Church of England votes to allow female bishops

By Alejandro Freixes, CCNN Head Writer

female priest
20 years ago, the Church of England began allowing women to become priests.

Back in the 16th century, King Henry VIII wanted to end his marriage with Catherine of Aragon, but doing so went against the powerful Roman Catholic Church. So, he set in motion a chain of events that helped the Church of England break away from the Roman Catholic Church, and to this day it remains the officially established Christian church in England. In 1994, the church decided to allow women to become priests, and this week, it voted to allow female bishops!

Bishops are higher-ranked officials of the church, above priests, which is why this historic vote is a major step towards gender equality in the Church of England. Overall, the church is organized into two regions, which are led by the Archbishop of Canterbury for the Southern Province, and the Archbishop of York for the Northern Province.

Each province is broken up into groups called dioceses, and there are over 40 of these in England. The bishops govern these dioceses, which are further split into parishes overseen by priests. It’s kind of like how the USA’s Congress has representatives from different states that come together to help run the government. In the Church of England, its highest governing body is called the General Synod, and the approval for female bishops required a two-thirds majority vote to pass.

The current Archbishop of Canterbury, Justin Welby, was thrilled with the result. He said that it “is the completion of what was begun 20 years ago with the ordination of women as priests.” However, he acknowledges that not everyone will be happy with the decision, and expressed, “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.”

Featured image courtesy of Athanasius on Flickr. Image of female priest courtesy of The Church of England Facebook.