The largest Presbyterian Church in the United States on Tuesday officially changed its definition of marriage to include same-sex marriage. The final approval from the church’s regional councils codifies the recommendation to broaden the definition of marriage by the Church’s national General Assembly last year.
The Presbyterian Church (U.S.A.) now defines marriage as being “between two people, traditionally a man and a woman.” Previously, its constitution stated marriage was “between a woman and a man.”
“The church, with about 1.8 million members, is the largest of the nation’s Presbyterian denominations, but it has been losing congregations and individual members as it has moved to the left theologically over the past several years,” according to the New York Times. “There was a wave of departures in and after 2011, when the presbyteries ratified a decision to ordain gays and lesbians as pastors, elders and deacons, and that may have cleared the way for Tuesday’s vote.”
The defections of the church’s most conservative followers, along with growing national support for same-sex marriages, helped the church make the change that could spur another wave of defections. Despite the evolution on marriage, the church has held onto many of its moderate and conservative members, according to the Times, and ministers will be given the choice whether to preside over same-sex weddings.