Clergy at the Church of England's general synod defeated, by a narrow margin, a historic plan that would have established cooperative ties with three British Protestant churches. The "Covenant of Unity" was voted down because it would have required Anglican recognition of women clerics in the other denominations.

Under the plan, the Church of England and the other churches would have recognized one another's clergy and sacraments and established a common leadership of bishops and other heads of denominations.

The proposal required two-thirds separate majority votes of bishops, lay delegates and priests. Bishops and laity voted for the plan but it failed narrowly to get the required support from the priests. In the debate over the plan, many expressed fears that the Church of England's acceptance of the 200 women clergy in the other churches might jeopardize efforts to strengthen ties with the Roman Catholic Church.

The British Methodist Church and the United Reformed Church, a Congregational-Presbyterian merger, have both approved the plan. The Moravian Church was expected to act on it later this summer.

In another action, the synod rescinded its earlier ban that barred women priests ordained in other branches of the Anglican communion, including the Episcopal Church in this country, from taking part in services while visiting in Britain.