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Church of England restarts process for women bishops

The Archbishop of Canterbury, Justin Welby (3-L) leaves from the West Door at Canterbury Cathedral on March 21, 2013. The Church of England voted Monday to restart the process that would lead to ordaining women bishops after traditionalists blocked the idea last year, plunging the church into turmoil.AFP/File

The Church of England voted Monday to restart the process that would lead to ordaining women bishops after traditionalists blocked the idea last year, plunging the church into turmoil.

The General Synod, the governing body of England's state church, will consider the draft measures in November with the aim of securing final approval for women bishops in 2015.

"There is a strong desire to get it done," said Archbishop of Canterbury Justin Welby, the church's spiritual leader.

"We aren't at the stage of saying 'should we ordain women as bishops' -- we are at the stage of saying 'we are going to ordain women as bishops, how do we go about that?'

"It is going to take a little while, we are going to have to go on working at it. There has been such a shift in mood over the last six months. I remain extremely optimistic."

He admitted it would require effort to achieve the necessary two-thirds majority in each of the three houses of the General Synod -- the bishops, the clergy and the laity -- at final approval stage.

Last November, in its biggest decision since backing the introduction of women priests 20 years ago, just enough lay members voted against the measure for women bishops to bring it down, following years of wrangling between traditionalists and liberals.

The Church of England, which separated from the Roman Catholic Church in 1534, claims that more than 40 percent of people in England regard themselves as belonging to the C of E. It is the mother church of the 85 million-strong worldwide Anglican communion.

But in the wider Anglican communion the first woman bishop was appointed in the United States in 1989 and there are now more than 30 female Anglican bishops worldwide, in countries such as Australia, Canada, Cuba, New Zealand and Swaziland.