(CNN) — The country’s largest Presbyterian denomination has changed its definition of marriage to include gay couples — though not explicitly.
Presbyterian Church (USA) approved an amendment to its constitution after most of its 171 presbyteries — or governing bodies — voted for it, PC (USA) said Tuesday.
Before, the definition said marriage was between “a man and a woman.”
The new definition says, in part, that “marriage involves a unique commitment between two people, traditionally a man and a woman, to love and support each other for the rest of their lives.”
Already, PC (USA) ministers can perform same-sex marriages in states where such marriages are legal, the group said. But no teaching elder or session can be forced to conduct same-sex marriage ceremonies if they do not believe they are appropriate.
Not all members supported the decision.
In a post on PC (USA)’s website, Jean and Robert Gorney accused the church of going against the Bible and threatened to leave.
“We are not to change the Bible,” their post said. “I don’t care who disagrees.”
But the Covenant Network of Presbyterians, which says it supports “a fully inclusive church,” welcomed the news Tuesday night.
“The change aligns the church’s constitution with a reality that has long been true: Both same-gender and opposite-gender couples have been living in relationships that demonstrate covenant faithfulness, shared discipleship and mutual love,” the group said.
“We are also aware that the discussion has been a difficult one for many, and that some will feel a deep sense of pain over this decision. The Covenant Network is committed to fostering healthy dialogue and working with those who hold a view different from ours, seeking opportunities for us to model an authentic and productive unity.”
The amendment will take effect on June 21.