The Church of England's General Synod on Tuesday narrowly rejected draft legislation to include women bishops in the life of the church 20 years after allowing women priests to serve.
The bishops and clergy were clearly in favor, however not enough lay representatives approved.
While more than the required two thirds voted for the legislation in both the House of Bishops (44 to 3) and the House of Clergy (148 to 45), the vote in favor of the legislation in the House of Laity (132-74) was less than two-thirds, just six votes short of the needed total.
Another vote on the matter will not be possible until the 2015 General Synod or unless leaders from each of the groups that voted take up the matter again.
"The majority in the house of laity was not quite enough," said Rt Rev. Graham James, Bishop of Norwich in a statement released by the Church. "This leaves us with a problem. 42 out of 44 dioceses approved the legislation and more than three quarters of members of diocesan synods voted in favor. There will be many who wonder why the General Synod expressed its mind so differently."
He added there is now "an urgent task to find a fresh way forward to which so many of those who were opposed have pledged themselves."
The House of Bishops will meet early Wednesday in an emergency session to consider consequences of the vote, the Church said.
Bishop of Durham Rev. Justin Welby, who voted in favor, and who will become the Church's Archbishop of Canterbury in January, expressed disappointment in the results.
"Very grim day, most of all for women priests and supporters, need to surround all with prayer & love and co-operate with our healing God," he wrote in a Twitter post.
Current Archbishop of Canterbury the Most Reverend Rowan Williams expressed his "deep personal sadness" at the result.
"Of course I hoped and prayed that this particular business would be at another stage before I left, and … it is a personal sadness, a deep personal sadness that that is not the case," according to the BBC.
"I can only wish the synod and the archbishop all good things and every blessing with resolving this in the shortest possible time," he said.