THE HEAD of the Anglican church in Essex has spoken of his shock and sadness following the vote against approving women bishops.

The Bishop of Chelmsford Stephen Cottrell said: "It has not been a good week for the Church of England.

"Public trust has been shaken. We look like an organisation that discriminates against women.

"I accept this decision, but I am sorry for the hurt and confusion it has caused. It is not how I wanted things to turn out.

"Nearly one in three priests in Chelmsford Diocese is a woman. Without them the church would be in a very bad way."

He added: "Why would a woman seek ordination in a church which seems to legitimise doubt over their very validity as a minister of the gospel, where opportunity to minister is limited, and where protection from their ministry is sought in law? No other organisation in society is allowed to act this way.

"Thankfully I know the answer to this question. Women seek ordination because they are called by God and with astonishing graciousness bear this painful ambiguity."

The bishop has invited all the women clergy in the diocese - which covers Essex and East London - to join him in celebrating their contribution to the church.

In his invitation he wrote: "I am shocked and saddened by the events of this week.

"I am inviting you to a champagne breakfast, where we can pop some corks, celebrate the ordained ministry of women, discuss what has happened, and then begin to look forward to the ways in which we can respond creatively to, working for that day when men and women can serve equally in God's Church."