The General Assembly of the Church of Scotland has voted to allow its ministers to enter same-sex marriages and continue serving.
The vote by the Presbyterian denomination, better known as the Kirk, comes on the first day of a meeting of its governing body.
The BBC reports that clergy will, however, not be allowed to conduct same-sex wedding ceremonies within the church, although the assembly has commissioned a report into whether they should be permitted.
— Church of Scotland (@churchscotland) May 21, 2016
The vote follows years of argument in the Kirk over the nature of marriage. In the end it came down to 339 votes in favour of the move and 215 against.
The Kirk said it “maintains its traditional view of marriage between a man and woman,” although some will be concerned the decision will further the divide within the church.
Speaking of the likely decision last year, conservative Kirk minister The Rev David Robertson wrote in a blog post: “The liberals who reject the Bible as the Word of God are delighted, declaring that this is the Holy Spirit speaking through the Church. Stonewall are delighted. The self-styled ‘Equality Network’ are delighted. The metro elites are delighted. But many of us who love the Church of Scotland are devastated.”
The issue of same-sex relationships and gay marriage is dividing Christian denominations throughout the world.
Earlier this year, the Anglican Communion, the world’s third largest denomination, narrowly avoided schism after it suspended the American Episcopalian Church for adopting a pro-gay marriage stance.
The issue threatened to irrevocably divide the denomination as more Conservative African churches rejected the ultra-liberal stance of some of their Western counterparts.
Anglican leaders issued a statement after the decision saying:
“It is our unanimous desire to walk together. However given the seriousness of these matters we formally acknowledge this distance by requiring that for a period of three years The Episcopal Church no longer represent us on ecumenical and interfaith bodies, should not be appointed or elected to an internal standing committee and that while participating in the internal bodies of the Anglican Communion, they will not take part in decision making on any issues pertaining to doctrine or polity.”