. It is a train crash."

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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)