After decades of debate, the Church of England formally voted down draft legislation that would have allowed women to become bishops.
Debate on the draft legislation Tuesday spanned seven hours and saw more than 100 people voice support or opposition for the draft legislation.
At its General Synod meeting, despite the ardent support of the incoming Archbishop of Canterbury, the Rt. Rev. Justin Welby, the measure failed to secure a two-thirds majority in all of the three voting bodies of the church, the House of Bishops, the House of Clergy and the House of Laity.
At the General Synod, elected church leaders, both laity and clergy, meet at least twice annually to decide on everything from the governing rules of the church to worship practices to budgets.
"The ministry of women priests," Welby, the current Bishop of Durham and archbishop-designate, told the Synod, "has been powerful in all areas of the church except as part of the episcopacy."
"It is time to finish the job and vote for this measure. But also the Church of England needs to show how to 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, according to a copy of his statement posted on the church's website.
During the debate, Jane Pattison, from the Diocese of Sheffield, voiced opposition to the measure, according to the Episcopal News Service. She told the assembly that it would "promote the loss of conservative evangelical and traditional catholic ministry in the Church of England. I suggest that the church cannot afford this loss. ... England cannot afford this loss if we are serious about sharing the Gospel with the nation."
In the Church of England women have been able to serve as priests since the early 1990s. The draft legislation would have continued that service by "enabling a woman to be consecrated to the office of the bishop if she otherwise satisfies the requirements of Canon Law as to the persons who may be consecrated as bishops."
Had the measure passed, canon law for the church would also have been amended to allow for female bishops and the General Synod would have then had to send that on formally to the Queen of England as a "Petition to the Crown" for her to grant "Royal Assent and License" to make the change to the church canon.
Queen Elizabeth is the Supreme Governor of the Church of England. The two archbishops of the church, the Archbishop of Canterbury and the Archbishop of York, along with 24 other bishops, have seats in Parliament in the House of Lords. The Church of England is part of the global Anglican Communion. The Church of England says 1.7 million people take part each month in services and four in 10 people in Brittain say they belong to the church.
Before the results of the vote were read to the assembly, the members and the gallery were reminded by Archbishop of York John Sentamu of "the long-standing custom of receiving the results of votes on controversial matters in silence."
The legislation titled "Draft Bishops and Priests (Consecration and Ordination of Women) Measure" received broad support by the House of Bishops with 44 votes for, three against and two abstentions. The House of Clergy was similarly supportive with 148 in favor and 45 against. Both votes cleared the needed two-thirds majority. But the 132 for and 74 against vote in the House of Laity came up six votes shy needed for the measure to pass.
The Bishop of Bristol said in a statement the vote was disastrous.
"Whilst I have never believed it necessary for anyone to leave the church on the basis of the measure before us today, others clearly took another view," the Rt. Rev. Mike Hill said in a statement posted by the Diocese of Bristol.
"It will be very difficult for those of us who have supported the ordination of women bishops to process our disappointment in the days ahead. My prayers are with the many people who are hurting, particularly women in our churches and those within and outside the church who are bemused and disillusioned by such a failure," Hill said.
The House of Bishops of the Church of England will hold an emergency session to consider the consequences of the vote on Wednesday morning according to a statement by the Church of England.