The Presbyterian Church, the nation’s largest Christian denomination, announced a monumental policy shift in Detroit Thursday and said its clergy could begin officiating at same-sex ceremonies, The Huffington Post reports.
The decision comes after decades of debate on the controversial topic and allows pastors to officiate weddings in parts of the country – 19 states and the District of Columbia – where same-sex marriage is legal. The Presbyterian Church gathered at the biennial General Assembly that took place in Detroit.
With 1.76 million-members, leaders of the Presbyterian Church assembled to make changes to the “Book of Order,” a document outlining the denomination’s form of government, directory of worship, and formula of agreement, among other things.
On a 429-175 vote by the delegates, the Book of Order will now consider marriage as being between “two people.”
“A lot of our ministries are standing at that crossroads, really wanting to minister to everyone in their congregation but unable to perform the weddings of some of their most faithful people,” Alex McNeill, executive director of More Light Presbyterian, told WJBK, Channel 2.
The change creates opportunity for gay marriage in all 10,000 of the Presbyterian churches.
But one more hurdle must be cleared before the decision is final. It must be approved by 172 regional bodies, called Presbyteries, before it takes effect. The process could take up to a year.
The decision is seen as a triumph by the LGBT community in Michigan, where a historic ruling turning back a 10-year ban on same-sex marriage is on appeal in the 6th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals.