On July 14 in the city of York, the General Synod of the Anglican Church of England hit a historical milestone when it gave their approval for women to become bishops after a five hour debate. The General Synod House of Bishop ended their note with 37-2 and one abstention, the House of Clergy voted 162-25 and four abstentions and the House of Laity voted 152-45 and with five abstentions.
According to a release from the Church of England’s website, “the first woman bishop could potentially be appointed by the end of the year.”
Also in the release, the archbishop of Canterbury, Justin Welby, seemed very pleased by how the debate finished stating, “Today is the completion of what was begun over 20 years with the ordination of women as priests. I am delighted with today’s result. Today marks the start of a great adventure of seeking mutual flourishing while still, in some cases disagreeing.”
This comes a long way since the last debate, which was held on November of 2012, ended in much controversy after it failed to pass through the House of Laity with six votes short of making the two-thirds necessary to win.
While many are very pleased with the decision, there are still those who are in dissent of the change. Since the ordainment of women into the priesthood in 1994, the Church of England has had heated disputes over women being able to serve as bishops within the church. Such disagreement comes from those who hold true to the more traditional standards, who believe only males should hold positions of authority according what they believe the biblical scriptures state. (For more, read BBC’s article What Are the Issues Behind Women Bishop’s Vote?)
According to The Guardian on the decision, some Anglo-Catholics and evangelicals expressed:
“Having women as bishops would go against the teachings of Jesus. If Jesus intended women to be among the top church leaders, he would have had a woman among the Twelve Apostles.”
But for as much controversy that has taken place over the issue in England, there have been women who have been ordained within the Anglican denomination elsewhere. In 1989, Barbara C. Harris was ordained as Bishop Suffragan at the Episcopal Diocese of Massachusetts, the first time a woman in the Anglican denomination was chosen as a bishop. Harris served from 1989- 2003. The second woman chosen in the Anglican denomination was Bishop Penelope Ann Bansall Jamieson of New Zealand who served from 1989-2004. Other women bishops have been ordained throughout the United States, Canada and Australia.
The Church of England practices the Anglican doctrine which follows the biblical scriptures and a number of other observances such as the Canon law, the teachings from the early Church Fathers of the Christian faith and also the ecumenical creeds. Priests and bishops within the Anglican faith in England have practiced male leadership until only recently, when women were ordained into the priesthood in 1994 and most recently in 2014 with the approval of female bishops.
While a great milestone has been achieved, it is with high hopes and potential that women and men can be recognized as equal leaders in the church, as well as every other facet of society.