Yesterday the Presbyterian Church (U.S.A.) voted to allow the ordination of openly gay and lesbian ministers, joining a growing number of Protestant churches that accept homosexual clergy members.

Two years ago the church's presbyteries, or governing bodies, voted against ordaining gays and lesbians, but on Tuesday the vote passed 205 to 56, with 3 abstentions. About 100 congregations have left the church in recent years, and according to the New York Times, that may be why the measure passed.

Rev. Gradye Parsons, who as the church's stated clerk is its highest elected official, added that some church members were just getting tired of arguing about the issue. He said:

"We've been having this conversation for 33 years, and some people are ready to get to the other side of this decision ... Some people are going to celebrate this day because they've worked for it for a long time, and some people will mourn this day because they think it's a totally different understanding of Scripture than they have."

The Presbyterian Church (U.S.A.) (not to be confused with the smaller Presbyterian Church in America, which prohibits female and homosexual clergy) has about 2.3 million members. Some say they want to form an entity within the church for conservatives who still believe homosexuality is a sin. Though, the change to the church's constitution only means presbyteries are allowed to ordain homosexual minister, elders, and deacons, not that they must. The measure simply removed a 1997 amendment that said clergy must live "either in fidelity within the covenant of marriage between a man and a woman" or in "chastity in singleness."

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CNN reports that the change is expected to take effect starting July 10, however the conflict over homosexuality isn't over for the church. Gay advocates are pushing for the church to consider allowing the blessing of same-sex marriages and unions in 2012.

Presbyterians Approve Ordination Of Gay People [NYT]
Presbyterian Church U.S.A. To Allow Gay And Lesbian Clergy [CNN]