A southern Ontario Anglican diocese and three breakaway congregations are heading to court to determine who owns a church once a parish breaks ranks with the diocese.

Attempts to settle the dispute between the Anglican Diocese of Niagara and dissenting congregations in Lowville, Oakville and St. Catharines broke down Thursday after days of negotiations between the parties' lawyers.

The diocese and the three parishes could not agree on who gets possession of church properties, said Cheryl Chang, director of the Anglican Network in Canada, which supports the breakaway parishes.

They are expected to continue their battle in a Hamilton, Ont., court on Friday.

"Let's just say there will be a lot of people praying for tomorrow," said Chang, refusing to give details about what was discussed at the negotiations.

She said there are several options for how to resolve the dispute: having the diocese or the individual parishes take over the buildings, or having the two parties share ownership.

Parishes oppose stance on women, gays

The rift stems from the parishes' disapproval of recent, controversial decisions made by the Anglican Church of Canada regarding the ordaining of women and the acceptance of same-sex marriage.

But the current clash has to do with who actually owns church property.

In a video posted Thursday on the church's website, Fred Hiltz, Primate of the Anglican Church of Canada, said he was "saddened" by these developments.

"As we continue to wrestle with issues of sexuality and unity within the Anglican communion, I ask for your prayers for our beloved church and particularly for those we have tasked through the general synod to help us in these conversations," he said.

The archbishop of the Anglican Church of Canada has argued the buildings belong to the local diocese.

If a congregation breaks ranks, the buildings remain with the national church, he said.

With files from the Canadian Press