The Church of England’s vote to reject female bishops has sparked fury in many quarters, including the outgoing Archbishop of Canterbury, the Most Reverend Rowan Williams, who claimed the church has lost some credibility.
The vote required a minimum of two-thirds support in each of the church’s three houses: the bishops, the clergy and the laity. The measure passed by comfortable margins in the first two houses but was defeated in the latter.
In a bitter speech to the general synod, Williams said the church has "a lot of explaining to do" and that the vote made the body look "willfully blind" to the realities of the broader society.
"We have -- to put it very bluntly -- a lot of explaining to do," he said. "Whatever the motivations for voting yesterday … the fact remains that a great deal of this discussion is not intelligible to our wider society. Worse than that, it seems as if we are wilfully blind to some of the trends and priorities of that wider society.
"We have, as a result of yesterday, undoubtedly lost a measure of credibility in our society," Williams added. "Every day that we fail to resolve this to our satisfaction … is a day when our credibility in the public eye is likely to diminish."
Christina Rees, a synod member who has advocated for female bishops, condemned the opponents.
"It feels as if the House of Laity betrayed the entire Church of England last night,” she said.
"The people, the sort of extremes in our church -- the very conservative evangelicals and very traditionalist Anglo-Catholics -- have no idea how this will be read by most people."
The incoming archbishop, Justin Welby, the current bishop of Durham, also criticized the synod.
"Very grim day, most of all for women priests and supporters, need to surround all with prayer & love and co-operate with our healing God," he tweeted.
A spokesman for Prime Minister David Cameron called the vote a disappointment but conceded that it was "a matter for the church to decide."
"There are hundreds of churches in the Church of England, which are standing with us, and we were doing what was right for them -- it's not just me," one official who opposed female bishops, lay member Alison Ruoff, explained to the BBC. "This is to make sure that we can walk together as one Church of England -- a broad church, yes, but we want to be there without splits, without divisions."
Conservatives in the church declare that since Jesus Christ chose only male apostles, no women should become bishops.
Trevor Timpson, a correspondent for the BBC, discussed why some church officials voted against female bishops.
“They believe they did a good job in blocking an unsatisfactory piece of legislation, which did not do enough to protect the place in the church of those who think as they do,” he wrote.
“An appeal to public opinion cuts little ice with them, for they think Christians must sometimes take a stand against the world and its beliefs.”
Women, who were first ordained as priests in the Church of England in 1994, now account for about one-third of the church’s 11,000-member clergy.
The subject of female bishops now cannot be considered by the synod until 2015.