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Women bishops: Church of England synod votes for new law

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Media captionThe Archbishop of Canterbury: "I am actually extremely optimistic on the basis of the change of mood"

The Church of England's ruling general synod has voted to restart work on allowing women to become bishops.

Delegates voted by 319 to 84 to move forward on a new draft law, although this isn't expected to get final approval until July or November 2015.

Previous attempts at creating similar legislation have been thrown out because of internal disagreements.

The Archbishop of Canterbury said he remained "extremely optimistic" agreement could be reached.

The last attempt to introduce women bishops was narrowly defeated at a synod meeting in November.

It passed in the Houses of Bishops and Clergy, but failed to gain the required two-thirds majority in the House of Laity. The lay members who blocked the draft law said it gave traditionalist parishes inadequate guarantees of access to an alternative, male, bishop.

'Mood shift'

Following the vote, the Most Reverend Justin Welby said: "There is a strong desire to get it done.

"We aren't at the stage of saying should we ordain women as bishops, we are at the stage of saying we are going to ordain women as bishops, how do we go about that?

"It is going to take a little while, we are going to have to go on working at it, there has been such a shift in mood over the last six months. I remain extremely optimistic."

The general synod is on the fourth day of a five-day meeting at the University of York.

Delegates were asked to back new proposals from the synod's House of Bishops, which has been welcomed by supporters of women bishops.

It was created in response to a report submitted in May by a working group from all three houses.

Opening the debate, the Bishop of St Edmundsbury and Ipswich, the Right Reverend Nigel Stock, said there was an urgent need for agreement.

"Last November's decision caused profound mystification and unhappiness around much of the Church of England. It was a serious blow to our female clergy," he said.

The traditionalists are not happy with the plan as the proposal moves away from enshrining concessions to the opponents of women bishops in the legislation itself.

The House of Bishops proposals suggest the concessions should be in a separate declaration by the synod or by the bishops.

During the debate, the traditionalists warned the synod they would be alienated from the Church unless safeguards were written into the law, but an attempt to do so was defeated.

More than 20 years after the introduction of women priests, they now make up about a third of the Church's priests.

Some - but not all - of the CofE's evangelicals and Anglo-Catholics oppose the appointment of women bishops.

Anglo-Catholics revere the traditions and ceremonies of the Church. Some believe a woman cannot be a valid bishop and ordaining women prevents unity with the Roman Catholics.

Evangelicals place great stress on the teachings of the Bible. Those who oppose women bishops say scripture requires male headship in the Church.

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