LONDON: The Church of England's draft legislation approving women bishops failed to pass its governing body the General Synod by a razor-thin margin on Tuesday.
The legislation needed a two-thirds majority among the three houses of bishops, clergy and laity, but failed by just six voters among the laity.
The bishops voted 44 in favour and three against, while two abstained. Clergy voted 148 in favour, 45 against, while none abstained, meaning it passed the threshhold in those two houses.
But the laity voted 132 in favour and 74 against with no abstentions - meaning that if six people who voted no had voted yes, it would have carried.
Stephen Cottrell, the Bishop of Chelmsford, told reporters: "I'm hugely disappointed.
"This is going to be very hard for people in the wider church and the wider world to understand.
"I'm not sure what's going to happen next.
"We need to do a lot of work to persuade the lay people of Synod that there is a way forward on this together.
"The irony of the decision we've just taken is that I believe it is the mind of the church that we have women bishops.
"There's a danger that the national church becomes a bit of a national embarrassment over this."
The electronic vote was held following seven hours of debate and passionate speeches on the floor.
Nigel McCulloch, the Bishop of Manchester, concluded the debate by saying: "If you wait for the perfect moment, if you wait for the perfect piece of legislation, then you will be waiting forever.
"Now, under God, I believe, is the moment for decision and so I urge this Synod in all its three houses to give tonight the... measure its final approval."
Church of England bishops were to host an emergency session on Wednesday morning to consider the consequences of the vote.