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Church votes not to elect Britain's first female bishop

LONDON (Reuters) - The Scottish Episcopal Church voted against electing Britain’s first female bishop on Saturday, with a majority of an electoral synod of clergy and church members choosing a more experienced male candidate.

Reverend Alison Peden, 57, was the first woman to be shortlisted to become a bishop since the Scottish Episcopal Church voted to consecrate women in 2003.

One of three candidates, she lost out to Reverend Gregor Duncan, 59, who is already dean of Glasgow and Galloway -- the diocese for which the election was being held.

Primus of the Scottish Episcopal Church, Bishop David Chillingworth, who chaired the electoral synod, said gender had not played a part in the decision and Peden being shortlisted had helped change the perception of women in the church.

“In any profession when women are admitted inevitably it takes a while for them to acquire the experience and to work their way through the ranks or the levels of authority,” he told the BBC.

“What we are seeing now for the first time is women ... expecting and deserving to be taken seriously at this level and I’m sure it will come about before too long.”

If Peden had been elected it would have increased pressure on the Church of England to follow suit.

The CoE, which is still struggling to accommodate both liberals who demand equality and traditionalists who want to keep the all-male senior clergy, is set to receive an update on the consecration of women at its General Synod, or parliament, next month.

The CoE’s Revision Committee, tasked with looking at the matter, has yet to decide whether women bishops, approved in principle but none yet nominated, will have full episcopal powers rather than limited powers as suggested by conservative Anglicans.

Christina Rees, chair of Women and the Church, which promotes women bishops, speaking before the vote, said if Peden was elected it would make it “more realistic” for the CoE to have women bishops.

The issue has been a thorny one for the church, with some orthodox Anglicans threatening to leave the Anglican Communion and move to Rome unless sufficient pastoral provision is secured.

The Scottish Episcopal Church is the most liberal of the Anglican provinces in Britain, and is close in sympathies to the U.S. Episcopal Church.

Ireland agreed to consecrate women but has yet to shortlist a woman for a vacancy, while Wales rejected the move in a vote in 2008. The CoE voted to have women priests in 1994.

Anglicans in Canada, the United States and New Zealand already have women bishops.

Reporting by Kylie MacLellan and Avril Ormsby