For the last 12 years the Church of England as struggled with the issue of allowing women to become bishops. The legislation fell just six votes short, and could spell serious credibility problems with the denomination, one bishop calling it, “a national embarrassment.”

The bishops voted 44 to 3 in favor of the measure, but the laity voted 132 to 74 which fell 6 votes short of the two thirds majority required. The bishops will meet to try to figure out a way to save the legislation. If they are unsuccessful it will be another 3 years before the vote can come up again.

The ultimate loser could be the Church of England itself. Many people are running out of patience with religious organizations so deeply out of touch with liberation movements around the world.

A ComRes poll in July found that 74% of respondents thought female clerics should be able to attain the highest reaches of the church. The bishop of Lincoln, Christopher Lowson, said the failed vote could make the church look even more outdated. “This is a very sad day indeed, not just for those of us who support the ministry of women, but for the future of the church, which might very well be gravely damaged by this,” he said.

“The church has suffered a serious credibility problem while it worked on the legislation, and this is a setback that could cement the church’s reputation as being outdated and out of touch.”