Church of England Formally Approves Women Bishops

November 17, 2014

Church of England senior leaders, PN Member Archbishop of York John Sentamu and Archbishop of Canterbury Justin Welby officially signed legislation into church law today that will allow for women to be consecrated as bishops.

The signing follows a July 2014 vote in which the General Synod, the government body of the Church of England, approved the legislation, and a final show of hands vote in which only about 30 of the 480 people present voted against the motion.

According to Archbishop Welby, the church has already begun to train women as potential bishops. "The aim is that you end up with a big pool of people where gender is irrelevant," he said, "We are going to take this very, very seriously."

Twenty years ago, women were first allowed to be ordained as priests. This new legislation changes Cannon 33, which now states, "a man or a woman may be consecrated to the office of bishop." This marks the first time in the history of the church that women have been permitted to take on a more senior role in the church hierarchy. 

Despite being looked on positively by many, the new legislation is still disputed by a faction of the church. The conservative evangelical group, Reform, maintains that "the divine order of male headship" makes it "inappropriate" for women to lead dioceses.

Chairwoman of Women and the Church, Hilary Cotton, belongs to the majority of the church that strongly supports the new legislation. She views this as a significant step toward gender equality. "It is not just about having women wearing purple, it is about changing the culture of the church to be more equal," she said.

In the words of Synod member Christina Rees, "The stained-glass ceiling is finally being shattered.


PN Member John Sentamu was appointed Archbishop of York in 2005. He is also a Primate of England and Metropolitan, a member of the House of Lords, and a Privy Councillor. 

Photo courtesy of Lambeth Palace.


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