THE Church of England was plunged into turmoil tonight after legislation introducing the first women bishops failed to clear its final hurdle at the General Synod.
The draft measure was carried in the houses of bishops and clergy of the General Synod but failed to gain the necessary two thirds majority amongst the lay members of the General Synod.
The House of Bishops voted 44 in favour, with three against and two recorded abstentions. In the House of Clergy, 148 voted in favour, 45 against and there were no abstentions.
But in the House of Laity, 74 voted against, compared to 132 in favour with no abstentions.
The result will be seen as a major blow to the authority of the Archbishop of Canterbury Dr Rowan Williams, who launched a campaign in favour of a yes vote last month.
The incoming Archbishop of Canterbury, and present Bishop of Durham, the Rt Rev Justin Welby, also urged the General Synod to give the legislation the necessary majority.
The vote comes after a series of speakers opposed giving final approval to the legislation.
Canon Simon Killwick, a vicar in Moss Side, Manchester, chairman of the Catholic Group in the General Synod, urged members to vote against the legislation.
"I do not believe that this draft legislation will be good for the Church of England," he said.
"We are all desperate to move on from the sad infighting of the last few years - but this legislation does not provide a clear way forward."