London - The head of the world's Anglicans, Archbishop of Canterbury Justin Welby, said on Sunday he was confident the Church of England would vote in favour of women bishops this week.
Welby said the first female bishops could be appointed as early as 2015 if Monday's vote at the General Synod goes as planned after decades of division.
There was public outcry in Britain when the mother church of about80 million Anglicans worldwide voted against women bishops in 2012.
The church approved women priests in 1992.
“I am hopeful that we will pass, the votes I think are there,” Welby told BBC television.
“What happens if we lose the vote, is a matter for the house of bishops, I can't dictate it, and I'm not expecting to have to face that,” he added.
Former oil executive Welby took office after the 2012 “no” vote, and has made it a priority to push through the vote at the Synod - the church's governing body - in the northern English city of York.
Welby said the fact the church had not yet approved women bishops was “almost incomprehensible” to the general public, “and it is equally incomprehensible that we are still speaking about it”.
There are already Anglican women bishops in countries such as the United States and Australia, despite opposition from conservatives.
But a “yes” vote would set an example for the global Anglican Communion, which is followed people in over 165 countries.
Welby said there was a “good chance of the first woman bishop being announced very early in 2015, possibly been chosen before that”.
The archbishop also insisted that the Bible justified women bishops.
“Theologically, the Church has been wrong not to ordain women as bishops,” he said.
“If you look back at the scripture, at the nature of God, if you look at particularly the way the early church organised itself, we got caught up in the culture over the centuries, as churches do at all times.”
If the vote passes, it will then be debated by Britain's parliament, approved by Queen Elizabeth II - who holds the title of supreme governor of the Church of England - and then come back to the General Synod in November as a formality. - Sapa-AFP