The Church of England voted yesterday to allow women to become bishops, after a twenty year debate since they were first allowed to become priests in 1994 with a measure that passed by a single vote. It also marks the end of almost two thousand years of tradition. This time, however, tthe vote was passed by quite a margin; 152 lay members of the synod voted in favour, versus only 45 against.
This makes quite a change from two years ago, when the matter was last voted on, and 74 lay members voted against the reform – which meant the two-thirds majority required to pass was not met.
This is amazing and incredibly progressive news, but why did it take so long? ‘Tradition’, of course, plays the biggest part, especially amongst the conservative evangelical block which holds the view that a man should never be taught by a woman. One of the ‘no’ voters, for example, Samuel Margrave of Coventry claimed the passing of the motion would mean ‘the end of the Church as we know it.’
But of all the branches of Christianity, the Church of England was more or else built on the subverting of tradition. For those of you who skipped that particular secondary school History lesson, Henry VIII founded the Church of England in order to allow him to divorce his first wife, as the practice was forbidden under Catholicism. They should bloody love breaks with tradition.
When the vote was announced in Central Hall at the University of York, supporters cheered and later celebrated with well-deserved champagne. Reverend Lindsay Southern told The Independent that ‘We are ecstatic. To be at this point is really wonderful, I don’t think any of us really expected that it really would go through. We’re very relieved, very joyful, and I really want to go and hug a bishop.’
The first women bishops could be installed as early as next year.