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1992: Church of England votes for women priests
Women fighting for the right to be Anglican priests are celebrating a narrow victory.

After a five-and-a-half hour debate the General Synod - the Church of England's parliament - passed the controversial legislation by a margin of only two votes.

There were jubilant scenes among supporters outside Church House in Westminster, London, when the decision was announced.

The Archbishop of Canterbury, Dr George Carey, who had backed the proposal said he recognised the result would not please everyone.

"What binds us together in God's love as a Church is vastly more important than a disagreement about women's ordination,'' Dr Carey said.

But the Reverend Peter Geldard, who opposed women priests, warned the decision would "pit diocese against diocese, parish against parish and parishioner against parishioner".

High-profile opponent

The Church of England currently allows women to serve as deacons which means they can perform baptisms, marriages, and burials.

However, they are not allowed to give communion or administer any of the other sacraments.

The issue of whether to ordain women as priests has divided the Church since it was first debated 17 years ago.

Traditionalist priests and bishops have threatened to resign over the issue.

More than 1,000 priests are expected to leave in the next few years and an opposition group, Cost of Conscience, is planning to form breakaway groups.

One high-profile opponent of women priests is government minister Ann Widdecombe who recently left the Church of England.

Ms Widdecombe, who accused the Church of ''promoting political correctness above the very clear teachings of Scripture'', said she was considering becoming a Roman Catholic.

About 1,400 women deacons are waiting to be ordained priests.

It is not expected any ordination of women will take place for at least a year as the change first needs to be approved by parliament.

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Watch/Listen
General Synod
The vote was carried by the narrowest of margins

Women ministers celebrate 'yes' vote


In Context
The ordination of women in the Church of England began in March 1994.

By the year 2000 about 1,700 women were working as Anglican priests.

A report in the same year revealed many women priests suffered harassment and nearly half of male clergy refused to take communion from them.

In 1993 Ann Widdecombe became a Roman Catholic. A year later former Environment Secretary John Gummer also converted in protest at women priests.

The debate in the Church of England has now moved on to whether women should be allowed to become bishops.

So far only Anglican churches in the USA, Canada and New Zealand have women bishops.

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