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Church of England votes down women bishops

The Church of England has voted against legislation that would have allowed women to become bishops in Britiain for the first time. The ruling looks set to end more than 10 years of debate on the issue.

The General Synod, the Church's 470-member legislative body made up of separate houses for bishops, clergy and laity, narrowly fell short of the required two-thirds majorities Tuesday. The majority is required in all three houses.

"It was carried in the house of bishops and clergy, but lost in the house of laity," said Archbishop of York John Sentamu. "The motion having lost … we do not proceed any further."

The vote was seen as the first test for Justin Welby, the designated future Archbishop of Canterbury and leader of the mother church to the world's 80 million Anglicans.

The current Archbishop of Canterbury Rowan Williams (pictured above) appealed to the Church delegates to either vote in favor of allowing women to be bishops, or abstain entirely, saying it was "time to turn the page" and look ahead.

Although the Church already allows women bishops in theory, Tuesday's vote - on provisions for conservatives theologically opposed to senior women clergy - had to pass for women to officially become bishops.

Women already serve as bishops in Canada, the United States, Australia and New Zealand, but the Church of England has yet to take such explicit steps.

dr/msh (Reuters, KNA, dpa, AP)