THE DISTRICT'S area dean has spoken of her 'overwhelming sadness' after hopes that women clergy could rise to the post of bishop were dashed.

The general synod of the Church of England voted narrowly against the appointment of women as bishops on Tuesday.

The measure was passed by the synod's houses of bishops and clergy, but was rejected by the house of laity.

The Reverend Joyce Smith, Epping Forest area dean, said: "For me when it came on the news there was just an immediate feeling of sadness.

"We had a deanery synod meeting on Tuesday night. There's an overwhelming feeling of sadness among us that this has happened and because we are not fully included then there's a sense of rejection.

"What I will be praying for is that the church would become as inclusive as possible as quickly as possible."

Rural dean for Ongar Reverend Toni Smith added: "The decision has been met with a sense of sadness and anger, not just by women clergy, but from our male colleagues also.

"There are many women who are still feeling isolated and rejected through an organisation which, to the person in the street, seems to have lost its vision, which is the vision Christ Himself gave."

The Right Reverend Stephen Cottrell, Bishop of Chelmsford and head of the Anglican church in Essex and East London, said he was 'hugely disappointed' at the outcome.

"The bishops voted 44 to 3 in favour. Forty-two out of 44 dioceses voted in favour," he said.

"It is clearly the mind of the Church of England that we have women bishops but for some reason our synodical structures cannot yet deliver this.

"Although I respect those who voted against, I continue to believe that this measure gave them ample provision.

"Please pray for the Church of England and especially for our women clergy who will feel a great sense of rejection as a result of this decision."