Church of England votes to allow female priests
The 11th of November 1992 AD
By the margin of just two votes the General Synod of the Church of England decided on November 11 1992 to allow women priests in that church. After more than 70 years of talk – the idea was first debated in 1920 at the Lambeth Conference of that year – the way had finally been paved for women priests to be ordained in the CofE.
The narrowness of the vote at Church House in Westminster was exactly what advocates of the change, including Archbishop of Canterbury George Carey, would not have wanted. Inevitably those who disagreed with the idea refused to change their stance, or move on from the increasingly heated argument. More than 400 male priests would in time leave for the Roman Catholic Church. Many lay members followed them. Large numbers of male priests remaining within the CofE refused to take communion from women priests.
Those looking on from outside found the drama rather strange. A group of people supposedly united in common faith openly squabbling. Some rather un-Christian things were said and done in the aftermath of the vote, and the inelegant compromise of so-called flying bishops to minister to those refusing to accept the new situation led to a church-within-a-church. In the face of dwindling congregations the situation was not what was needed, though arguably bringing the organisation into the 20th century albeit as it was ending was a step in the right direction.
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