The archbishop of Canterbury Justin Welby is preparing to drive through legislation to allow women bishops even if it is rejected by the church's governing body, the General Synod.
The Synod is poised to vote again on the vexed plan next week but senior sources have told the Guardian that should the move be blocked again, there are now options being considered to force the change on the church.
Options under consideration include an immediate dissolution of the Synod so that fresh elections could produce a sufficient majority by November, or even a move by the bishops in the House of Lords to introduce the legislation without synodical approval.
Stakes Are High
If the legislation passes the General Synod, parliament will rapidly approve it and it will become law in November. The first women bishops are likely to be appointed around Christmas, ending twenty years of wrangling that followed the ordination of women as priests.
The stakes are high. After the 2012 vote Tony Baldry MP, who is the Church's liaison officer with parliament, warned that any further failure would not be tolerated. Parliament would step in to legislate for women bishops whether the Synod wanted it or not.
Such a move would destabilise the rickety balance of the establishment: the General Synod was invented to allow the Church of England a form of self-government while ensuring that parliament maintained ultimate control of the established church. The convention is that the Synod makes laws which parliament must either reject or accept but may not amend.
Unofficial polling of the Synod's lay members suggests the measure will gain the 2/3 majority it needs by four or six votes.
A spokesman for the Archbishop said "We are concentrating on getting the vote through. It would not be helpful to speculate further."