FIGURES within Hampshire's church community have welcomed the decision to allow women to become bishops.

The Church of England's General Synod this afternoon voted in favour of introducing women bishops for the first time.

Bishops, clergy, and laity all voted in favour of the motion.

There was shock in 2012 after the plan collapsed when there were six votes short among lay members.

Now members of the church across the county have reacted positively to the vote.

Rev Clare Downing, moderator of the Wessex Synod of the United Reformed Church, said: “I am looking forward to working with female colleagues in the church of England in the small roles that I have,“I don't know if it's so much a change. It's something that has been on the cards for so long that although there's those that are somewhat upset by it it's not a surprise to anyone any more.

“It's still progression that has taken a while.”

Rev Doctor Sarah Hall, of the South West Hants group of the United Reformed Church, said it was a “new era”: “I think it is excellent news.

“I remember when the Church of England first ordained female arch deacons.

“The thing about the church is you cannot force people to change their minds.”

The venerable Joanne Grenfell, archdeacon of Portsdown, said: “This is fantastic news for the church of England and the country as a whole. To have women and men together in all areas of the ministry is a true witness to a god who created men and women as equals.

“I am really confident the church of England can move forward and find was to make this work and welcome women in the coming months.”

Christine Whitehead, newly ordained deacon working in the benefice of Chandler's Ford, said she was pleased with the vote, adding: “I was surprised how personally I felt hurt by the previous vote against.”

Rev Stephen Wilkins, of Bitterne Park United Reformed Church, said: “The United Reformed Church has been ordaining women ministers since 1909, and we have female ministers who are pretty much at a similar level of administration for pastoral care as Church of England bishops - it has not been a problem for us for more than 100 years.

“I am perfectly happy for the Church of England to have female bishops.

“I understand there is a theological concern but the church has got a bigger agenda than worrying about who is running it.”

Following the vote by the General Synod in favour of women bishops, the Right Reverend Tim Dakin, the Bishop of Winchester, said: “Synod's decision has sent out a clear and joyful message.

"At last, gifted women leaders will be able to serve as bishops. I’m delighted, and I hope this decision will release energy, allow for reconciliation and enable all to flourish in the church’s life and mission."

He added: “For so long, including in our own diocese of Winchester, the Church of England has benefited greatly from the outstanding ministry of both women and men working together. Now, we can look forward to working together in our mission as bishops as well.

“This has been an emotional journey for many. That applies as much for those who have campaigned steadfastly for this day, as well as those whose traditional views have been challenged by the process.

"All should continue to have an honoured place both in our Diocese and across the Church. Importantly, this has been properly reflected in the legislation that Synod has passed.”

How the three Church of England synod houses voted:

Bishops: 37 in favour, 2 against, 1 abstention.

Clergy: 162 in favour, 25 against, 4 abstentions

Laity: 152 in favour, against 45, 5 abstentions.