The Church of England's ruling body has voted to remove the legal blocks stopping women from becoming bishops.
Some clergy have threatened to leave the Church
The vote beginning "the process for removing the legal obstacles to the ordination of women" came after a debate at the General Synod in York.
It was passed despite traditionalists threatening to become Roman Catholic.
Fourteen of the world's 38 Anglican Churches have already decided to allow women bishops; the Church of England has had women priests since 1994.
Women now make up half of those training as Anglican clergy.
Through the ages
Among those who opposed the ordination of women bishops was the Bishop of Ebbsfleet, Andrew Burnham.
He told a Sunday newspaper he would consider becoming a Roman Catholic if the move is approved.
"A woman bishop wouldn't be a bishop because a bishop is someone whose ministry is acceptable through the ages to all other bishops," he told the Sunday Times.
But Bishop of Reading Stephen Cottrell said the change will prove popular.
"My sense is that the vast majority of people in the Church of England do support this," he said.
Around 400 Anglican clergy became Roman Catholics when women were first ordained as priests in 1994.
For traditionalists the decision by Jesus to choose only men to be his disciples, and the 2,000-year-old unbroken chain of male bishops dating from the early Church, rule women out of the role.
The July Sessions of the synod, which sits twice a year, began in York last Friday.
On Saturday members voted 293 to one against a bill that would legalise euthanasia.