The general synod of the Church of England voted on Tuesday not to allow women to be ordained as bishops.
The measure failed to win the support of two-thirds’ majorities in all three of the church’s houses: bishops, clergy and laity.
Some supporters of female ordination were put off by a controversial provision that would have allowed parishes opposed to female bishops to request a stand-in male bishop. Opponents of the provision said it would condemn women to second-tier bishop status.
The church’s two top clergymen, outgoing Archbishop of Canterbury Rowan Williams and his successor, Justin Welby, both supported the ordination of women.
The rejection means that a new vote on female ordination cannot be held until 2019. If the measure had passed, the first female bishop might have been ordained as early as 2014.
The 1,400-year-old church began ordaining women as priests in 1994. Women currently make up about a third of all clergy in the Church of England.