THE diocese of Birmingham has voted overwhelmingly in favour of the draft legislation to allow women to become bishops.
Birmingham is the first diocese to vote on the legislation, which was passed by the General Synod to dioceses last year (News, 16 July).
The vote in Birmingham, last Saturday, was 74 to four in favour of the legislation with its current provisions for those who do not accept women as bishops. The Bishop of Birmingham, the Rt Revd David Urquhart, and the Bishop of Aston, the Rt Revd Andrew Watson, both voted in favour.
The legislation had been considered in deanery synods in the diocese before last weekend’s vote, and two additional motions emerged from these debates, both asking for increased provisions and safeguards for opponents. These were also defeated, however, by a large majority, attracting just a handful of votes in support.
Dr Rachel Jepson, a member of Birmingham’s diocesan synod and a member of the General Synod, said that the vote was significant. “The quality of debate in deanery synods and in diocesan synod was very good, with good listening as well. People have had the opportunity to say what they think, but it’s good to have that decision behind us now so we can move forward.”
The organisation Women and the Church (WATCH) said that it expects the Birmingham vote to be replayed in the majority of dioceses.
The vice-chair of WATCH, Hilary Cotton, said: “This indicates two things to us: first, that people in Birmingham want the Church to get on with making women bishops as soon as possible; and, second, they are satisfied with the provision that this legislation makes for those who will not accept women bishops.”
Many dioceses will hold their votes on the legislation this autumn. If a majority approve it, it will return to the General Synod in 2012 for final drafting, with a final-approval vote expected in July 2012.