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Last Updated: Thursday, 12 June, 2003, 15:50 GMT 16:50 UK
Scottish church backs female bishops
An ordination service for women priests
Women priests were ordained more than 10 years ago
The first female Anglican bishop in Britain and Ireland could be in place as early as next year after a landmark vote by bishops in Scotland.

The decision of the Synod of the Scottish Episcopal Church to allow the ordination of women bishops will undoubtedly put pressure on the Church of England to follow suit.

The Anglican Church in Ireland has already voted to allow women bishops, but has yet to appoint any.

Only 24 members of the synod voted against women bishops, while 124 backed the proposal.

A spokesman for the Church said: "They had the vote in three houses. The bishops, the clergy and the laity, and all seven out of seven bishops voted for women bishops.

"We have ended centuries of tradition today while allowing women to become bishops. It is a momentous decision for the church."

At present only Anglican churches in the United States, Canada, Polynesia and New Zealand have women working as bishops.

First opportunity

The vote in Scotland follows a 12-month consultation period after 80% of the synod supported the proposal at its first reading a year ago.

The first opportunity for a woman to be selected to head a Scottish diocese will come in October, when the Right Reverend Douglas Cameron, the Bishop of Argyll and the Isles is due to retire.

There are currently seven bishops in the Scottish Episcopal Church.

I feel that in Scotland we need more time for the ordination of women priests to bed down, and time to do more theological work
Father Trevor Stevens
Forward in Faith Scotland

Speaking before the vote, Father Trevor Stevens of Forward in Faith Scotland, who is opposed to the change, told Radio 4's Today programme: "In the Anglican communion, of which we are a part, not all churches have made up their mind on this issue.

"I feel that in Scotland we need more time for the ordination of women priests to bed down, and time to do more theological work.

"The Church of England is currently producing a report being carried out by the Rochester Commission, and I feel that waiting a little while longer in Scotland and learning from its answers would be important."

Two-thirds of the 156-member synod of the Scottish Episcopal Church is made up of half lay members, half clergy, and the seven bishops had to vote in favour for the motion to be carried.

The synod acts as the parliament of the church. It is the church's legislative and deliberative body.

Members oversee and direct the work of the church's boards and committees.

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