THE leader of Lancashire’s Anglicans, the Right Reverend Julian Henderson, has hailed yesterday’s vote for women bishops in the Church of England as ‘a historic step’.

The Bishop of Blackburn welcomed the move despite his deputy and Bishop of Burnley John Goddard voting against it.

The vote at the Church of England’s ruling General Synod ended a long dispute and could see the first females ordained to its top rank by the end of next year.

Bishop Julian voted against the last proposal in November 2012 because of concerns over the protection of Anglicans opposed to the change but made clear his support in the right circumstances.

Last month he ordained women priests in Blackburn Cathedral, something his predecessors Alan Chesters and Nich- olas Reade declined to do.

Last night Bishop Julian said: “I am delighted General Synod has taken this historic step which means women will now take their place alongside men as Bishops in the future.

“I am fully supportive of women clergy serving in every part of the Church’s leadership.”

Bishop John, who retires at the end of this month said: “The unity of the Church is very important to me. “Anything that could disrupt it I have thought theologically carefully about and then taken a stance.

“On principle therefore I voted against the measure.

“I am pleased we seem to have found a way through in relation to this issue.”

All Anglican Dioceses, including Blackburn, voted in favour of women bishops.

Canon Fleur Green, the Bishop of Blackburn’s adviser on women’s ministry said: “This is a great day for the Church of England.”

Archbishop of Canterbury, Justin Welby, said there is a “good chance” the first woman bishop would be announced by the end of 2015.

Yesterday’s vote will now go to the ecclesiastical committee of Parliament.

The General Synod will meet again on November 17, to confirm formally that women can become bishops.

It is unlikely any female names will go forward to the Queen and Downing Street until Spring next year with the first women bishops appointed by the end of 2015.

It is hoped that the Right Revere4nd Goddard’s successor as the new Bishop of Burnley will be chosen by the end of the year.