After years of debate, the Church of England has decided it will allow women to become bishops in the next few years.
On Monday, the church's national governing body, the General Synod, voted to pave the way to allow women to become bishops with full authority.
The body rejected a compromise plan proposed by traditional Anglicans who oppose women bishops.
It is unclear how many members will leave the church as a result of the vote. But some of those in the synod said such defections are inevitable.
Since the proposed measure must be approved by the diocesan synods, the first woman bishop could not be confirmed until at least 2014.
According to the U.S. Episcopal Church's website, Episcopal Life Online, four provinces of the Church of England -- the U.S.-based Episcopal Church, Anglican Church of Canada, the Anglican Church of Australia, and the Anglican Church in Aotearoa, New Zealand and Polynesia -- currently have women serving as bishops.
The Church of England opened the priesthood to women in November of 1992. More than 5,000 women have been ordained as priests in England since 1994 and today they represent nearly 40 percent of all clergy.