Church of England leaders have voted to triple the number of blacks on their policy-making synod - a move deplored as "the reverse of apartheid" by the Conservative government's representative.

With little more than half its members present Thursday, the synod voted 214-74 with 11 abstentions to set a quota of 24 black representatives on their 574-member General Synod. The synod currently has eight black members."Black people in our midst have a great contribution to make," said the Most Rev. John Habgood, archbishop of York. "We need to increase their representation in the church as a whole."

He said it would encourage blacks to run for election to the synod in their church parishes.