The motion to ordain female bishops was supported by the bishops (44 to 3) and the clergy (148 to 45) but lacked a two thirds majority required by the laity (132 to 74).
The response to the vote has been extraordinary. The Prime Minister told the church that "the time is right for women bishops" and that the church "had to get with the programme". Even though church rules forbid another vote before 2015, the Prime Minister's office is putting the church under pressure to reverse the decision earlier.
The reaction of the outgoing Archbishop, Rowan Williams, was even stronger:
In a strongly worded speech on Wednesday, Williams warned that the failure of the vote in the house of laity on Tuesday had made the church's governing body appear "wilfully blind" to the priorities of secular society.
"We have – to put it very bluntly – a lot of explaining to do," he said. "Whatever the motivations for voting yesterday … the fact remains that a great deal of this discussion is not intelligible to our wider society. Worse than that, it seems as if we are wilfully blind to some of the trends and priorities of that wider society."
One "Christian" MP intends to use the law to force a different decision:
Frank Field, a leading Christian Labour MP, said he would present a private member's bill to parliament on Thursday calling for the cancellation of the church's exemptions from equality legislation. "When we gave exemptions under the Sex Discrimination Act we were assured that the church didn't want to discriminate and that it would bring forward measures to eliminate such discrimination," he said.
But Tuesday's vote had made clear that that had not happened. "Parliament made a gracious act under a misapprehension," he said
There is a kind of contempt for the church in all of this. It is assumed that the Anglican Church should make such decisions not on the basis of an understanding of Christianity, but on keeping up with trends within the secular society and getting with the programme of the liberal state.
Even the head of the church apparently accepts this, being quoted as saying that the church has to keep up with the "trends and priorities" of the wider society.
Would a serious Christian really adopt such a stance? Would such a person make "the priorities of secular society" the basis for deciding important issues within the church?
The affair is also a reminder of just how committed the UK establishment is to liberalism - liberalism is clearly being treated here as the higher authority or the superior principle to which Christian institutions must be subordinated and brought into line. And this line of superiority is apparently accepted wholeheartedly by some of those identifying as Christians, such as Frank Field and Rowan Williams.
But if liberalism is the ruling principle, so that only those aspects of Christianity are permitted which fit within it, then doesn't that then make Christianity something less than what it would claim to be?
And if it really is true that liberalism ought to be the superior principle, then wouldn't a serious-minded person commit themselves to following the superior principle (liberalism) rather than the lesser one (Christianity)?