VICARS across Bolton are celebrating after the Church of England voted to allow women to become bishops.

The General Synod approved historic legislation by a two-third majority to allow female vicars to be ordained as bishops, breaking thousands of years of tradition.

The Rev Judith Horrocks, a former associate vicar at Bolton Parish Church who now works for the Diocese of Manchester as the Church in School development worker, was one of the first women to be ordained as a vicar in 1994. Welcoming the move, she said the journey to allow female bishops has been “long and sometimes painful”.

She added: “I am greatly relieved by the outcome, and by the care, concern and reconciliation with which the debate took place.

“I would have felt that in terms of our relationship with the wider society, it would have damaged our credibility even further if not passed.

“We have got to speak the word of God within the culture we are set.

“I believe, in the end, that this is God’s design and path for the church, and it would have found its way ahead — but I am greatly relieved it has happened now and in the way it has.”

The Rev Janet French, vicar of Christ Church in Heaton, added she was thrilled with the decision.

She said: “I am delighted that, after a long and arduous journey, the Church of England has now publicly recognised women’s God-given leadership gifts by accepting their consecration to the episcopate.

“Women were the first witness to the resurrection of Jesus.

“Now I pray that we, women and men, may continue in the mission to which we have been called — to witness to the love of God in Christ.“ Vicar of Bolton Parish Church Canon Matt Thompson said it was “wonderful news” that marks the start of a new era for the organisation.

He added: “I think we will hopefully see a leadership that is representative of everybody — it will have men and women in it.

“People outside the church don’t understand why women were not included at that level.

“From within the church I think it represents the completing of something that people have been involved in for a long time — for women feeling they have been called by God into this vocation and that can now have its full expression.”