LONDRES - L'Eglise d'Angleterre, réunie en synode, a finalement voté mardi contre l'ordination des femmes évêques, après 20 ans de tergiversations, malgré le soutien affiché du prochain archevêque de Cantorbéry à ce projet qui divise traditionalistes et libéraux.

Le texte controversé a été rejeté à quelques voix près et pourrait ne pas revenir sur la table avant de nombreuses années, en raison du complexe processus législatif au sein de l'Eglise d'Angleterre.

Le projet de texte devait être adopté par les deux tiers de chacun des trois collèges formant le Synode général de l'Eglise d'Angleterre, corps législatif de l'institution: évêques, clergé et fidèles.

Les évêques et le clergé ont clairement voté en faveur de la réforme. Mais elle a été rejetée à quelques voix près par les fidèles, entité où le non a recueilli 74 voix et le oui 132, n'obtenant donc pas les deux tiers des voix requis.

Le résultat du scrutin marque un coup d'arrêt au processus amorcé en 1992, quand l'Eglise avait approuvé la prêtrise des femmes, qui représentent aujourd'hui un tiers du clergé. Depuis, le débat sur l'ordination des femmes évêques faisait rage et empoisonnait l'Eglise.

"Les gens dans l'Eglise et plus largement dans le monde vont avoir de grandes difficultés à comprendre" les résultats du vote, a réagi l'évêque de Chelmsford, Stephen Cottrell, qui s'est dit "extrêmement déçu".

"On est complétement abattus... on a travaillé depuis dix ans sur ce texte, c'est un désastre pour l'Eglise d'Angleterre", a déclaré le révérend Rachel Weir, membre du groupe de pression "Les femmes et l'Eglise".

Le vote de mardi représente un revers pour les progressistes et pour le nouveau primat de l'Eglise d'Angleterre, Justin Welby, qui prendra ses fonctions en décembre. Il avait pris position en faveur du oui, comme l'actuel archevêque de Cantorbéry, Rowan Williams.

Peu avant le vote, Justin Welby avait appelé à "terminer le travail" entamé depuis des années.

Le vote électronique a été organisé au terme de sept heures de débats passionnés au sein d'un synode transformé en lieu d'intense lobbying via mails, tweets et tracts.

En concluant le débat, Nigel McCulloch, évêque de Manchester, avait lancé: "Si on attend le moment parfait, si on attend le texte parfait, et bien on attendra toujours (...). J'appelle ce synode à donner ce soir son approbation".

Le rejet du texte "serait un choc pour beaucoup dans l'Eglise d'Angleterre (...). Cela porterait aussi atteinte à la crédibilité de la mission" de l'Eglise, avait-il aussi mis en garde.

Dans le camp du non, 325 membres du clergé opposés au changement avaient signé une lettre ouverte publiée vendredi dernier. Le texte avançait que "la Bible (...) enseigne que les hommes et femmes sont égaux devant Dieu, tout en ayant des rôles différents, complémentaires dans l'Eglise".

L'Eglise anglicane connaît depuis des années de fortes dissensions sur les sujets de société: en raison du virage "libéral" de leur hiérarchie notamment sur les femmes et les homosexuels, plusieurs prêtres et évêques traditionalistes anglicans ont rejoint récemment l'Eglise catholique qui leur a réservé un statut particulier.

Les évêques de l'Eglise d'Angleterre devaient tenir mercredi une réunion d'urgence pour évaluer les conséquences du vote négatif.

Ce résultat est d'une grande portée pour l'ensemble de la communauté anglicane, le primat de l'Eglise d'Angleterre étant le chef spirituel des quelque 85 millions d'anglicans dans le monde.

Toutefois, des femmes anglicanes ont déjà été ordonnées évêques notamment aux Etats-Unis, en Australie, au Canada, et ce week-end pour la première fois en Afrique, témoignant de l'autonomie de décision des différentes Eglises anglicanes dans le monde.

Les photos du vote compilées par nos collègues du HuffPost anglais
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  • BRITAIN-RELIGION-ANGLICAN-WOMEN-VOTE

    Marie-Elsa Bragg, Assistant Curate, embraces a collegue after the Church of England's draft legislation approving women bishops failed to pass during the England General Synod at Church House in central London on November 20, 2012. 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. AFP PHOTO/BEN STANSALL (Photo credit should read BEN STANSALL,BEN STANSALL/AFP/Getty Images)

  • BRITAIN-RELIGION-ANGLICAN-WOMEN-VOTE

    Marie-Elsa Bragg embraces a collegue after the Church of England's draft legislation approving women bishops failed to pass during the England General Synod at Church House in central London on November 20, 2012. 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. AFP PHOTO/BEN STANSALL (Photo credit should read BEN STANSALL,BEN STANSALL/AFP/Getty Images)

  • BRITAIN-RELIGION-ANGLICAN-WOMEN-VOTE

    The Bishop of Norwich Graham James speaks to the media after the Church of England's draft legislation approving women bishops failed to pass during the England General Synod at Church House in central London on November 20, 2012. 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. AFP PHOTO/BEN STANSALL (Photo credit should read BEN STANSALL,BEN STANSALL/AFP/Getty Images)

  • BRITAIN-RELIGION-ANGLICAN-WOMEN-VOTE

    Female members of the clergy leave after the Church of England's draft legislation approving women bishops failed to pass during the England General Synod at Church House in central London on November 20, 2012. 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. AFP PHOTO/BEN STANSALL (Photo credit should read BEN STANSALL,BEN STANSALL/AFP/Getty Images)

  • Vote on female bishops

    Dr Rowan Williams, the outgoing Archbishop of Canterbury, during a meeting of the General Synod of the Church of England - where a vote on whether to give final approval to legislation introducing the first women bishops will take place - at Church House in central London.

  • Vote on female bishops

    Dr Rowan Williams, the outgoing Archbishop of Canterbury, after draft legislation introducing the first women bishops in the Church of England failed to receive final approval from the Church of England General Synod, at Church House in central London.

  • Vote on female bishops

    Rt Rev Justin Welby, the incoming Archbishop of Canterbury (top) with Dr Rowan Williams, the outgoing Archbishop of Canterbury (back to camera), after draft legislation introducing the first women bishops in the Church of England failed to receive final approval from the Church of England General Synod, at Church House in central London.

  • Vote on female bishops

    Rt Rev Justin Welby, the incoming Archbishop of Canterbury (background) looks on as Dr Rowan Williams, the outgoing Archbishop of Canterbury is given a hug, after draft legislation introducing the first women bishops in the Church of England failed to receive final approval from the Church of England General Synod, at Church House in central London.

  • Vote on female bishops

    Dr Rowan Williams (back to camera), the outgoing Archbishop of Canterbury, provides a shoulder of comfort after draft legislation introducing the first women bishops in the Church of England failed to receive final approval from the Church of England General Synod, at Church House in central London.

  • Vote on female bishops

    Dr Rowan Williams, the outgoing Archbishop of Canterbury, after draft legislation introducing the first women bishops in the Church of England failed to receive final approval from the Church of England General Synod, at Church House in central London.

  • Vote on female bishops

    Dr Rowan Williams, the outgoing Archbishop of Canterbury (left) listens to a speech by the Right Reverend Nigel McCulloch, Bishop of Manchester, during a meeting of the General Synod of the Church of England - where a vote on whether to give final approval to legislation introducing the first women bishops will take place - at Church House in central London.

  • Vote on female bishops

    A general view of the Assembly Hall of Church House, during a meeting of the General Synod of the Church of England - where a vote on whether to give final approval to legislation introducing the first women bishops will take place - in central London.

  • Vote on female bishops

    The Venerable Rachel Treweek, Archdeacon of Hackney speaking during a meeting of the General Synod of the Church of England - where a vote on whether to give final approval to legislation introducing the first women bishops will take place - at Church House in central London.

  • Vote on female bishops

    The Venerable Rachel Treweek, Archdeacon of Hackney speaking during a meeting of the General Synod of the Church of England - where a vote on whether to give final approval to legislation introducing the first women bishops will take place - at Church House in central London.

  • Vote on female bishops

    The Reverend Janet Appleby speaking during a meeting of the General Synod of the Church of England - where a vote on whether to give final approval to legislation introducing the first women bishops will take place - at Church House in central London.

  • Vote on female bishops

    Canon Rosie Harper speaking during a meeting of the General Synod of the Church of England - where a vote on whether to give final approval to legislation introducing the first women bishops will take place - at Church House in central London.

  • Vote on female bishops

    Rt Rev Justin Welby, the incoming Archbishop of Canterbury speaking during a meeting of the General Synod of the Church of England - where a vote on whether to give final approval to legislation introducing the first women bishops will take place - at Church House in central London.

  • Vote on female bishops

    Dr Rowan Williams, the outgoing Archbishop of Canterbury (left) listens to a speech by the Right Reverend Nigel McCulloch, Bishop of Manchester, during a meeting of the General Synod of the Church of England - where a vote on whether to give final approval to legislation introducing the first women bishops will take place - at Church House in central London.

  • Vote on female bishops

    Dr Rowan Williams, the outgoing Archbishop of Canterbury during a meeting of the General Synod of the Church of England - where a vote on whether to give final approval to legislation introducing the first women bishops will take place - at Church House in central London.

  • Vote on female bishops

    Rt Rev Justin Welby (centre), the incoming Archbishop of Canterbury after speaking during a meeting of the General Synod of the Church of England - where a vote on whether to give final approval to legislation introducing the first women bishops will take place - at Church House in central London.

  • Vote on female bishops

    Dr Rowan Williams, the outgoing Archbishop of Canterbury during a meeting of the General Synod of the Church of England - where a vote on whether to give final approval to legislation introducing the first women bishops will take place - at Church House in central London.

  • Vote on female bishops

    Rt Rev Justin Welby, the incoming Archbishop of Canterbury speaking during a meeting of the General Synod of the Church of England - where a vote on whether to give final approval to legislation introducing the first women bishops will take place - at Church House in central London.

  • Vote on female bishops

    Rt Rev Justin Welby (centre), the incoming Archbishop of Canterbury after speaking during a meeting of the General Synod of the Church of England - where a vote on whether to give final approval to legislation introducing the first women bishops will take place - at Church House in central London.

  • Vote on female bishops

    Dr Rowan Williams, the outgoing Archbishop of Canterbury during a meeting of the General Synod of the Church of England - where a vote on whether to give final approval to legislation introducing the first women bishops will take place - at Church House in central London.

  • Vote on female bishops

    Dr Rowan Williams, the outgoing Archbishop of Canterbury, speaking during a meeting of the General Synod of the Church of England - where a vote on whether to give final approval to legislation introducing the first women bishops will take place - at Church House in central London.

  • Vote on female bishops

    Dr Rowan Williams, the outgoing Archbishop of Canterbury, after speaking during a meeting of the General Synod of the Church of England - where a vote on whether to give final approval to legislation introducing the first women bishops will take place - at Church House in central London.

  • Vote on female bishops

    Dr Rowan Williams, the outgoing Archbishop of Canterbury, speaking during a meeting of the General Synod of the Church of England - where a vote on whether to give final approval to legislation introducing the first women bishops will take place - at Church House in central London.

  • Vote on female bishops

    A general view of the Assembly Hall of Church House, during a meeting of the General Synod of the Church of England - where a vote on whether to give final approval to legislation introducing the first women bishops will take place - in central London.

  • Vote on female bishops

    A 'No Entry' sign in the Assembly Hall of Church House, during a meeting of the General Synod of the Church of England - where a vote on whether to give final approval to legislation introducing the first women bishops will take place - in central London.

  • Vote on female bishops

    A general view of the Assembly Hall of Church House, during a meeting of the General Synod of the Church of England - where a vote on whether to give final approval to legislation introducing the first women bishops will take place - in central London.

  • Vote on female bishops

    A general view of the Assembly Hall of Church House, during a meeting of the General Synod of the Church of England - where a vote on whether to give final approval to legislation introducing the first women bishops will take place - in central London.

  • The Church of England's Synod Vote On Women Bishops

    LONDON, ENGLAND - NOVEMBER 20: Visitors enter Church House for the afternoon session of the Synod on November 20, 2012 in London, England. The Church of England's governing body, known as the General Synod, will later today vote on whether to allow women to become bishops. (Photo by Peter Macdiarmid/Getty Images)

  • Vote on female bishops

    A general view of the voting handset which will be used during a meeting of the General Synod of the Church of England - where a vote on whether to give final approval to legislation introducing the first women bishops will take place - in central London.

  • Vote on female bishops

    PLEASE NOTE THE PERSON'S NAME ON SMARTCARD PIXELATED BY REQUEST OF THE CHURCH AUTHORITIES : A general view of the voting handset which will be used during a meeting of the General Synod of the Church of England - where a vote on whether to give final approval to legislation introducing the first women bishops will take place - in central London.

  • Vote on female bishops

    PLEASE NOTE THE PERSON'S NAME ON SMARTCARD PIXELATED BY REQUEST OF THE CHURCH AUTHORITIES : A general view of the voting handset which will be used during a meeting of the General Synod of the Church of England - where a vote on whether to give final approval to legislation introducing the first women bishops will take place - in central London.

  • The Church of England's Synod Vote On Women Bishops

    LONDON, ENGLAND - NOVEMBER 20: Reverend Sally Hitchiner crosses her fingers outside Church House during a lunch break on November 20, 2012 in London, England. The Church of England's governing body, known as the General Synod, will later today vote on whether to allow women to become bishops. (Photo by Peter Macdiarmid/Getty Images)

  • The Church of England's Synod Vote On Women Bishops

    LONDON, ENGLAND - NOVEMBER 20: Reverend Sally Hitchiner stands outside Church House during a lunch break on November 20, 2012 in London, England. The Church of England's governing body, known as the General Synod, will later today vote on whether to allow women to become bishops. (Photo by Peter Macdiarmid/Getty Images)

  • The Church of England's Synod Vote On Women Bishops

    LONDON, ENGLAND - NOVEMBER 20: Reverends (L-R) Jody Stowell, Nicola Shephard and Sally Hitchiner talk with Peter Broadbent, The Bishop of Willesden outside Church House during a lunch break on November 20, 2012 in London, England. The Church of England's governing body, known as the General Synod, will later today vote on whether to allow women to become bishops. (Photo by Peter Macdiarmid/Getty Images)

  • The Church of England's Synod Vote On Women Bishops

    LONDON, ENGLAND - NOVEMBER 20: Reverend Sally Hitchiner stands outside Church House during a lunch break on November 20, 2012 in London, England. The Church of England's governing body, known as the General Synod, will later today vote on whether to allow women to become bishops. (Photo by Peter Macdiarmid/Getty Images)