MORE than 50 churchgoers have added their voices to the chorus calling on the general synod to allow women to become bishops.

Worshippers at St John's in Epping have signed a petition urging the Church of England to reconsider its 'no' vote within the next 12 months.

The vote on new legislation was narrowly defeated in the Church's General Synod last week.

It won the backing of clergy and bishops - but was lost by a margin of only six votes in the house of laity, which represents people in the pews.

The defeat means the issue cannot be reconsidered for at least three years, when a new synod will be elected.

But the lay community of St John's, who feel the house of laity did not represent their views, have signed a petition calling on the Church to bring the vote forward.

Canon Geoffrey Connor, Rector of Epping, said: "We have been very aware that many people in our congregation and communities have been saddened by the vote last week, which we felt did not do justice to the issue.

"In asking for the synod to look at this again, we are hoping that this can be looked at again soon.

"We have both male and female clergy serving here in Epping and as a church community we tend to be supportive of both women and men in ministry of many kinds, lay and ordained and including serving as bishops."

The Bishop of Chelmsford, the Rt Revd Stephen Cottrell, has also expressed his 'shock and sadness' at the result and is today staging a champagne breakfast at Chelmsford Cathedral for all women clergy working in his diocese.