Bishops, clergy and lay members of the General Synod of the Church of England toasted the outcome of an historic vote to appoint women bishops with champagne.

The jubilant and noisy atmosphere saw members, clapping, hugging and cheering as they left the chamber following overwhelming support for the decision at York University yesterday, which means the first female bishops could be appointed by the end of the year.

Two years ago the decision making body of the Church rejected women bishops.

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The vote was backed by General Synod members with 95% of the bishops who voted backing the measure, 87% of the clergy and 77% of lay members who voted.

They disregarded the Archbishop of York, Dr John Sentamu's call for the result to be heard in silence as is traditional in the Church of England at key votes.

The Archbishop of Canterbury, the Most Rev Justin Welby, said: "I am delighted. I am very conscious of the responsibility that the Synod has put on the House of Bishops to deliver what we have promised to deliver.

"But we are delighted that we have reached this stage and grateful to God and grateful for the answered prayers that have brought us here."

The Rt Rev Dr Robert Gillies, Senior Bishop of the Scottish Episcopal Church, which already allows women to hold the role, said: "In Scotland we voted in favour of electing women bishops over ten years ago and therefore greet the decision down south with great joy."

The Venerable Rachel Treweek, Archdeacon of Hackney in London, summed up the atmosphere at yesterday's Synod meeting. She said: "I am so overwhelmed, I have just been allowing myself to live one hour at a time today, one minute at a time. It is historic," she said.

The Right Reverend Nick Baines, Bishop of Leeds, said: "It's been a long time coming.

"It failed a year or two back and that was devastating but what was encouraging was how it galvanised the Church into a much better way of doing our business.

The legislation received the necessary two thirds majority in all three Houses of the General Synod with 37 bishops voting in favour with two against and one abstention, 162 clergy in favour, 25 against and four abstentions.

In the lay votes there were 152 votes in favour, 45 against and five abstentions.

But Prebendary David Houlding, a member of the Catholic Group on the General Synod, who voted against said: "The result is very good news for those who have been struggling to achieve it but I feel it is a step back for ecumenical relations with the Roman Catholic Church and that is serious.

"It is a massive vote in favour, so we have to work with it, we cannot ignore it."