U.S. Presbyterian Church Votes to Allow Same-Sex Marriage Ceremonies

The largest Presbyterian denomination in the U.S. voted today in Detroit to allow the clergy to perform same-sex marriage ceremonies in the states where gay marriage is recognized. Passed by 76 percent of its 1.8 million members, the provision will amend the church's Book of Order, or constitution, to now read "two persons" instead of "a man and woman" in its language about marriage.

According to Religion News Service, today's vote will not become church law until it is voted on and passed by a majority of the 172 regional presbyteries, though the change is expected to pass.

The adoption of gay marriage ceremonies is being viewed as a measure to combat dwindling membership, which conservatives say can be attributed to the church's embrace of liberal ideals. And though the vote passed by a three-to-one ratio, the addition of gay marriages to the church remains a tenuous proposition, especially in more conservative parts of the world where the church has a presence. From USA Today:

Conservative Presbyterians, though, were concerned that approving same-sex marriage could further accelerate the decline of the Presbyterian Church, which has seen a 37% decrease in membership since 1992, a drop of more than 1 million, from 2.78 million to 1.76 million last year.

And some at the convention expressed concern it could affect the perception of Presbyterian missionaries in more conservative parts of the world where the church works, such as in the Middle East. There are 315 Presbyterian churches in Egypt alone.

[Image via AP]