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Last Updated: Sunday, 17 December 2006, 20:13 GMT
US church splits over sexuality
Nigerian Archbishop Peter Akinola
Archbishop Akinola is an outspoken critic of homosexuality
Two church congregations in the US have voted to break away from the Episcopal Church because of its decision three years ago to consecrate a gay bishop.

The Truro Church and the Falls Church voted to place themselves instead under the authority of the Anglican Archbishop of Nigeria, Peter Akinola.

He has called for the Episcopal Church to be expelled from the worldwide Anglican Communion.

He is a fierce critic of the ordination of gay priests.

The parishes of Truro and Falls Church in Virginia - founded in British colonial times - are two of the oldest and largest church congregations in the US.

They were once part of the Church of England but now they have voted to sever ties with their diocese and turn instead to the 17 million member church in Nigeria.

Property rights

The consecration of Gene Robinson as bishop of New Hampshire led to a global dispute in the worldwide Anglican Communion which has turned bitter and highly political.

Map of Africa

Several other congregations in the US have already left the national church but none so high profile as these, reports the BBC's religious affairs correspondent Jane Little.

However, the Episcopal Diocese of Virginia has warned the two parishes that they do not own their church property.

It is worth millions of dollars and our correspondent says the split could lead to years of litigation.

It will also add further pressure to an embattled Archbishop of Canterbury as he struggles to hold the world's third largest Christian denomination together, our correspondent says.

There are an estimated 77 million Anglicans across the world.

The bishop at the heart of the crisis

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