LONDON, Feb. 12 (UPI) -- Eight female priests will attend Church of England house of bishops meetings as observers until the church moves to female bishops, officials said Monday.
The women will be selected from the ranks of senior priests, including deans and archdeacons, The Guardian reported.
A prominent advocate of female bishops in the Church of England said she is encouraged by a decision to allow female observers in the house of bishops.
Christina Rees, a member of the archbishops' council, said the move suggests the church is planning to move forward quickly, The Guardian said. Under the plan, eight women would be selected from the senior clergy who would be able to speak in the house of bishops but not to vote.
"This is a big step forward for the house of bishops because it's overturning hundreds of years of tradition of having a male-only house," Rees said. "It is a change of culture and it will feel different. It's been called a boys' club before, well suddenly it changes, and I think it's only fair to say it will take a certain amount of adjustment and transition, and having these eight senior ordained women there will help with that."
The house of bishops said Thursday the eight women would be elected regionally from the ranks of deans and archdeacons. They would continue to sit until the church has consecrated at least six women as bishops.
The General Synod shocked many Church of England members and leaders, including Archbishop of Canterbury Rowan Williams, by narrowly rejecting female bishops in November. Another vote is expected in July.
The church has ordained women as deacons since 1987 and priests since 1994. In 2010, 290 women were ordained as priests and only 273 men.