Three churches in Los Angeles that rejected the authority of their diocese over the ordination of a gay bishop are asking the California Supreme Court to give them control of parish properties.
The parishes of All Saints Long Beach, St. David’s North Hollywood and St. James’ Newport Beach placed themselves under the jurisdiction of the Ugandan Anglican Church when they split from the LA diocese.
A long-running court battle over the control of church buildings culminated last month with a ruling in the appeals court that the properties are held in trust for the diocese and the national Anglican Church and do not belong to the individual congregations.
Lower courts had sided with the parishes, who argued they were being victimised for their views on gay clergy.
At least 45 US parishes have broken away and placed themselves under the jurisdiction of African bishops and in May the diocese of Fort Worth, Texas, decided to reject the spiritual authority of the US Episcopalian church and seek alternative oversight.
The dissident movement is further evidence of a disintegration in the unity of the Anglican communion and the authority of US Presiding Bishop Katharine Jefferts Schori.
The ordination of an openly gay man, Gene Robinson, as a bishop in 2003 and the decision by some clergy to bless same-sex unions have split the 7,400 congregation American church.
Earlier this year an outspoken African primate defied the Archbishop of Canterbury and established a breakaway branch of the church opposed to gay priests.
Archbishop Peter Akinola of Nigeria accused the Anglican leadership of being “insulting and condescending” to the rest of the church.
He performed a ceremony to establish American bishop Martyn Minns as head of a new church branch under his control in Nigeria.
It is intended to gather American Anglicans who oppose current gay policies.
In February a conference of Anglican primates in Tanzania demanded that the American church stop ordaining gay bishops and give a commitment not to bless same sex partnerships.
The five-day meeting exposed the divisions within the Anglican communion over gay issues, with liberals arguing that church teaching on tolerance should take precedence over biblical interpretation.
The Americans have been given until 30th September to make a statement pledging they will comply with the instructions of the primates.