Church of England decision day on female bishops; vote by lay members is crucial

The Church of England's governing body is voting on whether it will permit women to serve as bishops or continue debating the issue for several more years.

The push to muster a two-thirds majority among lay members of the General Synod is expected to be close on two votes, beginning with whether to adopt the legislation as English law. A second vote would follow on whether to incorporate the change in church law.

Votes among bishops and clergy in the synod are expected to pass easily. Archbishop Rowan Williams and his successor, Bishop Justin Welby, both strongly support the change.

If the measure fails, church officials say it could take five years to go through all the steps leading up to another vote.