The Church of England's ruling body has voted in support of proposals that could see women bishops approved next year.

The issue of whether women should be allowed to be bishops has long divided the church. Negotiations among senior church members to approve them collapsed last year, and the General Synod failed to pass legislation by just six votes, prompting bitter outcries from church leaders and criticism by Prime Minister David Cameron.

But a more optimistic mood prevailed Wednesday, when a majority of members of the General Synod voted in favor of fresh proposals. The proposals, which only apply to England, include guidance for parishes that reject female ministry.

The widespread support on Wednesday means that the plan could receive final approval in July.