The worldwide Anglican Church is on track for a formal split after bishops in the US gave their blessing to services for gay couples.
Amid years of increasingly tense debate, bishops in the US opened the way to finally split the 70-million strong Anglican Communion after they voted 104-30 at the Episcopal General Convention in California to "collect and develop theological resources and liturgies" for blessing same-gender relationships.
The resolution gave bishops discretion to provide a "generous pastoral response" to gay couples in local parishes as growing number of states allow gay marriage, civil unions and domestic partnerships, The Times newspaper reported.
To be considered at the next convention in 2012, the decision at the Episcopal Church of the US in Anaheim will split the Anglican Communion due to the rift between the conservative evangelicals and liberal modernisers, it said.
Bishop William Love of Albany, New York said the Anglican Church was out to "destroy itself".
"For many, this is the final straw with members of the wider Anglican Communion," he said, adding "It’s breaking my heart to see the church destroy itself in the manner in which we seem to be doing."