The Church of England moved toward ordaining its first female bishops Monday, as its governing body voted to enable women to become bishops. The move comes two decades after the church first ordained women as priests, in 1994.
“Today we can begin to embrace a new way of being the church and moving forward together,” Archbishop of Canterbury Justin Welby said after the vote. “We will also continue to seek the flourishing in the church of those who disagree.”
The new policy comes several years after the Church of England first voted to approve the idea of ordaining women as bishops. Earlier attempts to make the change were largely undone by disagreements over how it should be enacted.
In the end, the historic change was executed fairly simply; for instance, one portion of the Anglican Church canon a section was amended to begin with a new paragraph: “A man or a woman may be consecrated to the office of bishop.”
Announcing the new policy, the church also noted that it currently has openings for bishops in four dioceses, and for assistant bishops at five.
The broader Anglican Communion has undergone several shifts in recent years, largely over issues related to the roles of women and homosexuals in the church. And not all of the changes have occurred at the same pace, or with universal approval.
In 2006, the U.S. Episcopalians elected a woman, Katharine Jefferts Schori, to head their denomination of more than 2 million members. But at around the same time, some conservative churches sought to leave the American Episcopal Church over its ordaining of an openly gay man as a bishop.