The Church of England voted on July 14 to allow female bishops to be ordained for the first time ever. A similar move by the clergy received support from several churches in 2012 but the motion was blocked by traditionalists. The church, however, did ordain its first group of female priests in 1994.
“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. The challenge for us will be for the church to model good disagreement and to continue to demonstrate love for those who disagree on theological grounds. Very few institutions achieve this, but if we manage this, we will be living (out) more fully the call of Jesus Christ to love one another,” said Archbishop of Canterbury Justin Welby.
The approval for change, which eventually overturned centuries of Anglican tradition, needed a two-third majority from the General Synod, which happens to be the highest governing body of the church. The Church of England separated from the Roman Catholic Church during the 16th century and is the biggest Christian denomination in Britain.
According to the recent development, the first group of female bishops could be ordained as early as next year since its American branch, the Episcopal Church, already allows female bishops to be ordained.
Archbishop of York John Sentamu said, “This is a momentous day. Generations of women have served the Lord faithfully in the Church of England for centuries. It is a moment of joy today.”
Meanwhile, on July 26 the Episcopal Church celebrated 40 years of women in the priesthood. The church had first declared the ordinations of 11 women in Philadelphia on July 29, 1974 and four more were ordained the following year in Washington DC. By 1976, the national governing body of the church had amended the rules and allowed women to be ordained as priests and not just as deacons. This year turned into a year of considerable introspection about how women priests were first ordained and what the Episcopal Church has gained from its decision to allow that.
However, there continue to be some instances where women officials within the church experience occasional misogyny and informal barriers to advancement, which is why some fear that the Church of England has a long way to go before it starts actually ordaining women bishops.
Photo Credit: Diocese of Rochester