Episcopal priests will be allowed to conduct services blessing same-sex relationships under a policy approved Tuesday at the church's national convention in Indianapolis.
The convention's House of Bishops approved the provisional policy 111-41 with three abstentions Monday, clearing it for consideration by the House of Deputies, which approved it Tuesday evening.
The policy was approved in the House of Deputies, following more than an hour of debate, by 78% of the voting lay members and by 76% of clergy.
With the vote, the Episcopal Church becomes the largest U.S. denomination to officially sanction same-sex relationships. The Episcopal Church has about 1.95 million members in the United States, down 16% over the last decade, according to the church.
The service is not considered a marriage ceremony, media affairs representative Nancy Davidge said.
... But others said the policy was a bad idea, the news service reported.
"The Christian world is going to understand us as having changed the nature of the sacrament of holy matrimony," the news service quoted Bishop Edward Little of Northern Indiana as saying. "The Christian world will look at that liturgy world and see vows, and exchange of rings, a pronouncement and a blessing and they will understand that to mean the Episcopal Church has endorsed same-sex marriage and changed a basic Christian doctrine. I do not believe that we are free to do that."