UK Politics

Women bishops change approved in the House of Lords

Archbishop of Canterbury Justin Welby

Allowing women to become bishops is "long overdue", the Archbishop of Canterbury Justin Welby has said, as the change was approved by the Lords.

Peers accepted the General Synod proposal, passed by the Synod in July, without a vote.

It is expected to be approved by MPs next week, allowing it to become law.

Speaking in the Lords, the archbishop urged the government to bring in legislation to allow women bishops to join him in the upper house.

Under the current system, the places are reserved for the archbishops of Canterbury and York, and the bishops Durham, London and Winchester.

The other 21 go to the remaining bishops who have served the longest time in office.

'Frustration'

The Bishops and Priests (Consecration and Ordination of Women) Measure passed through the General Synod in July by the required two-thirds majority.

Archbishop Welby told peers: "Over the past 20 years, many women have given outstanding leadership as vicars, archdeacons and cathedral deans.

"Now, for the first time, every post will be open to them. For many people within the Church of England and others it has been a process full of frustration when looked at from the outside."

Calling for legislation before the general election, he said the bishops benches in the Lords would eventually include women "but that could take some time if the normal seniority system were simply left to take its course".

To laughter from peers, he added: "We have a bunch of young, vigorous bishops who aren't going to retire too soon. And they really don't die very often."

Adding his support to the measure Lord Lloyd of Berwick, chairman of the ecclesiastical committee, asked: "What has the fuss all been about?"

The former lord justice of appeal said the qualities necessary to make a good bishop were every bit as frequently found in women as in men.

Conservative Baroness Berridge said the change presented an opportunity for the Church to be a role model for Britain's boardrooms, the armed forces and Parliament itself.

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