Delegates at the Church of England's (CofE) General Synod have voted in favor of opening the way for women to be ordained as bishops, despite efforts from the body's most senior members at reaching a compromise.
The Archbishops of Canterbury and York, Rowan Williams and John Sentamu, had tabled amendments to the legislation earlier this month seeking to allow male and female bishops to have joint jurisdiction over a diocese.
The measure was shot down on Saturday after failing to secure a majority approval in the church's three houses – Bishops, Clergy and Laity.
The amendment was denied most fervently by the Anglican clergy, a fifth of whom are women, who voted 90 to 85 against the measure.
UK Guardian blogger Andrew Brown commented: "It was [the women] who were being told that God had put a glass ceiling on them, and they who replied that he hadn't."
The House of Bishops voted 25 to 15 in favor and the Laity voted 106 to 86 in favor.
The vote is considered a serious blow to conservative Anglicans, who have threatened to defect to the Roman Catholic Church because of it.
About 70 Anglican bishops reportedly met with Catholic Bishop Malcolm McMahon of Nottingham on Saturday to discuss the possible transition.
Meanwhile, some Anglican leaders have expressed hope that a compromise point is still possible within the Communion.
"We must be magnanimous and meet people half-way," Sentamu told the UK Daily Telegraph. "The Church of England must cater for everyone."
"I have never been part of a particular group or faction – I'm an Anglican and Anglicanism has always been the middle way," he said.
Others foresee a more bleak future.
"Basically the Church of England is over," wrote conservative author David Virtue of virtueonline.org. "It is now Province XVII of The Episcopal Church."
"The Church of England has run up the TEC flag over York," he said.