The Archbishop of Canterbury tonight said he was “delighted” after the General Synod overwhelmingly backed legislation introducing the first women bishops in the Church of England.
The Most Rev Justin Welby spoke of the responsibility bishops of the Church of England now had towards traditionalist objectors following the historic vote by members of the Church’s governing body.
“I am delighted, I am very conscious of the responsibility that the Synod has put on the House of Bishops to deliver what we have promised to deliver in terms of the flourishing of the whole Church,”he told a news conference at York University.
“But we are delighted that we have reached this stage and grateful to God and grateful for the answered prayers that have brought us here in a debate that was full of charity, and grace and I think the presence of Jesus Christ was there throughout.”
Archbishop Welby revealed that he had sent a text message to Lord Williams, his predecessor as Archbishop of Canterbury telling him about the result of the vote and thanking him for his work that he said had contributed to the outcome.
Earlier there were whoops of delight and scenes of jubilation by pro-women campaigners after more than 80% of the General Synod gave final approval to the legislation.
The measure received the necessary two thirds majority in all three Houses of the General Synod with 37 bishops voting in favour with two against and one abstention, 162 clergy in favour, 25 against and four abstentions.
In the crucial lay votes there were 152 votes in favour, 45 against and five abstentions.
The new plan involves a declaration by the bishops outlining arrangements for objectors. An ombudsman will be appointed to rule over disputes once women bishops are in place.
In spite of an appeal from the Archbishop of York, Dr John Sentamu, for the result to be received with “restraint and sensitivity” there was some clapping and shouts of “brill” from within the hall when the outcome was announced.
The success in the make-or-break vote comes after a plan to introduce women bishops collapsed in November 2012 when it was derailed by just six votes cast by lay members.
Archbishop Welby staked his authority on a new set of proposals, bringing in mediation and conflict experts in an effort to resolve differences.
Earlier in an emotional debate, the General Synod heard from a series of speakers who said they had voted against the legislation in November 2012 but would now cast their votes in favour or abstain.
Dr Philip Giddings, from the Oxford Diocese, and head of the House of Laity, announced that he would be voting in favour, having voted against in November 2012.
He told the General Synod: “I will vote for this legislation today.”
Prudence Dailey, from the Oxford Diocese, who voted against in November 2012, told members she would abstain.
“I intend to abstain because I believe we have arrived at a solution which the majority of people in all parts of the Church can agree to live with, I have no desire to block that,” she said.
Adrian Vincent, a lay member from the Guildford Diocese, drew an emotional response from a prominent pro-women campaigner when he said he would be voting in favour of the legislation in spite of his membership of the Catholic group.
He voted against in November 2012.
“I shall be voting in favour today. By doing so, I am betraying what I believe, I am betraying those who trusted in me,” he said. “I hope that the promised commitment to mutual flourishing is not a commitment that will run out of steam in a few years.”
He was praised by Christina Rees, a prominent supporter of women bishops from the St Albans Diocese.
Close to tears, she said: “Adrian Vincent has made a sacrificial decision today for the sake of the Church, he has shown his loyalty as an Anglican and as a member of the Church of England. I was not prepared for what he said, it absolutely stunned me.”
Before the crucial vote, members of the General Synod spent some moments in prayer and silent reflection.
After the proceedings were over, Dr Sentamu led the General Synod in a rendition of We are Marching in the Light of God, with members clapping along and at least one woman cleric seen swaying to the beat.
The plan will now go to the ecclesiastical committee of Parliament and the House of Commons and the House of Lords for consideration. The General Synod will then meet on November 17 to formally declare that women can be bishops.
Women were first ordained in the Church of England in 1994. They now make up around a third of Church of England clergy and occupy senior positions including six cathedral deans and more than 20 archdeacons.
The plan passed today could mean the first woman bishop is announced by the end of this year.
Prime Minister David Cameron welcomed the General Synod vote as a “great day for the Church and for equality”.
The move was also welcomed by Deputy Prime Minister Nick Clegg who called it a “watershed moment for the Church of England” and Labour leader Ed Miliband who described it as “wonderful news”.
Outside the General Synod, pro-women supporters popped champagne corks and toasted the vote.
The Reverend Dr Rosemarie Mallet, from Southwark diocese, said: “I’m absolutely joyful, thank God after 20 years of very hard work we now have a decision that can help us work for everyone in the Church and engage everybody to be part of that ministry.
“Over the past year or so the Church has been growing in its work in the community, through credit unions and food banks, but people didn’t think we got it because at the heart of it we weren’t engaging everyone and saying our women are as good as our men.”
The Right Reverend David Walker, Bishop of Manchester, said the successful vote had left him feeling quite emotional and said an enormous amount of work had gone into achieving the result.
“I’m really very emotional at the moment, it’s been a long time coming and it’s been achieved by such an overwhelming majority as we had to get two thirds of each house but we had over three quarters and that’s a huge vote of confidence in the work we have done to get it through,” he said.
“An enormous amount of work has had to take place to get us to where we are today, particularly in the last two years after the first attempt failed.
“This legislation was much simpler and we’ve been working on human relationships to sort out our problems.
“I’m sure there’s a huge cry of joy going out across the country today in the Church of England, of course not everyone will be pleased but the vast majority are and we’ve shown that we’re keeping up with the spirit of the age but also the spirit of God.”