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The ordination of women continues to be a contentious issue.

The Church of England’s General Synod voted Monday to allow women bishops. Bishops voted 28 to 12, clergy 124 to 44 and laity 111 to 68. (Women have been ordained by the Church of England since 1994, but not allowed to hold high office, which the Archbishop of Canterbury, Rowan Williams, calls “humiliating” to women.)

The decision could derail ongoing efforts between the Church of England and the Vatican to achieve “full visible unity.” On Tuesday, the Vatican “condemned” the Church of England’s support for women calling it “breaking with tradition.”

Excuse me, but as far as “tradition,” women served as leaders in the earliest Christian churches (Junia, Lydia , Nympha of Laodicea and Phoebe, for example) and—hold on to your mitre—as priests in the Roman Catholic Church during the fourth and fifth centuries.

So, some background on the long-standing tradition of women in ministry.

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